Olivia Mackinnon

I had heard a lot about New Orleans but wasn’t sure whether it was the place for me. The two people I knew who had visited New Orleans before told me that it wasn’t really for them, and to be honest, that was almost enough to make me move it to the ‘miss-able’ list when it came to planning our recent US trip.

Thank God I didn’t.

My fascination with New Orleans started at Disneyland when I was 18 years old. There’s a French Quarter/Bourbon Street section there, which claims to capture the essence of that great city.

I remember being in awe of the fun and frivolity, the beads and the balconies, the jazz and the French onion soup – it captured me – hook, line and sinker.

So, when we arrived in New Orleans, I wasn’t entirely sure if our two-night stay would be more than adequate, or far too short – I’m so pleased to say it was the latter. We stayed just two minutes away from Bourbon Street – and for the first few hours of our stay in ‘New Awlins’, the infamous street was somewhat of an enigma – our mindless wandering of the streets just didn’t take us there.

When we were ready to eat, we followed our shuttle driver’s recommendation and try Oceana’s; a place known for the oyster bar and fresh food. I ordered up half a dozen of the salty aphrodisiacs – and was utterly fulfilled almost instantly. It was a perfect first meal.

After dinner we wandered down the street and heard the faint sound of music in the air.

It was only a few minutes before we saw one of the most jaw-dropping parades pass by us.

There was music, saxophones, walking statues and complete strangers approaching us and placing their beads around our necks, a sign of celebration and just the right thing to get us in the mood for a wonderful night. We had found Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street Parade, New Orleans


It struck me at that moment how Bourbon Street felt like Las Vegas to me. As in, Vegas 30 years ago, before technology and commercialism took over the famous strip. Everyone was just there to have a good time. Sure, there were still your ‘seedy’ elements, and though I wouldn’t say it’s the most family-friendly place ever (in saying that, we did see plenty of families during our stay), the trick is to stick to Bourbon Street and you’ll have a pretty incredible time.

The following day we booked a ‘Gator tour’ with our hotel concierge, and were completely flawed when we arrived at the Jean Lafitte swamp tour and clapped eyes on our swamp boat. It was everything we imagined it would be and so much more. I was thoroughly impressed with how much our guide knew about the gators, how easily he could spot them – and how he could lure them out to glide by the boat without even tempting them with any food. We were going to do the airboat, which includes a ride on those smaller boats with the big fans at the back – but if you want to really see the gators, I thoroughly recommend the slower swamp boat tours.

Gator Swamp Tour in New Orleans, United States


Photo of a baby gator, New Orleans


That evening, we headed to the much talked about Acme Oyster bar and waited in the 20-minute queue to get inside. I ordered charbroiled oysters, a house specialty and was incredibly happy I did. I also shared my partner’s gumbo and jambalaya; two of New Orleans most traditional dishes.


New Orleans Oysters


After dinner, we hit Bourbon Street again and secured ourselves a typical Bourbon Street beverage; the hurricane. No-one knows exactly what’s in it, but that drink was the end of me that night. A foreword to bar-goers on Bourbon Street? Be wary of girls carrying test tube shots, as in around 20 seconds flat, what I deemed to be a kind, playful gesture of shoving three test tube shots in my mouth at once and positioning it as a fun game led to a $28 bill – without so much as a consensual nod.

Photo of a drink from Bourbon Street, New Orleans


Breakfast before our trip to the airport was at French brunch spot, Luke. I had it on good authority that their brunch could not be missed – and I am happy to report that I wholeheartedly agree. My advice? Try the roast Brussel sprouts with chilli and the French toast with bacon. It’s practically sinful.

French Toast in New Orleans, United States


Tips for experiencing the best of New Orleans:

  • Be aware and stay in well-lit areas. The place itself is safe, but even the tour guides will tell you to stick to well-lit areas and stay safe.
  • Stock up on beads. You’ll want to celebrate and give them out during your time on Bourbon Street.
  • Beware girls bearing test tube shots. They’ll act like they’re a gift and then foot you with the bill.
  • Be prepared to wait in line a little. The best restaurants have lines out the front, like Acme Oyster Bar.
  • Experience a REALLY good jazz bar. Research who is playing where and plan to dine close.

Olivia Mackinnon is Senior Digital Content Producer for Sydney’s KIIS 1065 Kyle & Jackie O Show, when she’s not travelling the world she’s busy finding the best new and fun places to eat, drink and play in Sydney.

Instagram: @oliviakmackinnon Twitter: @OliviaMackinnon

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.