between the beautiful Gulf of Mexico on one side and Barataria and Caminada Bays
on the other, Grand Isle, Louisiana is quickly becoming one of the must see
destinations in the South. From fishing to boating to beach combing, Grand Isle
is the place for summer relaxation.
best said by The Tourist Commissioner, Mrs. Josie Cheramie,
“Grand Isle is the perfect place for people who need to escape.
It is the place where you will get reacquainted with who you are, and it
is the place where you will find yourself once again. Just like everywhere else, we have some nice hotels and some
good restaurants here, but unlike other places, we don’t have a fast paced
culture. Enjoy Grand Isle at your
leisure. The island was built for
fishing, bird watching, and just being lazy.
Take a tip from the residents – go slow and enjoy.”
eight miles long and a mile wide, Grand Isle is home to approximately 1100
residents and the island maintains close to ten miles of public beaches.
Furthermore, as a result of being between salt and fresh water estuaries, Grand
Isle is a nature lover’s paradise, and because of its closeness to open water
it is a fisherman’s dream. Regardless
if you own a sailboat or cruiser, Grand Isle is an ideal place to spend the
weekend or the week.
from the collision between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, Grand
Isle is rich in geologic history. Between
2,000 and 800 years ago, the Mississippi River flowed through what is now known
as Bayou Lafourche. All the
sediment the river drained from the mid-west U.S. was deposited into the
Barataria and Timbalier deltas. Over
the course of time, the deltas sank and became the bays we know today.
Wave and tidal action pushed the excess sand from these bays into the
barrier islands of Grand Isle, Grand Terre Island, E. Timbalier Island, and
Timbalier Island. Unfortunately,
the same forces that gave birth to Grand Isle are now trying to destroy it.
The constant damage from hurricanes and tidal erosion is causing the
Island to move from west to east at about 16 feet per year.
Hopefully, with some intervention, Grand Isle will be around to meet the
in history, Grand Isle and its sister island, Grand Terre, were originally
settled in the late 1700’s as a fishing village.
The famous “Gentleman Pirate” Jean Lafitte converted the islands into
the base of his looting operations. According
to the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, Jean Lafitte used Grand Isle
and the neighboring island Grand Terre for “his commune…which included a café,
bordello, gambling den, warehouses, and a barracoon (for detaining slaves).”
the use of the island by pirates, in 1841, the U.S. military constructed Fort
Livingston at the mouth of Barataria Pass on Grand Terre.
This fort was designed to protect New Orleans’ back door, Barataria
Bay, from attack. Constructed of brick and granite, the fort still stands
proudly today. Although the fort
was never involved in military action, 300 Confederate soldiers occupied it
during part of the Civil War. The easiest way to view the fort is with
binoculars at the observation tower in the State Park.
the attack of innumerable hurricanes, the island has several buildings that are
over 200 years old. These houses
are located in the center of the island in the mists of large oak trees.
The trees provide the homes with the protection necessary to survive the
storms. Twice a year, the Tourism
Commission offers walking tours. Just
by walking by the homes, you can get an idea of what life was like in a turn of
the century fishing village. The quaint little neighborhood is a must see for
fisherman, Grand Isle has a lot to offer. There are over forty-six species of
game fish that can be caught within one hour’s boat ride of Grand Isle.
From tuna to tarpon to speckle trout, Grand Isle has it, and best of all,
if you want to relax and just surf fish, you have almost ten miles of beach to
do it from. The speckle trout and
red fish catches are some of the biggest in Louisiana.
Some of the hottest fishing on the island is from the beach.
The State Park and Caminada Pass offer great action.
The best times to fish are when there is strong tidal movement.
Live shrimp and cocahoes minnows are always a good choice for bait, and
medium tackle should be able to land any fish you may catch.
If you’re going offshore
fishing, check with some of the local marinas to find out which platforms are
on July 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, Grand Isle will welcome 15,000 visitors
and 3,500 anglers for this year’s International Tarpon Rodeo.
The rodeo is in its 78th year.
During the rodeo the island erupts with live music, good food, and
fishing excitement. During these
three days, Grand Isle comes alive, and there is literally something to do 24
hours a day.
Isle also has Louisiana’s only state-owned and operated beach on the Louisiana
Gulf Coast. Each year over 300,000
visitors come to Grand Isle State Part for beach combing, surf fishing, sun
bathing, and primitive camping. There
is a modest fee for using the park, but the quality of the park and beach is
superb. As mentioned before, there
is an observation tower located in the park that gives a fabulous view of the
area. And for those boaters who
want to camp, the State Park offers campsites that are centered right on the
beach, just yards from the water. It
certainly makes for a pleasant night’s sleep listening to the waves lap in. To
supplement the campground there are also nice bath facilities located within the
park. It makes for a nice day to be
able to rinse off the sea before going back aboard your boat. Furthermore, for boaters just wanting to picnic, the State
Park also has dozens of covered picnic tables.
The park is located on the Far East end of the Island.
To get there by car, just stay on the main road until it ends.
The park entrance is just before the end on the right hand side.
nature lovers, Grand Isle is nothing short of heaven.
