The easy-going city of Natchez is the oldest civilised settlement on the Mississippi River, perched on the highest promontory north of the Gulf of Mexico, 200ft (61m) above the rolling water. Across the river, which forms the state border, Natchez looks down on Louisiana. Natchez was an Indian settlement for centuries before being colonised first by the French in 1716, then the British in 1763, the Spanish in 1779, and then joining America in 1798.
The city became the first capital of the State of Mississippi in 1817 and experienced an economic boom as a centre for the export of cotton by river steamer. The cotton poured in from the vast rich plantations of Mississippi and neighbouring Louisiana. Today Natchez has more antebellum houses than any other place in the United States, with nine available for daily tours and many more opening their doors during spring and fall pilgrimages. Many hundreds of the beautiful homes are privately owned and stand to be admired by passers-by.
The city's downtown area is packed with late 19th-century buildings housing antique shops, hotels, churches, and restaurants, and more than 40 Bed and Breakfast establishments. In addition to all the historic fare, Natchez is a recreational centre offering a semi-tropical climate and numerous hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking opportunities. The city is also the starting point for the famous Natchez Trace Parkway; a 450-mile (724km) national park route based on ancient Indian trails, which connects Natchez to Jackson, the state capital, 105 miles (169km) away, and ends in Nashville, Tennessee. All this, plus a healthy dose of southern hospitality, cuisine, and exciting riverboat casinos, makes Natchez a tourist's delight.