From Gettysburg to gumbo Academy Travel’s new 15-day itinerary explores the essence of America’s South. Beginning in Washington and ending on the banks of the Mississippi in rural Louisiana, we explore some of the earliest colonial settlements on the Atlantic seaboard, the history and immense cultural influence of African Americans in the region, the tumultuous experience of the Civil War and of course the diverse communities and wonderful musical life of New Orleans. There’s also great food, superb art and fine scenery to be enjoyed.
The early history of the United States, from the first arrival of Europeans to the Civil War
The experience of African Americans in the South, arriving as slaves emerging as a fundamental influence on the nation’s history and culture
The fine Georgian architecture of the South Carolina plantations
The coastal landscapes of the Atlantic Seaboard
The exuberant cultural life of New Orleans, an amalgam of Cajun and Creole cultures
Thomas Jefferson’s fine Virginia estate, Monticello, a fascinating window on the life and times of one of the USA’s most important founding fathers
The famous Civil War Battlefield of Gettysburg
Outstanding regional art galleries in Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina
The fine colonial neo-classical architecture of Charleston, South Carolin
A day trip to Savannah, Georgia, the ‘southern gothic’ setting for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Historic sites in New Orleans, the bayou of Cajun country and evenings of jazz in intimate venues
Day 1: Arrive Washington, DC.
Days 2–4: Explore Washington’s early history, southern roots and take a day trip to Gettysburg
Days 5-6: Travel to Richmond, Virginia, via Jefferson’s Monticello. Visit Jamestown and Williamsburg and tour the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Days 7-10: Explore Charleston, with a day trip to Savannah in neighbouring Georgia.
Days 11–13: Fly to New Orleans, Louisiana. Enjoy the city’s history, art and music.
Days 14-15: Travel the banks of the Mississippi to Cajun country. Spend the final night of the tour on an historic plantation and visit a swamp!
Day 16: Transfer to New Orleans for onward flights.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
We recommend Qantas flights to and from Dallas, with connecting flights within the US. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Monday 9 October: Arrive Washington
The tour begins in our Washington hotel in the early evening, with drinks and a light dinner. Flights depart Eastern Australian cities in the morning, arriving in Los Angeles or San Francisco the same day. Onward flights to Washington, arrive in the late afternoon. Overnight Washington. (D)
Tuesday 10 October: Washington’s southern roots
Today’s exploration of Washington focuses on some of the distinctly southern characteristics of an otherwise international capital city. We begin with some of the monument on the National Mall, including those of Jefferson, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, all of whom had to straddle the very different northern and southern traditions of the US. In the afternoon we visit to Arlington House, in the midst of the famous war ceremony. Once to home of Robert E Lee, the history of this house also stretches back to Washington. In the evening, after a talk, we gather for a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Wednesday 11 October: ‘We are met on a Great Battlefield’
A full day excursion takes us north of Washington to the famous Civil War battlefield site of Gettysburg in southern Pennsylvania. Here in July 1863, forces from around the country met in one of the most important engagements of the war, immortalized through Lincoln’s stirring Gettysburg Address. In the morning a local guide will take us through the stages of the battle by visiting a range of sites. After a lunch break in the attractive centre of Gettysburg, there will be time to visit the excellent museum and Vistors’ Centre before returning to Washington. (B)
Thursday 12 October: Washington in Washington
George Washington is, needless to say, one of the most influential figures in American History. He was also the epitome of a southern slave plantation owner. Today, after a morning talk, we visit Mount Vernon his estate on the banks of the Potomac south of Washington. We visit the relatively modest homestead, the slave quarters and the impressive museum. This evening has been set aside to attend a performance of drama or music at the mid-century performing arts monolith, the Kennedy Center. (B)
Friday 13 October: Jefferson’s Virginia
We depart Washington this morning and spend the day in and around Charlottesville, Virginia. Our first stop is Thomas Jefferson’s fine estate, Monticello. Jefferson viewed himself as an aesthete and spent many years in Europe, all of which shows in the refined Palladian design. In the afternoon we tour the equally impressive campus of the University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson and considered by him to be one of his key achievements. We continue to Richmond in the late afternoon, and there is dinner in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Saturday 14 October: Old Dominion
The Commonwealth of Virginia was nicknamed ‘Old Dominion’, recognizing its status as the first colonial possession established in British America. Richmond, its capital, was first explored in 1609 and went on to become the headquarters of the Confederates in the Civil War. This morning, after a talk, we tour the neo-classical state capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson. We then travel south east to the banks of the James River, close to the Atlantic. It was here in 1607 that the British first settled America, coming into contact with the Powhatan Confederacy, of whom Pocahontas was a member. We first tour the site of Jamestown, the first British settlement before calling in at Williamsburg, the first colonial capital. We return to Richmond in the afternoon. (B)
