St. Martin Parish
Airboats, fishing excursions and exotic wildlife await
There's no shortage of fun-filled diversions in St. Martin Parish. Visitors can take exhilarating air boat tours, rent a boathouse, or spend the day fishing at the Atchafalaya Basin Landing in Henderson. In nearby Breaux Bridge, you can embark on stimulating and insightful Cajun Country Swamp Tours to witness alligators, Spanish moss-covered cypress, egrets and more. While in Martinsville, venture into the exotic swamp land on Lake Martin aboard a rented canoe or kayak from Champagne's Cajun Swamp Tours.
St. Martin Parish is made up of three major geographical areas covering 740 square miles, including the Bayou Teche area, the prairie region and Atchafalaya Basin. More than one third of the area's 52,000 inhabitants are Cajun, which is reflected in the delicious food, thumping music and fantastic festivals.
The Indian word "teche" means "winding snake" and refers to the lazily-flowing, 123-mile-long body of water that snakes through the St. Martin Parish, from the Breaux Bridge to St. Martinsville and beyond. The Atchafalaya Basin is the nation's largest river basin swamp, comprised of 860,000 acres of water prairies, swamps and lakes. This magnificent watercourse of rivers and lakes cuts a 15-mile-wide path along southern Louisiana that creates a seemingly endless maze of water for navigators.
Wildlife watchers will be flabbergasted at the sheer abundance of animals that are easily viewable in the basin. With the largest wintering population of American woodcock in North America and the largest nesting concentration of bald eagles in the south-central part of the United States, it is no wonder why people trek here. The 300 species of birds in the area include thousands of wintering ducks and coots along with 50,000 herons, egrets and ibises that nest in the floodway. Approximately 54 species of amphibians and reptiles, including the American alligator, call the basin home as well. Don't forget the seafood that makes for a superb gumbo there are more than 90 species of crabs, crawfish, shrimp and fish that can be fished here as well.
Breaux Bridge, also known as Pont Breaux, was founded by an Acadian pioneer who built a suspension footbridge bridge over the Bayou Teche in 1799. The building of the bridge eventually led to the making of a city that evolved on both sides of the Bayou Teche. In 1817, the first vehicular bridge was built, which allowed for wagons to cross the Bayou. World-famous crawfish etouffee originated in Breaux Bridge, and the restaurants here were the first ones to openly offer crawfish on their menus. Enjoy some of the best crawfish dishes around at Pont Breaux's Cajun Restaurant, La Poussiere or Café des Amis, where the authentic Cajun cuisine and dance will soothe your inner soul. The city has become famously recognized as "the crawfish capital of the world" and proudly hosts the annual crawfish festival, one of the most delicious festivals in the state.
Henderson offers some of the best freshwater fishing in the South. Anglers come from afar for the opportunity to catch bream, bass and sac-as-lait (crappie) among other species of fish. Not surprisingly, the local cuisine boasts some of the yummiest Cajun cooking in the south. Dance the night away at McGee's Landing, Whiskey River Landing or Turtle's Bar at Atchafalya Basin Landing and Marina in the evenings. The Atchafalaya Club, attached to the World Famous Pat's Fishermen's Wharf Restaurant next to the Henderson Levee, offers live Cajun, swamp pop and Zydeco (traditional music of southwest Louisiana) on the weekends for those looking to get a feel for the tunes that resonate in this region.
St. Martinsville, also known as Petit Paris, was first settled by Acadians who were forced from their farmsteads in Nova Scotia in 1765. The name "Le Petit Paris" originated in the 1800s when the city became well known for its excellent hotels and a theater that featured everything from witty comedies to the very best operas around. Visit the Teche Theatre or Duchamp Opera House & Mercantile in the beautiful historic downtown St. Martinsville for an exquisite live performance or two. As just the sixth community that was named a city in Louisiana, it is also one of the oldest surviving towns, which is reflected by the many homes and buildings with architecture that speaks of years long past.
Take a guided group tour of the downtown district, visit the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, or stop by the La Maison Duchamp (a historic mansion representing the early French settlers) for more history of the area. The cuisine, customs, and culture of the city reflect the Creole heritage of many of the inhabitants. The Acadian legacy also lives on in the town of Martinsville as it has been internationally recognized as a town that embraces the history and legends of the Acadians who settled in this south Louisiana town.
Traveling from the Bayou Teche to the Atchafalaya Basin, this agriculturally rich region of South Louisiana makes for a great scenic drive with its rolling hills, low-lying swamps and sugar cane fields. The big, moss-draped oaks that dot the countryside and beautiful cypress trees welcome you like the people.
For More Information:
St. Martin Parish Tourism Commission
Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism