First Time on Avery Island

Since we really didn’t want to go back to New Orleans and Dave and Sharon had plans with their friends, we decided to make the two-hour drive to Avery Island.  Two hours is really on our outer limit of travel for a day trip, but Deb and Steve had visited it once and since then I had always wanted to go.  The drive itself was pretty and I even saw a bald eagle in a tree along the way, although it was on the highway and we couldn’t stop to get a picture.  Avery Island is the home of the Tabasco company and although I don’t really care for spicy foods, I love to see where things are made as we travel the country.  Plus the first heir to the Tabasco brand was an amateur naturalist and had turned part of the island into a nature preserve which looked pretty terrific.

When we arrived on the island (entrance was free), we went up to the factory.  There was a smell in the air, but it wasn’t as pungent as I feared and instead lent something to the whole experience.  The tour cost $5.50 and came with 6 tiny little sample bottles and the gift shop was fantastic.  The best part of the tour was watching the bottling line (which only runs Mon-Thurs) and if you wanted to you could skip that and just visit the gift shop.  The combination ticket for the gardens and the tour was $12.50 (a little on the high side) but the gardens were so fantastic it more than made it worth it.  Both tours are self-guided and pictures were allowed, so let me jump right in and show you what we saw. (It’s also worth mentioning that for the nature preserve tour, you can scan a QR code with your phone and Bluetooth your phone to your car speakers and get little speeches about each area as you drive through, which is pretty cool. You can also just call a phone number and use your speaker phone to listen to the blurbs as well.-Lee)

The factory

The factory

Pepper plants are now grown throughout the world, but all mash is made and tasted at the plant and aged for up to 3 years here

Pepper plants are now grown throughout the world, but all mash is made and tasted at the plant and aged for up to 3 years here

The barrles holding the mash have salt on top to purify

The barrels holding the mash have salt on top to purify

There were so many of them and each batch is tasted and approved by a member of the McIhenny family

There were so many of them and each batch is tasted and approved by a member of the McIhenny family

You can see some mash on the sides. That smell was pretty strong

You can see some mash on the sides. That smell in this area was pretty strong

The huge mash blenders

The huge mash blenders

The line was pretty high tech and we could see it through a glass window

The line was pretty high tech and we could see it through a glass window

At 11:30am they had already made over 300,000 bottles that day

At 11:30am they had already made over 300,000 bottles that day

Bottle made like cologne bottles because that's what the inventor originally used

Bottle made like cologne bottles because that’s what the inventor originally used

The labels are in many different languages as the product is sold in many countries

The labels are in many different languages as the product is sold in many countries

The labeled bottles

The labeled bottles

And boxed

And boxed

They had big bottle in one of the rooms to take pictures with

They had big bottles in one of the rooms to take pictures with

That was fun!

That was fun!

This map shows all the countries they are in. Pretty big in China

This map shows all the countries they are in. Pretty big in China

The gift shop had tons of products very reasonably priced

The gift shop had tons of products very reasonably priced

The tasting area

The tasting area

We ended up buying Tabasco Buffaleaux Cajun wing sauce ($5), Tabasco Worcestershire spicy ($2), and Tabasco Spicy Mayonnaise ($2.75).  These were full-sized bottles and you could not beat the prices.  Plus we picked up some Tabasco Chipotle Sauce for Sharon, which she says she has a hard time finding on the road. ($4)

It was fun, but two hours is a long ride and I was really hoping the Jungle Gardens would be good, and wow, they really were.  We stopped at the gift shop and ate our lunch and then took the driving tour through the park.  There are numerous places to pull over and take pictures so we ended up spending a few hours enjoying the area.  Ned McIlhenny ran the family business but his true passion was how man and nature could coexist in harmony.  To that end he studied the american alligator (and wrote one of the best books on the subject to this day), raised 60 different types of bamboo in the hopes it could eventually become America’s premiere building material, and built a rookery for snowy egrets.  The snowy egrets were being hunted almost to extinction because women wanted their feathers on their hats, and he built raised rookeries from bamboo and hand raised 8 chicks in his park.  Not only did they return to nest there, but there hundreds of descendants still return in the spring  and it was absolutely amazing.  He also has one of the largest Camilla collections in the United States, although unfortunately we caught the tail-end of the full bloom which is in February.