Sunday 15 October: Train To the Deep South
This morning we make a short visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The museum has a well-regarded collection of European and American art, including one of the best collections of art nouveau design outside France. We then transfer Richmond’s Amtrak station for our afternoon journey south to Charleston. The seven-hour trip, takes us through the countryside of North Carolina and on to South Carolina. We arrive in Charleston in the early evening. There is a dining car on the train, and a luggage service. There is dinner in our hotel tonight. (B, D)
Monday 16 October: Townhouses and Plantations
This morning we stroll the fine collection of the 18th and early 19th townhouses of merchants and planters on the Charleston peninsula, one of the best preserved historic districts in the USA. These large houses sit side-by-side with fine Georgian churches and more modest dwellings, such as ‘Catfish Row’, made famous by Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. This afternoon we travel along the Ashley River Road to visit the Palladian-style Drayton Hall, on one of the rice plantations which were once the backbone of Charleston’s economy. Observing a southern tradition, our hotel offers complimentary drinks from 5.30pm. (B)
Tuesday 17 October: Regional Art and Fort Sumpter
Today we visit the Gibbes Museum of Art, an excellent regional collection of works by well-known colonial artists, displaying the artistic tastes of the 18th and 19th century ‘plantation aristocracy’. In the afternoon we join a cruise of Charleston Harbor, learning about the history of the harbor, before visiting Fort Sumter, where the first major military engagement of the Civil War took place. Dinner is in a local restaurant tonight. (B, D)
Wednesday 18 October: Savannah
We spend the full day in Savannah. Savannah owes its beauty to the vision of James Oglethorpe, one of the 21 original British colonists of Georgia. Ogelthorpe laid out a street plan of 24 leafy squares. Around these squares were built fine town houses, most of which survive. Savannah’s beautiful houses and society is best known to us through John Berendt’s popular book, Midnight in the garden of good and evil. This morning we take a walking tour of the town. In the afternoon we visit the First Baptist Church. Founded in 1800, the church played a pivotal role in the ‘underground railway’, and informal network of secret routes and safe houses through which slaves escaped to the northern states. Back in Charleston, the evening is free. (B)
Thursday 19 October: To New Orleans
This morning we fly from Charleston to New Orleans, via Atlanta. After checking in to our hotel in the French Quarter we take a brief walking tour. Located on the site of the original settlement of the French Mississippi Company, most of the buildings standing today are actually from the period of Spanish control of the colony (1763-1801). Our walk takes in the fine cathedral of St Louis, Jackson Square, the levee of the Mississippi River and of course Bourbon Street. Tonight we dine at Cochon, a fine restaurant serving characteristic Creole dishes. (B, D)
Friday 20 October: the French Quarter
After a morning talk we visit the State Museum of Louisiana, housed in the Cabildo – the heart of Spanish colonial administration. The museum’s displays take us from the French and Spanish colonial periods to the time of the Civil War and beyond. The afternoon is free to stroll the shops and cafes of the French Quarter, take in an impromptu musical performance on the streets, or visit the Arts Center or the National World War II Museum. Tonight we attend the 8pm show at Snug Harbour, one of the city’s better known jazz venues. (B)
Saturday 21 October: The garden district and beyond
This morning, a coach then takes to the leafy Garden District, the 19th century enclave of New Orleans non-Creole population. We also visit the Lower 9th Ward, a district devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and perhaps Tremé, home of New Orlean’s ‘Mardi Gras Indians’. The afternoon is free to relax or undertake individual sightseeing, and this evening there is the option of attending another jazz performance.
Sunday 22 October: Cajun Country
A few hours west of New Orleans lies the Atchafalaya Basin, the heart of Cajun America. Descended from Canadian French trappers, the Cajuns today live a simple life and speak an unusual patois of old French and English. Late this morning we take a boat tour through one of the bayous of southern Louisiana, teeming with wildlife, including alligators. We spend the final night of the tour at Nottoway Plantation on the banks of the Mississippi. Today it is a comfortable historic hotel. (B, D)
Monday 23 October: Plantations on the Mississippi
On our final day we visit two fine examples of antebellum sugar plantations not far from New Orleans. Oak Alley is best known for its grand white columns and its equally grand canopied path of southern live oak trees – the epitome of a plantation home. Creole-owned Laura Plantation is more modest, but has a fascinating history and well-preserved slave quarters. After lunch at the café at Laura we head to New Orleans airport, where the tour ends. Flights to Australia via Los Angeles depart in the late afternoon. (B)
Dr Matthew Laing
Is a historian and political scientist with a PhD from the ANU. Matthew leads tours to the United States and Scandinavia and lectures for Academy Travel.
In 2007 he spent six months in Washington as a congressional intern and has travelled extensively in the North East USA. He has lectured at the ANU’s Centre for Continuing Education and led tours in Australia and the USA.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.