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Sulphur, Louisiana

St. Martin Parish

Visit the birthplace of Cajun Culture

St. Martin Parish is many things to many people, but most folks agree that it’s “Where Cajun Began.” That’s why the area attracts thousands each year who come to experience first-hand what a group of French settlers in the 1700s established as their new home.

French Roots

French settlers known as Acadians arrived from Nova Scotia in what is now St. Martin Parish around 1765. Undaunted by the swamps, bayou and bottomland that greeted them, the Acadians determined to make the intimidating landscape livable by fishing, farming and trapping. Today, St. Martin Parish is part of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the Bayou Teche Scenic Byway and the Bayou Teche Corridor, the latter of which was recently designated by the National Park Service as Louisiana’s first National Water Trail.


Now Entering “Cajun Country”

The word “Cajun” is what today’s descendants of the French Acadian settlers of St. Martin Parish have come to be known. Areas to visit include Arnaudville, Breaux Bridge and the parish seat, St. Martinville. Visitors can also explore Catahoula, Lake Martin and Parks Areas, along with Butte La Rose and Henderson. Whether it’s lively Zydeco music or spicy étouffée, each community offers its own take on what it means to be “Cajun.”

Arnaudville is one of the oldest communities in Louisiana, so it should come as no surprise to hear Cajun French spoken here. Historians say the land eventually purchased by French settlers was once the site of an Atakapa Native American village. The area offers its visitors beautiful scenery of oak trees along the Bayou Teche and an added bonus of sugar cane fields along the way.

The Bayou Teche actually separates Arnaudville into two parishes—St. Martin and St. Landry. Swamp tours are popular in Arnaudville, as the Bayou Teche connects with Bayou Fuselier. Keep your ears open for the sound of Cajun fiddles and follow your nose toward the aromas of Boudin sausage, a Louisiana delicacy. Centered in the oldest part of town is a thriving arts community.


Where Crawfish is King

Breaux Bridge is the self-proclaimed “Crawfish Capital of the World.” Each year in May, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival draws thousands who want to sample dishes featuring Louisiana’s famous crustacean, including a Breaux Bridge original, crawfish étouffée.

On the nature side of things, Breaux Bridge is part of Bayou Teche Scenic Byway and also home to Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river basin in North America and part of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. The basin spreads across nearly one million acres of backwater lakes, swamps and bayous. A guided tour or a rented canoe will lead you to a discovery of winding rivers, hanging cypress trees and floating water lilies. The basin produces an annual harvest of some 22 million pounds of crawfish.

Breaux Bridge also offers up Lake Martin, a premiere fishing spot and home to the largest nesting area of wading birds in the United States. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as egrets, beavers and, oh yes, alligators. Not to worry, though, since tourist officials say you can see birds and the gators from the safety of your vehicle. Tour operators like McGee’s Landing in Henderson offer tours of local swamps.

St. Martinville, the official seat of St. Martin Parish, still has many of its original buildings and homes, a testament to its preservation of architectural history. Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, the oldest park in the Louisiana state park system, is located there. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow helped to make the area famous with his poem, Evangeline. For delicious local fare with a nod to the famous verse, eat at La Place d’Evangeline Restaurant in St. Martinville.

Dinner and Dance

A visit to either Henderson, Butte La Rose, Catahoula Area or Parks Area is certain to seat you at a table where the entrée may be crawfish and the appetizer cracklin’—fried bacon with the pig skin still attached. Or, for even more daring fare, someone somewhere is bound to be cooking up a batch of alligator beignets. (You’ll have to try them at least once.)

Some of these parish areas feature year-round festivals, many of them food-themed, so be sure to pack your appetite. There are also any number of bars and restaurants where dinner and music go hand-in-hand. Your étouffée is likely to be served with a side order of Zydeco or Cajun music. These establishments make it next to impossible to resist a turn on the dance floor—or at least a round of foot-tapping to the sound of a Cajun fiddle.

Before heading home, take a souvenir from one of the many antique shops and art galleries in the parish.

For More Information

St. Martin Parish Tourist Commission




Louisiana Office of Tourism