It takes you a maximum of four hours to drive all the way from Chennai to Puducherry along the East Coast Road. But then, a drive along this picturesque road is something to be savored. We are going to tell you how to make each pit-stop something worth remembering.
What to see, to do
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Referred to as the Croc Bank, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology is an ideal place to spend time with the family and learn about wildlife and environment. Set up by Romulus Whitaker, the park has evolved into a fun place you have to visit. Come summer, the Bank arranges weekend camps. If you are driving by on a Sunday, you can participate in an Adopt a reptile scheme and you will be taken on a trip to see how the crocs are fed in their pens. If you are interested in volunteering - you can apply at the croc bank website.
The croc bank is open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm
It is 44 km from Chennai.
You can spend a whole day here with your family or finish up and drive on to the next pit-stop.
Walk the long paved path to the shore temple. Enjoy the stone construction, take thousands of selfies. And watch the sea beyond the barrier. If you want to walk down to the beach, you need to get out of the complex and go to the beach. The 'five rathas' are a little way off from the shore temple. But what will fill you with awe is the stone carvings on the monument known as Arjuna's Penance. A boulder that looks as if it will roll off the complex, known as Krishna's butterball, is another amusing sight you get here. It is ideal to have your lunch at one of the hotels here.
The distance from crocodile park to Mahabalipuram is 15km
Way back in 1648, the Dutch who were establishing themselves along the Coromandel coast set up a factory at Sadirvasagan Pattinam or Sadurangapattinam as it was known then. The town traded in muslin and pearls and naturally, the Dutch wanted to establish a monopoly of trade. A fort was built around the factory and a Dutch settlement came up in the area. Later, the British East India Company came along and there was a commercial clash of interest between the two. The battle of Sadras in the 1780s saw the fall of the Dutch and large-scale demolition of the fort. It was recaptured by the Dutch in 1818 and rebuilt, but by 1854, it fell to the British once again, ending Dutch dreams of ruling the Coromandel coast.
Cut to the present days, the fort is in ruins and there is an inner wall that is crumbling and an old Dutch cemetery. If you are unsure about the way and stop by to ask people, they will tell you that there is nothing much to see at Sadras. If that piques your interest like it did to me, do drop by. the stone structure with quaint arches will transport you to a different era altogether.
It is hard to miss this beautiful lake as you drive by. But if you are in a mood to stop by head to the Mudaliarkuppam Boat House. Developed by the Tamil Nadu state tourism department, the facility offers boating, rowing, kayaking, speed boat tours and water scooter rides.
It is hard to miss the salt fields at Marakkanam. Stop by and chat up with the people you see working there. They will gladly tell you how salt is made. It is a three step process. First, the ground is prepared, the salt pans are filled under the sweltering sun, salt forms fast, as fast as three hours during summer, and let to dry up in mounds and then carted off for processing. And they will even offer you a hand full of salt if you ask them, for free of course.
Bonus pit stops
Alamparai Fort: If you are a history buff, we suggest you stop by at Alamparai Fort too. Situated near Kadappakkam, this was initially under the control of the Nawab of Arcot of the time. It was later given to the French and came under the British after the Carnatic Wars. The fort finds a reference in various ancient texts. It is 50 km away from Puducherry.
Sri Karaneswara Nataraja Temple: If you have been fascinated by the pyramids, do drop by. The original Sri Karaneswara Nataraja Temple was destroyed by the the tsunami that hit the coast in 2004 and it was afterwards that the temple was rebuilt like a pyramid. Do stop by if you are not in a hurry.
And then, travel on to Puducherry. Click here to read what you have to see in this French Riviera of the East