Covington, Louisiana, Is a Charming Small-Town Experience

Take the world's longest continuous bridge over water from New Orleans to explore this riverside town founded in the early 1800s.

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Across the river from New Orleans sits Covington, Louisiana, a small Southern town with tree-lined streets and charming cottages. This quieter town is rich in culture, offering high tea, James Beard–finalist chefs, and Louisiana favorites like carriage tours and its own Café du Monde. Downtown, the walkable district features many shops, galleries, museums, and restaurants, making it well worth the nearly 24-mile journey across Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (the world's largest continuous bridge over water) from New Orleans. See why quaint Covington is worth a stay.

Honoring Heritage

You could say that Covington owes its history to the humble bovine. Back in 1813, the town was first laid out in a grid pattern filled with free parking areas called ox lots, where schooners came down the Bogue Falaya River to trade goods from Covington to New Orleans. The small town's location at the convergence of three rivers (including the Abita and the Tchefuncte) made it a desirable spot for tradesmen to hawk their wares, parking their oxen in the squares. Today, it has grown to just over 10,000 people, and while there are no oxen in sight, it still pays homage to its humble heritage, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and hosting annual festivals such as the Covington Three Rivers Art Festival every fall.

Biking in Downtown Covington, LA
Kevin Garrett for Louisiananorthshore.com

Where to Stay

With a lobby known as "Covington's living room," the family-owned Southern Hotel is the city's largest and will make you feel right at home. Located in the city's historic district in a building that dates back to 1907, the boutique property was restored into a hotel in 2014 and now has 40 guest rooms and two suites, along with a restaurant and bar. Adjacent to the main hotel is The Garden House, with five accommodations in the renovated former Covington Post Office. If you fancy a bed and breakfast, Covington has one that will have you feeling like a local in no time—within a few minutes' walk of downtown. Blue Willow B&B is home to five suites (including one with a full kitchen) and beautiful gardens.

What to Do

Get the lay of the land by taking a historical tour with Royal Carriages, the oldest sightseeing company in the United States. The company, which has offered mule-drawn carriage tours in New Orleans' French Quarter for 80 years, expanded to Covington and offers holiday tours.

If you prefer to explore on your own, rent a bike from Brooks' Bike Shop and pedal the Tammany Trace (a converted railroad corridor that's now a recreational path) all the way to Abita Brewery, a popular hangout spot where you can sip iconic brews like Purple Haze and also sample new ones. Head to Bogue Falaya Wayside Park to catch community events and the "Chillin' at the River" free concert series or launch a kayak to traverse the Bogue Falaya River's clear, shallow waters.

Don't leave town before visiting a few favorite local shops. The family-operated HJ Smith & Sons General Store & Museum has been in operation since 1876 and is a gold mine for items from lawn art and quirky gator-claw back scratchers; be sure to also browse the eclectic collection of historical items, including a cast-iron casket and a 20-foot cypress dugout boat. If you're in the market for art, don't miss the selection from local artists at St. Tammany Art Association, Marianne Angeli Rodriquez Gallery, and Saladino Gallery. Or create your own masterpiece at Hammer & Stain, which hosts DIY workshops for home décor.

Where to Eat

You might think popping your pinkie sounds out of place on the Bayou, but you'll feel as if you've been transported across the pond during the Windsor High Tea experience at English Tea Room & Eatery. Inside, the space has life-sized cutouts of the Queen and Downton Abbey characters, plus a huge collection of teapots to admire as you sip from more than 200 teas and sample items like Coronation Chicken Salad and scones.

For something heartier, feast on local and French-inspired fare at The Gloriette inside Southern Hotel, where signature dishes include blue crab gumbo, duck leg confit with dirty rice, and Gulf flounder fillet. Save room for the chocolate mousse or creme brulee. For lunch, check out blue plate specials like crawfish and corn chowder at LOLA, where you can eat inside a vintage dining car. And don't miss dinner at Del Porto Ristorante. Serving Italian fare like homemade tagliatelle Bolognese and lemon risotto with Gulf shrimp, it's a local favorite for its emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Husband-and-wife chef team David and Torre Solazzo are three-time James Beard finalists.

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