Cajun Coast/St. Mary Parish
The Cajun Coast doesn’t have to fish for compliments. It’s full of authentic Louisiana sass and savvy, with swamp creatures, fun-loving gregarious locals and jambalaya — lots of jambalaya. The distinctive flavor of spicy heat permeates the very air these residents breathe, making exploration more robust, more memorable, more alive. And St. Mary Parish will happily share this love of hearty, abundant life with those who stop in for a visit.
Gators and Birds
The Atchafalaya Basin is the nation’s largest river swamp, with moss-draped cypress trees and myriad plants and animals that lurk beneath them. Take a swamp tour for an unforgettable visit with alligators, fish, feathered friends and more. Guests can experience an exhilarating airboat ride through some untouched wilderness, meander through backcountry waterways for a slower paced excursion, or just cast a line and bring home dinner from a favorite fishing spot.
A Teche of the Bayou
Bird-watching at the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge is quite a treat, with miles of paddling trails to explore. On a normal day, canoeists may see bald eagles, spoonbills, hummingbirds, ibis and pelicans. It’s a tranquil way to take off on a remarkable birding adventure.
Eat, Drink and Be Mary
Visitors to St. Mary Parish can’t ignore the selection of great food indigenous to the region. With fresh seafood right at their fingertips, locals know how to cook up a feast of mouthwatering proportions. Taste test the beloved Cajun cooking at several restaurants, delis and bakeries for authentic gumbo, po’boys and étouffée. Places like Susie’s Seafood serve up perfectly seasoned crawfish in a friendly, no-nonsense atmosphere.
For indoor entertainment, roll the dice at Cypress Bayou Casino, where games of chance are intertwined with live concerts, mixed martial arts and a nightclub. Stay nearby and grab a meal between playing the slots and working the tables at one of the five restaurants associated with the casino. The Cajun Coast rolls out 13 bike trails to take visitors on an up-close-and-personal tour of the sights and sounds of southern Louisiana. Varying in length and difficulty, the paths amble through state parks, small towns and forests, providing a leisurely way to discover the charm of this beautiful region.
Hollywood by Way of Louisiana
Take an unusual trip through the Cajun Coast to get a glimpse of locations used for major motion pictures on a local movie tour. Scenes in films like “Easy Rider,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Tarzan of the Apes” all used St. Mary Parish as a backdrop.
The Southwest Reef Lighthouse in Berwick has an unusual history. Built in 1858, the red lighthouse previously stood at the Atchafalaya Bay entrance, pointing the way for sailors for almost 60 years, until a more direct route into the bay was found and Southwest Reef was decommissioned. It was abandoned and rusting away until 1987, when enlightened locals moved the historic beacon to its current location in Berwick, saving its unique square pyramid shape for today’s visitors to enjoy. You won’t be able to miss the bright red 37-foot-high structure.
Ballad of Cajun Country
The last week of March, Louisiana singers and songwriters converge on Morgan City for the Songs on the Bayou Festival, a celebration of music written by or about Cajun Country. Songwriting workshops, bayou sunset pickin’ parties, conferences and a fais-do-do (Cajun dancing) are all in the lineup. Bring your squeezebox and join in the fun.
The Chitimacha Indians are the first recorded inhabitants of the land within St. Mary Parish. From A.D. 500 until the early 1700s, the tribe lived in permanent homes made of cane, palmetto and wood. Battles with the French and Spanish in the area decimated their numbers to near extinction, but the Chitimacha successfully lobbied for a government decree setting aside acreage within their native lands — a rarity for Native American tribes of the time.
When the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was ratified, the Cajun Coast bustled with French, Acadian, German, Danish and Irish settlers. Eventually, English settlers brought cultural influences to the region, along with new farming techniques. Soon sugar cane plantations sprung up, and with them antebellum homes reflecting the farmers’ wealth. Some of these residences can be toured today.
Cypress mills, shrimp boats and the discovery of petroleum offshore in the region helped to solidify the economy of the Cajun Coast. Today this enigmatic area balances conservation of its numerous natural resources with the unique cultural lifestyle of its vibrant people, fostering a welcoming travel destination.
For More Information
Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau
Louisiana Office of Tourism