Learn about the Louisiana’s Cajun Country by reading
Bievenu! Cajun Country by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA
Member. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination,
plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting
there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things
to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the
contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member
courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism
year 2003 will be the 200th anniversary of the biggest real
estate deal in history when Emperor Napoleon sold more than 800,000 square
miles of land—for about four cents an acre—that let the fledgling United
States doubled in size overnight. This bicentennial celebration year is an
excellent time to visit Louisiana, the key state of the Louisiana
Purchase. You may know much about New Orleans and its Mardi Gras, but for
a different trip, include going west and enjoy the unique Cajun Country.
Here is an area rich in traditions, diverse in activities, picturesque,
and starkly contrasting in natural beauty. Cajun Country is bayous and big
cities, unique food and unusual nature adventures. It is meeting people
who turned soup into gumbo and converted washboards to musical
instruments. It is casinos and cultural museums. And, it is the embodiment
of a distinctive joie de vivre.
mix of cultures in Southwest Louisiana is immediately evident. The Cajuns,
persecuted in France for their Catholic religion and then driven from
Canada, brought their French heritage and language to Louisiana. The rich
African-American heritage is also evident in the food, the music, and the
Begin your Cajun adventure at any one of several fine airports and then
drive to the various coastal parishes and discover what the natives call
“a natural paradise.” The distinctive Lake Charles architecture lets you
know immediately that “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” The houses are
built tall, vertical, and angular. Legend has it that pirate Jean LaFitte
used Lake Charles as a hideaway and some of his looted treasures still are
hidden in the area. Take a driving or walking tour through Lake Charles
for a close-up look at the structures that make the Charpentier Historic
District so unique.
Entry point or an intermediate stop, Lafayette is one place to begin
enjoying the exciting Cajun dishes. The unofficial capital of Cajun
Country, Lafayette is the home of seafood platters, dirty rice and corn
macque choux. Spend some time going through Acadia Village, which includes
the Mississippi Mud Museum—a facility more interesting than its name
implies—where you will see a 400-year old dugout canoe and spear points
used by warriors thousands of years ago. Another stop you will want to
make is Vermillionville’s Performance Center. Cooking and craft
demonstrations take place all day and you can listen to authentic Cajun
Just 18 miles southeast of Lafayette, make a stop in St. Martinville.
Visit the Petit Paris Museum, which houses the Rotary Mardi Gras Costume
Exhibit. The Bayou Teche is the setting for Longfellow’s poem “
Take time to rest under the Evangeline Oak and listen to the Remero
Brothers play French-Cajun music.
Visitors and natives
do the Cajun Two Step at a Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge.
Photo Courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism
Live music has always been a part of the culture in Southwest Louisiana
and there are numerous nightspots in the area where you can sample a
diversity of sounds. These clubs feature Cajun, Zydeco, Swamp Pop, Blues,
Jazz/Rhythm and Blues, and traditional country and classic rock.
largest heliport in the world is located at Morgan City. These flights
serve the many oilrigs off the coast.
After you have soaked up some of the city culture, you are ready to take
off into the areas that abound with wonders of nature. Small towns add
distinctive flavor and offer entrances to many of the outback nature
trails. Of course, you’ll want to take an airboat tour of the bayous, but
alligators are only one of the different wildlife species that call this
Take at least one day to travel the Creole Nature Trail. You’ll see
abundant wildlife as this 180-mile trail meanders through marshlands,
bayous, and shores along the Gulf of Mexico. If you are strapped for time,
at least take in the most frequently traveled portion of the trail that
extends from I-10 at Sulphur, south on LA 27 to Holly Beach, east across
LA 82 to Cameron-Creole and north on LA 27/Hwy 14 N to Lake Charles.
Allowing for stops at wildlife refuges and beaches, this tour will take
four to six hours.
Cajun Coast is located along the Mississippi flyway for migratory birds
that increases the number of fowl that you might see. The Atchafalaya
(Indian word meaning “Long River”) Basin Swamp is the largest overflow
swamp in the United States and is home to more than 200 species.
Every parish has something unique, interesting, and sometimes exciting to
offer the visitor. In Iberia Parish, for instance, you will find a
microcosm of Cajun Country. Sugarcane farming brings millions of dollars
annually to this parish. Tour the Konriko Rice Mill in New Iberia, the
oldest operating rice mill in the U.S., which is now on the National
Register of Historic Places. Drive south to Avery Island to Jungle Gardens
to see alligators, deer, nutria, and some of the more than 20,000 egrets
and other water fowl that nest here each year. You couldn’t be on Avery
Island without taking the free tour of the plant where TWTAsco Brand
pepper sauce is made.