The drive itself was beautiful

The drive itself was beautiful

 

could not take a bad picture

Could not take a bad picture

Lots of alligators in the man made lagoons

Lots of alligators in the man made lagoons

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The island is bordered by a large canal

The island is bordered by a large canal

 

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This huge stand of bamboo was cut our so you could walk inside

This huge stand of bamboo was cut our so you could walk inside

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I got bamboo kisses :)

I got bamboo kisses 🙂

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Lee's pic of the Survey Tree

Lee’s pic of the Survey Tree

And Lee's amazing pic of the alligator

And Lee’s amazing pic of one of the alligators.  He got pretty close

I loved the Buddhist Shrine area especially.  Two friends of Ned’s found it in a warehouse in New York, purchased it and sent it to him.  He built the lotus resting area and the pavilion to hold it, but the statue itself is centuries old.

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Lee took this through pretty smudged glass…really great shot

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Offerings on the doors

And on the elephants

And on the elephants

The story of how it was purchased. Technically it should probably be returned to China but I was selfishly glad it was here so I could see it

The story of how it was purchased. Technically it should probably be returned to China since it is an historical treasure but I was selfishly glad it was here so I could see it

Beautiful pond and bridge

Beautiful pond and bridge  (Lee’s pic)

Lee's fish picture

Lee’s fish picture

The surrdonging landscape was very peaceful

The surrounding landscape was very peaceful

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I loved, loved this tree. The picture doesn’t do it justice

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RV’s have to take a different route as they can’t get through all areas, so definitely recommend bringing a smaller vehicle

You had to walk down to the bird rookery viewing platform and the path is a little rough so I definitely recommend wearing your hiking shoes if you have them.  The platform was amazing but jam packed with kids which did take away from the experience a little.  Lee and I stayed a long time (we probably took around 300 pictures) and the one brief interval where we were alone on the platform was magical. Here are a few of my favorite pics. If it wasn’t for the kids we could have done this all day.

Huge bamboo stands using locally grown bamboo

Huge bamboo stands using locally grown bamboo

 

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You can see the chicks in this picture at the parents feet

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This one posed for us

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The line of turtles under the birds was cool also

Lee liked this bird who kept playing with a stick

Lee liked this bird who kept playing with a stick

Lee's pic. Best flying shot

Lee’s pic.

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I really liked this shot I took

Lee's pic, probably the best of the day

Lee’s pic, probably the best of the day

After the birds we walked down into the nursery area (which was really a big field with large trees) and then drove through the Camellia area.  We both really loved it.  The weather was perfect, and the combination of plants and animals was amazing.  Highly recommend a visit, even though it is a bit out of the way if you are passing through and thanks again Deb for leading the way.  I would never have even known about this place if she hadn’t blogged about it.

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This bush was still in full bloom

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Loved this flower

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On the way home we stopped at a Popeye’s Chicken.  The store was out of cole slaw, green beans, and corn, but the staff was making it work and extremely friendly.  The chicken itself was hot out of the fryer and really tasty (although I still think I prefer KFC especially cold) and the cajun fries and cajun gravy on the mashed potatoes was super yummy.  We both got complete dinners for $5 each so the price was good and it was a true Louisiana experience.  

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I had to double up on starch because they were out of stuff

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I paired mine with some swamp pop.. sweetened with local sugar cane. Oh yeah not a healthy meal

Overall we really, really like Louisiana.  The people were all incredibly nice, the food is amazing, and the weather in April (and yes I know that is not the norm) was absolutely incredible.  The campground was great and there is so much nature in the bayou.  I absolutely want to come back and see the northern part of the state and could see us spending a lot more time here in the future. I am definitely a fan and thanks again to Bridget and Pat for keeping an eye on us throughout our visit.  It was wonderful!!

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8 thoughts on “First Time on Avery Island

  1. I love the pictures. Looks like a great day trip. I am like you, do not like spicy things, but my sons would love that place. I buy that stuff all time for them. They put it on everything. Thanks for the great blog and pictures.

  2. Glad you liked it. We’d recommend staying at Palmetto Island State Park in Abbeville next time. Closer and one of our FAVORITE parks!! We have friends that live in that area and we could tell you the most awesome places to eat at! Lucky you getting to see the birds and more blooms. We were a bit early for that. But I really loved the bamboo!

  3. This place is definitely on our to do list for the next time we pass through LA. Bill used to work with a lot of that same equipment, including the Krones bottler you took a pic of. It is very cool seeing it in action!
    The bird, flower and bamboo pics are great!

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