Avery Island is a salt dome in the Southern state of Louisiana, famous as the site for production of Tabasco hot sauce. Located west of the city of New Orleans, Avery Island is part of a group of salt dome formations collectively referred to as the Five Islands, and it is a popular tourist site in addition to the site of a working factory and salt mine. Visitors to Avery Island pay a small toll to enter the Island, and may pay additional fees for some of the activities offered on the Island.
Technically, Avery Island is not an island at all, as it is not surrounded entirely by water. Instead, the island is composed of a massive salt deposit left behind by the slow evaporation of an inland sea. Avery Island rises above the surrounding landscape, making it easy to spot, and it is surrounded by bayous, marshes, and flatlands. During periods of flooding in the Louisiana Delta, Avery Island has been threatened by rising waters.
The island is owned by the McIlhenny family, which has been making Tabasco since 1868 on the site, using peppers grown on the island. Today, peppers continue to be produced on the island for the famous hot sauce, and those peppers are also used as seedstock for peppers grown off site. In addition to being used for hot sauce production, Avery Island hosts a salt mine, operated by the Cargill company as of 2008, and oil and natural gas are reclaimed from the mine as well, making Avery Island a rather profitable venture.
Avery Island also has a sprawling botanic garden, with specimens from all over the world. Many visitors enjoy wandering through the garden to see the rich assortment of plants, and they can also see the bird sanctuary on the island, which most famously houses herons. The Tabasco factory is open for tours, for people who want to see the process of sauce manufacture from start to finish, and visitors can shop for a variety of Tabasco-branded products at the factory.
Some members of the McIlhenny family, along with some factory employees, also call Avery Island home. Residents of the island have a short commute to work, but they also get to enjoy the natural beauty of the island year-round; the McIlhenny family has worked very hard on conservation projects on the island, to ensure that future generations can enjoy it.
In addition to Avery Island, the Five Islands include Weeks Island, Jefferson Island, Cote Blanche, and Belle Isle.