Exploring Oak Alley
Charli May was recently lucky enough to spend some time at the famous Oak Alley Plantation as she sailed a Mississippi River Cruise from New Orleans to Baton Rouge with American Cruise Lines. With its beautiful antebellum house and winding oak trees, Oak Alley was undoubtedly a favourite port of call along this popular stretch of the river. Here’s an insight into her excursion.
Oak Alley is a 19th-century plantation house, defined by its canopied path of southern live oak trees. The sprawling arboreal alley not only gives this plantation its name but creates a dramatic entrance to the elegant house itself, which looks akin to something out of Gone with the Wind.
Our excursion started with a 30-minute coach ride from where we were docked at Houmas House, through picturesque countryside and small towns. The infamous oak trees are the first glimpse of the plantation we saw as our coach reaches its destination. There is a 25-acre plantation including a mansion house, slave quarters, Civil War exhibit, blacksmith shop and sugarcane fields to be explored. However, with only two hours at our disposal, we headed straight to the house.
Although the quarter-mile canopy of 300-year-old live oaks is the obvious photo opportunity, the ‘Big House’ is also incredibly beautiful, built in the Greek Revival style and complete with 28 columns and a wraparound terrace on the second floor. A tour inside lasts for around 35 minutes, led by an incredibly knowledgeable tour guide. We were led through the ground and upper floors of the home, marvelling at the original furniture and décor, as the guide recounted the history of the plantation’s original owners, Jacques and Celina Roman. The tour ended in the relic room, showing original personal items found on the property, including some very chilling rattle shackles worn by the slaves.
As magnificent as the grounds and house are, perhaps the more poignant and important part of the excursion was visiting the reconstructed slave houses. The barren, wooden shacks host an exhibit on how slaves lived on the plantation. A stark contrast to the grandeur of the big house, the furniture here is sparse and rudimentary. Oak Alley’s slavery exhibit doesn’t depict the horrors of slavery. Instead, it’s a historical display of aspects of slaves’ lives, perhaps making it more family friendly.
Once we had finished exploring, we were lucky enough to be treated to a complimentary Mint Julep cocktail. This a traditional southern drink consisting of bourbon, sugar syrup and mint, and my new favourite drink. If you are cruising the Lower Mississippi, Oak Alley is definitely worth visiting. The exhibits and stunning antebellum home give an interesting insight into southern life along the river in the 1800s. However, if you’re looking for a gritty retelling of life during the slave trade, you won’t find it amongst Oak Alley’s romanticised buildings and glorious grounds.
You can visit Oak Alley on American Cruise Lines’ New Orleans Roundtrip and other Lower Mississippi itineraries. Call our friendly team on 0800 028 4272 to discuss the itineraries available and plan your Mississippi River cruise. You can also contact us through the website by clicking here and filling in our online form.