This article is brought to you by Travel South, USA. However, all opinions are genuinely held by the Yahoo Lifestyle Editorial Team.
If you’re itching for an adventure holiday in the great outdoors once we can travel internationally, then plan to take a road-trip through some of America’s best kept secrets in the South. Expect to be wowed by spectacular scenery and quaint towns as you travel through some of the South’s most beautiful states.
To kick start your adventure, fly in to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and drive two hours to Louisiana’s Lake Charles. Known for its relaxed vibe and creole culture, the city offers direct access to the Louisiana outback. Don’t leave without tasting the Gumbo that is a staple across Southwest Louisiana, particularly in Lake Charles. A spicy Cajun stew with either chicken, smoked sausage or seafood, it will give you plenty of energy for your outdoor adventures. The Creole Nature Trail is a 290km network of back roads through one of America’s last great wildernesses. Along the 41km of beach, you can spot 400 species of birds, alligators, marsh mammals and butterflies. Spot even more migratory birds in the Peveto Woods Sanctuary – a 40 acre wooded sanctuary that has attracted visitors from all 50 states and 20 nations. Visitors can also stroll the Blue Goose Trail, a one-mile paved trail through marsh habitat and along the levee.
Take a scenic six-hour drive north and you’ll arrive in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. It’s the perfect place to explore the Bayou Bartholomew, which is the longest bayou in the world. The Delta Rivers Nature Centre boasts several hiking trails and a 20,000-gallon oxbow lake aquarium, where you can spot snakes, turtles and alligators.
Another 90 minutes north is the quaint town of Hot Springs. The Hot Springs National Park has eight bathhouses where you can soak in thermal pools. It’s not all relaxation though; there’s a hiking trail up Hot Springs Mountain to tire your muscles out again – and make another bathhouse trip a necessity.
Next, drive an hour and a half to the Arkansas-Missouri border where you’ll hit Lakeview, in the scenic Ozark Mountains. There are views of the impressive mountain ranges, the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and the St. Francois Mountains of Missouri, which cover nearly 120,000 km2, nearly everywhere you go. Lakeview is also the gateway to the Bull Shoals-White River State Park. Head out on the water in a hire boat to catch trout during the summer, and largemouth and spotted bass all year round. Canoe or kayak down the Buffalo River to see waterfalls and large bluffs. If you prefer land-based activities, trek uphill on the Big Bluff Hiking Trail, the tallest sheer bluff face between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. At 167m tall, expect to hike over rocky terrain and past 800-year-old juniper trees, on the five-hour round hike.
Finish your adventure holiday by driving for 30 minutes to Missouri’s ancient limestone caverns, Meramec Caverns. These large caves were originally used as saltpeter mines for gunpowder, before Jesse James used them as his hideout. Each “room” in the cave has its own name, based on the natural formations. Expect to see the “wine room”, “the ballroom” and the “theatre room.” If visiting a former outlaw’s hideout isn’t enough excitement for you, try the zipline tours or riverboat rides on offer. Want to really end your trip on a high? Try the gold panning that’s available at the caverns. You might just end your holiday of a lifetime a little bit richer.