Places to go camping with a 5- and 7-year-old near New Orleans?
September 1, 2014 11:09 AM   Subscribe

My SO's kids are becoming a bigger part of my life, and she and I would like to start taking them on camping trips as a way to have fun, bond, introduce them to the outdoors, and find some precious peace and quiet out away from the roar of the city. We live in New Orleans, Louisiana; what are some good places to take them for weekend camping adventures?

Both kids are boys, and pretty typical for their ages — very nice kids, well-behaved, wanting to explore (especially the 7-year-old) but still too small to do much on their own, afraid of lots of normal kid things like darkness, spooky forests, being alone, etc. Neither of them has much experience camping, nor does their mom although she's a pretty level-headed lady and can certainly pull her weight. I'm a fairly experienced camper and backpacker, though in the past I've really struggled to find opportunities for good hiking and camping near New Orleans.

Our only camping experiences thus far were staying in tents in a field at a big summer party (which they liked) and going on an overnight canoe trip, which in hindsight was too ambitious. We got a late start (naturally) and by the time we'd driven the three and a half hours to the state park the kids were already stressed out. When our campsite (which the rangers had assured us was empty) turned out to be full and we had to spend a couple of hours searching for another one, things went a bit south and there was a fair bit of crying and anxiety. In the end people did well and nobody came away hating camping forever, but I'd like to avoid that sort of thing in the future.

I'm looking for foolproof, one- and two-night car camping trips within a short (less than three hours would be good) drive of New Orleans where we can camp out in a space that doesn't resemble a parking lot (i.e. trees, not RVs) ideally with some interesting feature or activity like a beach or trail or river where the kids can play and explore. Somewhere pretty and not too horribly crowded, where we can get as much Camping Flavor as possible for the smallest possible amount of effort and complication.

What are your thoughts? I look forward to hearing your recommendations, thanks a bunch in advance!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Percy Quin is an extremely beautiful campground. It easily makes my top ten campgrounds in America. It is located in McComb, MS and about 2 hours from New Orleans. This is a straight shot trip via I55 the entire way. In a internet search you might see some dated information saying the lake at the park is closed, but this is no longer true. The park just completed a 2 year renovation of the lake and is now opened and was recently stock with fish.

Second on the list is Grand Isle, State park. I cannot think over any where else on the Gulf that lets you camp right on the beach. If you want a taste of Cajun culture, seafood and the Gulf, this is the place to go. Grand Isle is also about a two hour drive two, but it goes through swampland and bayous. There are a limited number of campsites so I suggest making reservations.
posted by datasmybag at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Damn, datasmybag took the words right out of my mouth. I grew up just outside New Orleans and the places my family went camping were Percy Quin (my great-aunt and uncle run the bait shop just outside the state park!) and Grand Isle.

I went to Girl Scout Camp at Camp Whispering Pines, near Amite, and IIRC there are lots of entry level car camping options around there.

There's also tubing around Bogalousa, and where there's tubing, there's car camping, so maybe something around there?

What about the southern reaches of the Natchez Trace, or something near the Marksville burial mounds? Marksville is about 3 hours without taking into consideration traffic or what part of NOLA you're leaving from, though.
posted by Sara C. at 1:04 PM on September 1, 2014

When I lived in New Orleans my boss loved to take his son to Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Robert, which is about an hour outside the city.
posted by radioamy at 1:57 PM on September 1, 2014

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