Tabasco Land Avery Island

By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor

My Group Tour magazine arrived this month. As always I immediately scan it for tours that might be of interest to the readers of Travel Tips of the Week. My friend and contributing writer to the Government Center Gazette & Van Nuys News Press, Lane Sherman, will almost always ask the waiter for a bottle of Tabasco sauce if it’s not on the table. I have a few family members that also use Tabasco on almost every food they eat.

Tabasco Land Avery Island
Tabasco Land Avery Island

So, when The Group Tour magazine had an article on the Tabasco Plant and the Jungle Gardens on Avery Island located in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, I did more research and want to share what I found with you, the readers of Travel Tips of the Week. Did you know that the Tabasco sauce is produced by a United States based company, McIlhenny Company, on Avery Island and is run by a sixth generation of the family? The Tabasco sauce has been sold to the public since 1868, initially by Edmund McIlhenny who first produced it. It is made from tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt, and aged in white oak barrels for three years.

All the shareholders inherited their stock or were given it by a family member, and it is now in the fifth generation as a family business. Avery Island, a huge dome of rock salt, is surrounded on all sides by bayous, salt marshes and swampland. It was originally a sugar plantation and the only access is a low toll bridge road and only inbound traffic has to pay a fee. There are some residents on the island but the visitor will want to find plant and animal species from around the world. In the 1890’s E.A. McIlhenny (the founder’s grandson) or “Mr. Ned’ as he was known, founded a bird colony when he gathered eight young egrets, raised them in captivity on the island and released them in the fall to migrate across the Gulf of Mexico. The egret population has been decimated as they were killed for their feathers for milady’s hats.

The following spring, the birds returned to the island with others of their species, and the migration continues today. Mr. Ned, a self-taught naturalist, also prized rare plants and he brought in numerous varieties of azaleas, Japanese camellias, Egyptian papyrus and other botanical treasures. Even when oil was discovered on the Island he made sure that production crew bypassed live oak trees, buried pipelines (or painted them green) and took steps to preserve the Island’s beauty and ensure its role as a wildlife refuge. On a tour of the Jungle Gardens a visitor might spot alligators, deer and raccoons that live in the hills and marshes around the gardens. And, you’ll find thousands of snowy egrets each spring on specially-built, pier-like structures in a pond that is called “Bird City.”

After crossing the bridge, the visitor has to make a decision about which to do first – – begin the visit at the 170-acre Jungle Gardens or start on a tour of the Tabasco pepper fields and a guided factory tour. If your visit is from Monday to Thursday you are able to view the bottling process. A short movie about the production of Tabasco is shown in the visitor center. And, of course there is the country store where you can shop and indulge in some sampling of their fine products. Located 140 miles west of New Orleans, the visitor to the island might also want to explore Iberia Parish and its other attractions. Accommodations range from the Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express to bed-and-breakfasts.

Here are some other things to do when visiting Iberia Parish and Avery Island:

  • Explore the Atachafalaya Loop Birding trail in the heart of Atchafalaya Basin, America’s largest river swamp. If you’re a birding enthusiast you might want to include Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, New Iberia City Park, Rib Van Winkle Gardens/Jefferson Island and Spanish Lake.
  • The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area — the Bayou Teche Corridor is rich with an ecologically varied region of rivers, bayous, and swamps.
  • The Bayou Teche Museum (open Thurs, Fri, Sat from 10 am-4 pm) is a state of the art museum housing artifacts and memorabilia that tell the story of a growing city, its people, culture and industry all centered around the “snake-like” curves of the Bayou Teche.
  • Visit the oldest operating rice mill in the United States. You will also see a slide presentation on the history of the Acadians and tour the mill. The store features a selection of KONRIKO products and other local products, arts and crafts.
  • Visit Shadows-on-the Teche (open Mon-Sat from 9 am-4 pm). The plantation was built in 1834 for a wealthy sugar planter. It was home to four generations before becoming a National Trust Historic Site. You’ll find live oaks draped with Spanish moss, family letters and furnishing which offer you an authentic picture of a life style long since gone.
  • Here’s some news for you Tabasco lovers: The state of Ohio is offering a Tabasco Video Slot Machine for sale. It’s a spicy 5-reel, 60-coin Game King theme. There’s even a bonus round. Price is a mere $1800; shipping $200; New LCD Monitor $500.

For more information go to Tabasco Reel Slot. For more information about the Tabasco Factory Tour, Avery Island, the Jungle Gardens go to Iberia Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau web site or call (888) 942-3742 or (337) 365-1540.

By Jean Strauber

Entertainment Writer

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