Crossing the river at Lutcher brings you to Vacherie and the fascinating Laura plantation (daily 10am–4pm; $18; w www.lauraplantation.com). Rather than dwelling lovingly on priceless antiques, the tours here, which draw upon a wealth of historical documents – from slave accounts and photographs to private diaries – sketch a vivid picture of day-to-day plantation life in multicultural Louisiana. Nine miles upriver from Laura, Oak Alley, the quintessential image of the antebellum plantation home, is an opulent Greek Revival mansion dating from 1839 – the magnificent oaks that form a canopy over the driveway are 150 years older (Mon–Fri 10am–4pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5pm; $15; w www.oakalleyplantation.com). You can stay in pretty B&B cottages in the grounds (t 225/265-2151; $131–160). Eighteen miles south of Baton Rouge on the west bank, Nottoway (1859) is the largest surviving plantation home in the South, a huge, white Italianate edifice with 64 rooms (daily 9am–4pm; $20, $8 grounds only). The house also has fancy B&B rooms (t 225/545-2730, w www.nottoway.com; $161–200).