St. Martin Parish, west of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, provides the authentic outdoor Cajun experience you expect when you visit Louisiana. Explore the Atchafalaya Basin and Bayou Teche via kayak, airboat, or swamp tour, where you’ll find thousands of species of wildlife including birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians. Meet the smiling faces of “The Pelican State” on the lake, the dance floor, and at the table of St. Martin’s many Cajun and Creole restaurants. Check out these top things to do in St. Martin Parish.
For a truly unforgettable one-of-a-kind experience, rent a houseboat in St. Martin Parish. This is hands-down the best way to really experience Cajun country. Take your pick at Houseboat Adventures at Cypress Cove Landing. They offer rentals that sleep three to six guests with clever names like “Atchafalaya Queen” and “La Bon Temp Bateau.” These houseboats are equipped with kitchens, beds, restrooms, living rooms, and decks with a porch swing. Start your days off with strong coffee and sunrise fishing right off your deck. Take your petite bateau (small boat) out for an intimate tour of this Louisiana swamp and the chance to observe a plethora of wildlife in their natural habitat. Let the birds and the frogs serenade you as you play cards or swap tall swamp tales. There’s a lazy romance in the air here just as there was for Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in the 1958 film, Houseboat. The Atchafalaya Basin—a true river swamp—is comprised of cypress stands, hardwood forests, bayous, and marshes that beg to be explored up close.
More than a third of the 53,000 residents in St. Martin Parish are Cajun. When you venture out into St. Martin Parish’s communities, it’s likely you’ll hear authentic “Cajun/Creole” French being spoken. Live zydeco music wafts out of dance halls. Recipes for étouffée and jambalaya are passed down from generation to generation. A trip to St. Martin Parish is your chance to taste authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine, visit the “Crawfish Capital of the World” (Breaux Bridge), and attend special Cajun events like the Acadian Memorial Heritage Festival and the National Day of the Acadians.
Visit the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center to learn all about the area’s vibrant cultural heritage. It’s here you’ll find the Acadian Memorial and the African American Museum, the latter of which chronicles the arrival of Africans and how Southwest Louisiana’s free people of color community was created in the mid-1700s.
But wait, there’s more! Get a detailed picture of how early Acadians lived by checking out the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville. Then make your way to St. Martin Square where you can tour St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, one of the country’s oldest Catholic Churches.
You’ll find an abundance of live music in St. Martin Parish, and just the kind you’d hope to find in Louisiana—zydeco, Cajun, Creole, swamp pop, and Acadian Irish. But what’s live music without a dance floor? Thankfully, there are just as many well-worn dance floors that have played host to countless memorable nights. Grab your favorite dance partner and head out to enjoy the region’s most talented musicians.
Feast on a boudin-stuff omelet at Buck and Johnny's, then burn off the calories twirling around their dance floor. After you’ve worked up a sweat shuffling your feet, have a cold beer at Bayou Teche Brewing, one of Louisiana’s most popular labels. They’re so proud of their product, they even provide behind-the-scenes tours—for free!
When you visit St. Martin Parish, you should definitely get your group out on the water for a swamp or boat tour. After all, what’s a trip to Cajun country without a sighting of an alligator? There are many companies that provide swamp tours in Louisiana alongside fun activities for the entire family like fishing, airboating, and wildlife tours. Two of the most popular destinations for swamp tours are McGee’s Swamp Tours and Atchafalaya Basin Landing & Swamp Tours.
One of the state’s most biodiverse ecosystems can be found at Cypress Island Nature Preserve at Lake Martin. Want to admire Louisiana’s unique wildlife, but don’t want to get too close? You can drive around the perimeter of Lake Martin and see turtles, alligators, and snakes from the comfort of your vehicle. Another great location to view wildlife is the Atchafalya Basin, where you’re sure to catch a glimpse of a ten-footer or two.
St. Martin Parish has no shortage of local art and antique hunting for those who love nothing more than a quaint little shop. Your first stop should probably be Louisiana Marketshops at the 115—if you’re lost, just look for the bright, yellow walls the green roof. It specializes in curiosities and local crafts, perfect for gifts or to give your desk decor a Cajun kick. Not too far away, nestled in the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” is Breaux Bridge’s Lagniappe Antique Mall, which spreads its small-town charm across 17,000 square-feet of art and antiques. Right next door in Arnaudville, NUNU Arts and Culture Collective displays mixed-media art entirely made by locals.
For a full list of must-see shopping destinations, click here.