Almost any time that you head for Cajun Country you will find some kind of
festival to attend. More than 75 festivals and events are announced each
year ranging from Cajun French and music festivals to a film festival and
from Silver Spurs Rodeo to a Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum festival.
Southwest Louisiana you will go from moss-covered cypress groves to plush
gaming casinos, from exciting airboat tours to quiet beach relaxing. You
will find new taste sensations and hear music you’ve never experienced
before. Most of all, you will meet a proud people who will be eager to
make your visit memorable.
more detailed information, visit the Louisiana Tourist web site at:
www.louisianatravel.com. Click on
“Cajun Country” at the top of the
page and discover more specifically where you want to visit in this pocket
of different America where the slogan is “Come as you are, leave
You have a couple of options. One is you can fly into New Orleans on
any of the major airlines and rent a car and drive to Lafayette (133
miles) or New Iberia (146 miles). Lake Charles is another 75 miles
from Lafayette. Another option is to fly into the good regional
airports that Cajun Country offers like Lake Charles Regional and
Lafayette Regional. Some of the major airlines offer connecting
flights into these regionals. For instance, at the time of writing
this article, Continental offered $133 round trip airfare from
Baltimore (BWI) to Lafayette Regional (LFT) via Houston, TX. It will
all depend upon your time of travel and your budget.
Once in Cajun Country, travel Interstate 10 to
navigate between New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and
Lafayette and Highways 90 and 182 to travel between Lafayette and
New Iberia and Morgan City.
Where to Stay
Accommodations in Cajun Country are as varied as the land itself. Of
course you will have a choice of the national chains of fine hotels
and motels like
Hilton, Holiday Inns, Best Western, and others. Also
Bed and Breakfast facilities are in many fine old Southern mansions.
Here are a few:
In Lafayette, check
on Verot School Road. Food here is legendary “Cajun of the Bayou
Country.” Rates are about $100 per night, double.
In Lake Charles,
is located in one of the oldest homes in the Charlentier Historic
District. Rates start at $115.
Inn on the Bayou on W. Prien Lake Road in
Lake Charles offers free rides to Riverboat gambling.
In New Iberia
Chez Hebert overlooks Bayou
Teche and is near Avery Island. Rates are about $100.
Also in Iberia,
La Maison B&B serves Acadian
style food and is located amid oak, pecan, and fruit trees.
For a different stay, look into renting a
houseboat. In Morgan City,
Cajun Houseboats rents 30-foot
houseboats for $175 a day, $300 for a weekend.
If you want glitter to contrast the Cajun life,
check in at the Isle of
Capri Casino and Hotel. Here you will find
five restaurants, 24-hour gambling in two casinos, and Vegas-style
Many of these and others have their web sites where
you can check the accommodations and surrounding attractions.
through the Louisiana Travel web site, make your selection, and then
check rates and book your room and rental car at
WTA’s Online Travel Booking
Service. Deep discounts may apply to hotel rates.
Where to Eat
Fine restaurants abound in Cajun Country. You can find almost any
kind of cuisine you like, but
“when in Cajun, eat Cajun.” A sample
of the expansive menu of a couple of restaurants gives a hint at
Prejeans Restaurant in Lafayette serves
award-winning Cajun and offers live Cajun music. Appetizers run
$5.50 to $29.50. Salads about $9.50. Both include choices of local
specialties. Try a cup or bowl of gumbos, soups, and bisque.
Entrees run $14.95 to 24.95. Some of the featured items include
Crawfish Enchiladas, Crab Cakes, and Alligator Grand Chenier.
If you want to try the Cajun Two Step while dining,
Randol’s Restaurant and Salle de Danse in Lafayette.
Their menu includes Creole Crab Fluff as an appetizer, Louisiana
seafood salad, and entrees like mixed sausage grill of alligator,
crawfish, and duck.
In New Iberia, find French Creole cuisine at
Restaurant. Or, drop in at
Clementine for such classics
as turtle soup, corn and crab bisque, soft shell crab, and Black
Wherever you might stop for food in Cajun Country, be
sure to take along a hearty appetite!
information is current as of October 2002. It is recommended that you
contact the numbers, and/or visit the web sites above to determine any
changes to the information.