San Bernardo Byway
A drive down the San Bernardo Byway, which begins just east of New Orleans and ends in the coastal fishing village of Shell Beach, presents a different cultural landscape from the urban center next door. Like much of the area, St. Bernard Parish reflects a French and Spanish past, but also strong in this region are influences of the Isleños people from the Spanish Canary Islands. Natives of those islands, which lie off the coast of Africa, were drawn here more than two centuries ago by the fertile soil and plentiful trapping and fishing; their descendants populate the area today. As you follow this byway along Highway 46, you’ll discover their influences, along with such sights as a historic battlefield, plantation homes and evidence of a vigorous fishing industry. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:
Arabi to Poydras
In the early 1900s, with gambling illegal in New Orleans, wagering found its way to casinos in nearby Arabi. Today, the town’s historic district contains remnants of earlier days, including the old jail. Arabi is also home to a large Domino Sugar refinery, where cane sugar from Louisiana, Texas and Florida is refined into products sold all over the country. Nearby is the new Jackson Barracks complex, the home base for the Louisiana National Guard.
In Chalmette, you’ll want to visit the site of one of America’s most renowned military victories: the field where, in 1815, Gen. Andrew Jackson’s troops defeated the British during the Battle of New Orleans.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, Chalmette has a number of great eateries. Try Rocky & Carlo’s Restaurant & Bar or the Par 3 Diner, for local favorites ranging from macaroni and cheese topped with brown gravy or red sauce to shrimp po-boys, crab cakes and bread pudding. Farther along your route, in Meraux, you’ll see several plantation houses that remain in private hands, and you’ll enjoy the beautiful Dockville Oaks, a canopy of magnificent live oaks planted in the 1930s by Dr. Louis Meraux.
Poydras to Shell Beach
In the town of St. Bernard, visit the Isleños Museum and Multicultural Center. The center displays six typical homes, each serving as a museum with artifacts from Isleños history. Each spring the locals celebrate their heritage with the Los Isleños Fiesta.
Near the end of the byway you will come to the towns of Hopedale,
Delacroix, Yscloskey and Shell Beach, where you’ll see shrimp and oyster fishermen hoisting their nets. You’ll also find plenty of charter boats with guides who would love to take you out for a day of world-class fishing.