From migrants to nesting birds, there is something on the island for
everyone. During the spring and
fall, the island plays host to thousands of migrating birds.
Occasionally, during a spring storm, it is possible to see a phenomenon
known as a fall out.
A fall out occurs when migrating birds become so exhausted by
fighting bad weather or winds as they fly across the gulf that they land on the
first bush they see. When this
occurs, the island is covered with thousands of resting birds.
It is possible to see as many as fifty tanagers, thirty buntings, and a
few other species all in one small tree.
best birding on the island is located at the home of Mr. Bobbie Santinni. His
yard is a welcome sanctuary to all birders and migrating birds.
Just as birds seem to know the same routes year after year, they also
seem to know to stop in Mr. Santinni’s yard.
If it were not for Santinni, many of the birds would most certainly
perish. His property is located at
the end of Coulon Rigaud Road on the right hand side at the end of the road. He
welcomes all birders with open arms. In
addition to seeing the birds at Santinni’s, his home was built in 1776.
It was the residence for the town’s midwife.
must see birding spot is Queen Bess Island.
Located approximately four miles due north of Barataria Pass, the island
is the nesting home to thousands of brown pelicans.
It is difficult to describe the magnitude of this island in words. There are so many birds on the island, that when disturbed by
a predator, the sky seems to darken from their flight. As best stated by Captain Ricky, owner of Ricky’s
Motel and long time nature lover, “Every time I see these birds I notice
something new and different. I have
been out here a thousand times, but each time is more enchanting than the last.
A few years ago, the browns (pelican) were few and far between, but just
look at them now.” For those
guests staying at his hotel, Ricky Bourg “Owner of Ricky’s Motel”, if
available, will provide a group of 12 people "staying at Ricky's
Motel" a free tour to Queen Bess Island in his own
personal 26-foot Boston Whaler boat. Take all the photographs you want, and be
sure to bring plenty of film.
one can see, Grand Isle is the perfect getaway from it all spot.
It is an area rich in history, nature, fishing, and atmosphere. It offers all the luxuries we expect from a resort without
all the prices and hassle. Where
else in the world can you do so many things with your family in one day and
spend so little. Grand Isle is
truly one of the South’s last bargains. Who
knows, once you begin going there, you may never want to leave.
boating facilities on the island are nothing short of superb.
There are at least eight different marinas on the island, and they offer
a wide variety of services from hoists, to wet and dry boat storage, to boat
launches. All the staff at the
marinas are very helpful with fishing and boating advice.
Most notable of the marinas on the east end are the Sand Dollar and
Pirate’s Cove. Most notable on
the west end is the Bridge Side Marina. Furthermore,
Cigar’s Marina, located just across Caminada Pass is a one-stop shop for
boaters. Cigar’s offers a
restaurant, launch, and accommodations all in one spot.
island offers a wide variety of accommodations.
As expected, there are several good hotels on the island.
The most notable ones are Ricky’s Hotel (all new construction with a
lighted pier for good night fishing), Cigar’s (located next to a launch with a
restaurant), The Blue Dolphin, and Bridge Side (next to a launch and good bridge
fishing). All the hotels range in
price from $40.00 to $100.00 per night.
If you want to stay in an apartment or camp, there are several very good
places to stay. They range in price
from $400 to $600 per week, and you can find out which ones are available by
calling the Tourist Commission at 504-787-2997.
For those who want to come during the Tarpon Rodeo, accommodations can be
hard to come by. Call early.
addition to the hotels, the eating on the island can range from good to
excellent. The Chicken Shack,
located off highway 1 in the center of the island, offers good hamburgers,
pizza, and chicken. Sarah’s, also
located in the center, is a tasty diner. The
Sand Dollar and Cigars have excellent food and are a real nice sit down type
restaurant. For a dinner with a view, nothing beats the IceHouse.
boaters who trailer their boats, driving directions are as follows: Take
Interstate 10 to the 310 spur located just West of New Orleans. Stay on 310
until it ends at Highway 90. Turn
right onto 90 and follow it until you see the Highway 1 exit (It is about twenty
miles from the 90/310 exit). Go
south and follow highway. It will
eventually take you through the center of Grand Isle (about 67 miles from the
90/1 exit). One word of caution,
when traveling through Golden Meadows follow all speed limits exactly. There is no tolerance for error.
boaters approaching via water, there are 2 channels that lead into separate
harbors. They have separate markers for each channel.
The left one leads to the Sand Dollar Mariana and the other leads into
the Coast Guard Station and Pirate’s Cove Marina.
All boaters should be careful if they travel through either of the passes
around the island. The passes have
strong currents and have scattered shoals thorough out.
Isle’s location is at Latitude 29 degrees 15’/Longitude 90 degrees 00’.
©Copyright 1999-2005 by George Payne, All Rights Reserved.
Contact George Email:
George's Web Site
Photographer, Writer, and
above was written by a good friend of ours George Payne is one of Louisiana's premier
nature photographers and writers. Much of the knowledge we have has been gleaned
from many conversations with George and for that we are most thankful.