A quaint and tranquil port of call steeped in Southern hospitality – an expert guide to St Francisville

Jeannine Williamson
St Francisville - istock

Why go?

Developed on a narrow ride overlooking the Mississippi, the oldest town in the Florida Parishes – which were part of West Florida in the 18th and early 19th centuries – is described as the town that is 'two miles long and two yards wide' and is a quaint and tranquil port of call.

Tracing its roots back to a burial ground and church built by Spanish settlers in the 1730s, St Francisville is the second oldest town in Louisiana (after Natchitoches) and steeped in Southern town charm. There’s a compact walkable old town and a cluster of plantation homes nearby. 

Cruise port location

The docking spot lies at the foot of a hill leading to the historic district. Passengers are welcomed by tourist office representatives handing out maps, shopping bags and discount vouchers and shuttle buses run back and forth to the town.

Can I walk to any places of interest?

Whilst some passengers walk back, it’s less tiring to take the shuttle into the compact centre where it is easy to explore on foot. Coaches take passengers to Rosedown, a former cotton plantation on the outskirts of town, which is one of the most popular excursions.

Getting around

Walking is the main mode of transport. Aside from the hop-on hop-off shuttles to different points of interest, St Francisville has no bus service and there is just one taxi firm, but there are no ranks and cabs have to be ordered by phone.

St Francisville - getty

What can I do in four hours or less?

Built in 1834 by Daniel Turnbull – at the time one of the nation’s richest men – Rosedown is centred around a magnificent galleried house filled with original furniture. The 27-acre formal gardens were inspired by Daniel and Martha Turnbull’s European honeymoon. A tour is offered on most river cruise itineraries or passengers can visit by themselves and pay the entrance fee.

Although it’s not usually featured on shore excursions, another notable home that can be toured independently is Myrtles Plantation. The 1796 property is renowned for its architectural splendour and the fact that visitors might be joined by an unexpected guest, as it's reputed to be Louisiana’s most haunted house.

In the town centre allow plenty of time to wander down Ferdinand Street and nearby Royal Street to browse in the galleries and shops. They include the quirky Grandmother’s Buttons which sells jewellery created from beautiful antique buttons. The West Feliciana Historical Society Museum, situated in a former hardware store, tells the story of the original settlers that founded the riverside community.

St Francisville - The Myrtles Plantation

What can I do in eight hours or less?

Half an hour from St Francisville is the Angola Museum at Louisiana State Penitentiary. It provides a fascinating, albeit somewhat grisly, insight into the jail, which has housed some of America’s most notorious prisoners with exhibits including an electric chair.

Eat and drink

Order a po’boy – the traditional Louisiana sandwich made with roast beef or fried seafood, usually shrimp, crawfish, oysters or crab, and served on a fluffy white baguette. Alternatively try a muffuletta, another regional speciality filled with olive salad, salami, ham and cheese.

Don’t leave St Francisville without…

Ornithologist and artist John James Audubon lived in St Francisville and painted much of his exquisite Birds of America series in the area, which can be bought as prints. Souvenirs, such as angels, made from local balls of cotton are also a novel buy.

Need to know

Flight time from the UK

Nine hours and 55 minutes to New Orleans direct; 11 hours and 10mins to Alexandria, with connecting flight.

St Francisville - istock

Safety

St Francisville is very safe.

Best time to go

Visit in the spring or autumn to avoid the summer humidity.

Opening times

Main tourist attractions and shops open daily.