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Spotlight: Cajun Coast/St. Mary Parish

Find bayou bliss at the arch of the Louisiana boot

Let the lagniappe come rolling in on a trip to Louisiana’s Cajun Coast. Translated into English, that “little something extra” is evident in the history and culture of this unique, fun-loving area. Located on the arch of Louisiana’s boot along the Gulf of Mexico, this region is a compelling collection of wild wetlands, beautiful coast and vibrant Cajun culture. It’s a must for anyone who wants a true taste of the Pelican State.

St. Mary Parish was established in 1811 after the territorial government divided the Attakapas region. Abundant natural resources, including petroleum and seafood, helped cement the parish’s place in the regional economy.

Franklin, the parish seat, was settled by the French, Acadian, German, Danish and Irish while Louisiana was still a foreign colony. English settlers migrated there after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and sugar plantations soon populated the area. The town of Patterson once claimed the largest cypress sawmill in the world, as well as the site of Wedell-Williams Air Service, which provided charter trips to New Orleans in the 1920s and 1930s.

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway traverses St. Mary Parish and divides to French Cajun culture to the Upper Tech and Anglo-Saxon culture to the Lower Teche. Moss-draped live oaks and historic properties line the Byway as it winds 125 miles through south-central Louisiana.

Cajun Coast Visitors & Tourism Bureau

Cajun Coast Visitors & Tourism Bureau

Cane Country

Discover sugar cane mills and plantation homes along Bayou Teche, and stop at the Chitimacha Museum in the community of Charenton to learn about the early inhabitants of modern-day Louisiana. The Chitimacha tribe is renowned for its basket weaving crafts and maintains a reservation near Charenton.

More than 420 historic buildings grace the streets of Franklin. Wander through the town’s historic district to view antebellum homes, Victorian cottages and a shopping district that’s straight out of the 1800s. Step inside Oaklawn Manor, a Greek Revival plantation home that’s the resident of a former governor. The home features European antiques and an extensive Audubon collection.

Bayou Teche stretches for 135 miles and is part of the National Water Trails System. Tour the waterway by canoe or kayak and enjoy the natural beauty up close at your own pace. Take a swamp tour through the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area and learn about the wildlife that inhabits the diverse ecosystem as well as the region’s importance in the fur trade. Break out the binoculars along your journey for a peek at any of several species thriving in the preserve. Egrets, eagers, Swainson’s warbler and wintering geese are just a few you’ll spot here.

Get to know life on an offshore oil rig at the International Petroleum Museum in Morgan City. The historic rig on the site is the museum’s centerpiece, and a guided tour teaches visitors about the industry and its impact on the economy and livelihood of Louisianans. Climb aboard the Amelia Belle, a riverboat-turned-casino near Lake Palourde, and try your luck at table games and slot machines before dining on a Cajun buffet.

Brownell Memorial Park & Carillon Tower invites residents and visitors alike to enjoy music played twice an hour by 61 bronze bells that were cast in Holland. The 9.5-acre community park sits next to Lake Palourde and is a designated bird sanctuary.

Test your golf mettle in Patterson at the Atchafalaya at Idlewild, a course that has been in the Top 50 by Golfweek. The course pays tribute to the surrounding scenery with its 18 holes named for cultural features of the basin. Golfers of all skill levels find a challenging game here, along with a unique common green that hosts holes 9 and 18.

Cajun Coast Visitors & Tourism Bureau

Cajun Coast Visitors & Tourism Bureau

Party Down, Cajun Style

The people of the Cajun Coast love a good celebration, and they host several events throughout the year to mark historic occasions and recognize the region’s unique character. Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival in Franklin honors the Louisiana black bear with educational seminars, field trips, music and fireworks. The event is held in conjunction with the Bayou Teche Wooden Boat Show, in which antique and modern wooden vessels line the waterway.

Christmas, Mardi Gras and autumn festivities each garner their own events, as well as offshore-focused fetes such as the curiously paired Shrimp & Petroleum Festival. This five-day event is Louisiana’s oldest state-chartered harvest festival and features a blessing of the fleet.

Cajun Country’s coastal location offers an abundance of fishing opportunities, both on and offshore.  Angle for speckled trout and redfish in the marshes, or head out deep into the Gulf of Mexico for snapper or dolphin fish. Get muddy alongside the locals in a crawfishing expedition and enjoy the spoils of your efforts at a classic crawfish boil.

Set sail or take a cool dip in Vermilion Bay at Cypremort Point State Park. Cypremort Point is located between Grand Isle and Cameron and is the only location near the Gulf of Mexico that is accessible by car. The boat launch just outside the entrance to the park provides access to the Gulf or the bay, and the Louisiana marshlands surrounding the park are home to alligator, deer, black bears and red foxes as well as dozens of bird species.

For More Information

Cajun Coast Visitors & Tourism Bureau
Louisiana Office of Tourism