Louisiana Travel | Avery Island’s Jungle Gardens & Tabasco Fields BY: Susan Arcement

As you turn a bend in the country road, suddenly you see Avery Island rising above the flat Louisiana marshland.  You’ve arrived at the home of the world famous Tabasco hot pepper sauce and Jungle Gardens located on top of a massive salt dome.  Take a free factory tour at the Tabasco factory and learn how Edmund McIlhenny first planted a handful of Mexican pepper seeds in his in-laws garden over a hundred years ago that was the start of the famous Tabasco brand hot sauce.

The familiar Tabasco scent permeates the air as you step into the huge brick factory.  Here you’ll see displays of Tabasco and Avery Island artifacts and watch a 10-minute film on the history and making of the hot sauce.  The peppers must be perfectly ripened when hand picked.  Workers use a red painted stick called le petit baton rouge to check for the exact color of the ripened hot pepper.  The peppers are processed the same day as picked.  They are mashed and mixed with a little salt from Avery Island’s own salt mine.  The mash is poured into old Jack Daniel’s white oak barrels and covered with more Avery Island salt and left to ferment for 3 years.  When finished fermenting, vinegar is added and the mixture is stirred frequently for about 4 weeks, bottled, and shipped around the world to 160 countries.  In the Viewing Gallery, you can watch the bottling and packaging operation in action.

At the Tabasco Country Store, browse and shop the spicy merchandise, clothes, hats and souvenirs all bearing the Tabasco brand logo as you enjoy Cajun music playing in the background.  Make sure you sample the different varieties of hot sauces and other Tabasco products, including Tabasco ice cream!

If you didn’t pack a lunch, you can purchase food at the Lunch Box next to the store.  They offer Louisiana favorites–crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice, boudin, and crawfish corn maque choux–as well as the usual concession stand fare.  There’s plenty of place to sit under the oaks to enjoy your meal or just pass the time rocking on the front porch.

In the 1920s, Ned McIlhenny began enhancing the natural beauty of Avery Island with exotic botanical specimens from around the world.  Under the magnificent live oaks shrouded with Spanish moss, he planted hundreds of varieties of camellias, azaleas, juniper, iris, and bamboo.

Drive through this 250-acre natural habitat for plants and animals.  You’ll pass an alligator-filled lagoon and drive under entwining branches of holly and wisteria.  There’s several places to park your car and stroll along paths where you’ll discover a centuries old giant Buddha in the Chinese Garden, a Palm Garden, and a couple of Camellia Gardens just to name a few.

Walk down to the Observation Tower to watch the snowy egrets nesting at Bird City.  Conservationist Ned McIlhenny created this sanctuary in 1895 to protect the once endangered bird.  Each spring over 20,000 snowy egrets nest on the pier-like structures in the Bird City pond.

If you’ve brought a picnic lunch, a good place to stop and spread your blanket is the next stop after Observation Tower.  There’s a grassy spot that gives you another spectacular view of Bird City.  The pond is fenced so you don’t have to worry about uninvited guests (gators) eating your lunch (or your traveling companions!)

Or if you prefer a more secluded, romantic spot, a little further is Sunken Garden.  Climb down to the garden, then up the other side and there’s a nice hidden spot where you can relax and share your lunch.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes clothing.  Don’t forget mosquito spray just in case.

What Cajun Daughters love about Avery Island: It’s a great one-day getaway for the whole family to enjoy.  Try to go when the azaleas are in full bloom for postcard perfect pictures and the full-blossomed beauty of the island.

$1 toll (conservation fee) onto island
Factory tour:  admission is free
Daily, 9 am – 4 pm, closed major holidays

Jungle Gardens & Bird City
Daily, including holidays, 8 am – 5 pm
$8 adults, $5 children 12 & under

Hwy. 329
Avery Island, Louisiana

By: churee Prairieville, LA on June 10, 2011
Not rated

This looks like such a beautiful place to visit!

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