After visiting our friends in Baton Rouge, we wanted to spend some time deep in Cajun country to get an authentic feel for southern Louisiana. Let’s take a look at the highlights…
Start your trip at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center near Henderson. You can pick up maps of the area along with up to date schedules for Cajun and zydeco bands. Once you have the information you want, it is time to explore. A map of the area…
Swamp & Wildlife
Indian Bayou: There are several hiking trails at Indian Bayou, which lies near the Welcome Center. The hiking trails cover 13 miles through mostly wooded areas. At Oxbow Trail, we found a huge alligator out in the bayou. We took the below photo from a distance, but you can get a feel for how large he is when comparing his head to the tree trunks in the background.
Lake Martin: Looking for more of a swamp landscape with old cypress trees? This is the trail for you. It follows along the perimeter of the lake, and you will see plenty of locals fishing these waters along with birds.
Swamp Boat Tour: The Atchafalaya Swamp is the largest swamp in the U.S. covering almost 1 million acres! To really appreciate it, you need to get out on the water. There are several types of tours, but we recommend Ernest Couret. This guy is the real deal, and his family has been running tours/hunting trips for 3 generations. He was a Delta Force Green Beret and served 4 tours in Vietnam. He is the Chuck Norris of the swamp. He specializes in private tours, and we were the only two on our tour, which was great! We saw several gators, three different types of herons, turtles, a swallow tailed kite and more! Find more on that experience including a video here.
St. Martinville: Think you know Cajun? Do you know the story of the Acadians? If not, then you are missing out on how the Cajun culture was established in Louisiana. St. Martinville is a must stop, as it holds the Acadian Memorial & Cultural Heritage Museum. Remember Longfellow’s poem Evangeline? The statue commemorating her sits next to the museum site. The town has several cafés and shops with French names. Click here to learn about the Acadians and their entrancing tale of woe!
Acadian Village: Now that you have learned the Acadian story at the museum and memorial, go to Lafayette to see the Acadian Village. It is a collection of Acadian homes brought together to be toured as a museum experience. They also house local Cajun artwork, and as a bonus, all proceeds go to LARC, which is a training program for people with disabilities.
Cajun Life Today
Music & Food: There are plenty of restaurants serving Cajun food, and Cajun music and dancing are available every night of the week in the area. We went to Pont Breaux in Breaux Bridge for an evening of dancing and music. If you are in the area on a Sunday, Whiskey River showcases zydeco music, but I believe they have a cover charge.
Towns: Drive through Breaux Bridge and Butte La Rose to see small Cajun towns today. You will cross over pontoon bridges, ride along levees and see plenty of crawfish farms.
Cajun country is truly unique. There is no place like it anywhere else on earth. As you explore the area, you will be privy to French speakers and the local unique dialect and accent. The Cajuns are a welcoming people who have stayed true to their roots. Catholocism continues to be prevalent in the area. In fact, in all the RV parks we have stayed in over the past 9 months, very few have offered church services, but our RV park in Henderson was the only one to offer a Catholic mass. The Cajuns are hard working, yet fun-loving. The spicy food and lively music and dancing stand out in the peaceful, calm swamp. You will easily come to love the area for its singularity and be glad you visited.
Fun Facts & Tips:
We stayed at Cajun Palms RV Resort in Henderson. It was a beautiful, large resort with convenient central location in the area. This resort does not mess around, they pack out on the weekends (with 300+ sites), and their water park and pools are a major attraction in the summer. This park was full of golf carts, and people cruise in them playing their Cajun music. We usually do not stay in places that large, so it was an adjustment.
Additions to the trip: We did not make it to Vermillionville, but it demonstrates the lifestyle of the Acadians with reenactors and would be a good addition to the trip. Also, the Tabasco factory is located in New Iberia for an afternoon trip if you are interested.
When you are out hiking, be sure to take binoculars. That is how we found the huge gator in Indian Bayou. It looked like a log, but the binoculars helped us to distinguish its features and then we went in for a closer look.
Go to the Atchafalaya Welcome Center in Henderson. We usually don’t. I am not sure why. Here, they were so friendly and really wanted to give us all the secrets for an authentic experience.
We were there in March, which was plenty humid for us. We did not have any mosquito problems either. Our opinion was that it was a pleasant time of year to visit. If you have flexibility, go in April, that is when the migratory birds really hit the area.
Our visit coincided with the storm and flooding in March 2016. We were blessed to be in an area that didn’t get as much rain, and then we left just before the rivers would be cresting from the drainage. Be aware of your surroundings and the weather as you travel. We have some video footage of the flooding at the Louisiana/Texas border on our youtube channel here.