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. Their influences are present along Highway 46, in addition to sights of a historic battlefield, plantation homes and evidence of a vigorous fishing industry.
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 Jackson Barracks complex, the home base for the Louisiana National Guard, was established in 1834 to provide costal defense in New Orleans.
In Chalmette, one of America’s most renowned military victories, lies the field where, in 1815, Gen. Andrew Jackson’s troops defeated the British during the Battle of New Orleans. The Chalmette Battlefield's visitor center provides a place to learn more about this and other Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve sites in Louisiana. Chalmette has a number of great eateries. Rocky & Carlo’s Restaurant & Bar or other small, locally owned diners, 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 the route, several plantation houses that remain in private hands in Meraux. One of which is the Dockville Oaks containing a canopy of live oaks planted in the 1930s by Dr. Louis Meraux.
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.The towns of Hopedale, Delacroix, Yscloskey and Shell Beach, conclude the end of the byway, where shrimp and oyster fishermen can be seen hoisting their nets.
FIND MORE INFORMATION:
St. Bernard Parish Office of Tourism