If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Louisiana, this itinerary is for you. Welcome to untamed Louisiana, where you’ll find charming small towns nestled in what’s known as the heart of Cajun Country – gorgeous river basins and marshes filled with a variety of wildlife, from gators to rare birds.
From thrilling swamp tours to grooving to the tunes of Zydeco at local clubs, this whirlwind itinerary promises to make this weekend an unforgettable exploration of the bayou state’s hidden gems.
Kick off the day with breakfast at Little Big Cup in nearby Arnaudville. Their famous brunch buffet is a local favorite, serving comfort food like giant cinnamon rolls, praline chicken, waffles, and buttermilk biscuits. Or, for a quick bite on the road, get the $3.50 breakfast plate at Saints in St. Martinville for a heaping serving of eggs, bacon and pancakes.
After breakfast, it’s time to explore St. Martinville’s Lake Fausse Pointe State Park – home to the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in the United States. This area was the former home of the Chitimacha Native American tribe, and today, it’s an excellent spot for hiking. From boardwalks to dirt trails, you’ll find a variety of trails that weave through the marshes, swamplands and forests. If you’re seeking an easy route, hit the Armadillo Ridge Trail. At only ¾ of a mile, you’ll hike through hardwood forest swamps – keep an eye out for river otters. For a more moderate hike, Cardinal Run spans 1.6 miles along the edge of Lake Fausse Pointe and through a cypress swamp, leading to a scenic overlook with excellent views of the water; you might just see an alligator (or two).
Chow down on fried shrimp and seafood au gratin at The St. John Restaurant for a quick lunch, then head to Breaux Bridge for a roaring good time at Prehistoric Park, Louisiana’s only attraction dedicated to dinosaurs. Here, you’ll encounter towering dinosaur replicas on the dinosaur trail – watch out for the rampaging T-Rex and the grazing triceratops herd – gem mining, fossil hunting and interactive exhibits. Next door, Cajun Fast Track offers mini-golf, go-karting, and arcade games.
Your next adventure takes you onto the swamps with McGee’s Louisiana Swamp & Airboat Tours. Feel the wind in your hair as you glide across the swamps in an airboat through moss-draped cypress trees and marshes. On this 90-minute tour, you’ll learn about the native wildlife and flora and stop to meet a few of the resident alligators and egrets. Rather strike out on your own? Canoe rentals are available so you can paddle and explore at your own pace. During the season, sunset airboat tours are offered on Friday and Saturday nights.
End the day with dinner at Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf, an informal joint with white and red checkered tablecloths, a cozy fireplace, and countless seafood options. Choose from favorites like seafood gumbo, shrimp, and fried catfish, or if you’re feeling adventurous, sample the alligator bites or frog legs. After dinner, stick around for live Zydeco and swamp pop music from local bands at the onsite Atchafalaya Club.
Stay the night at the Edgewater Inn, part of Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf. This hotel is located on the banks of the Bayou Amy, so you can enjoy views of the Cajun waterway from your room.
Grab breakfast at Tante Marie, a cozy restaurant known for serving up delicious Boudin (sausage and veggie mix) creations. Indulge in Boudin-stuffed beignets, French toast or breakfast burrito. Try the chicken biscuit smothered in homemade white gravy for something more classic.
Next, it’s time for a detour to nearby Lafayette for a morning of antique and boutique shopping. Reflections of Olde Antique Mall is a great place to start. This mall is located in two buildings totaling 7,000 square feet, hosting a variety of antique dealers selling everything from jewelry and elegant glassware to paintings, Victorian clothing and vintage furniture. Lafayette Antique Market is another great shopping spot, with high-end goods like antique jewelry. At the same time, Renaissance Market & Brasserie has an extensive collection of fine French antiques, such as furniture, pottery and décor.
Enjoy lunch on the sunny patio at Fat Pat’s Bar and Grill. This fun, casual joint serves delicious pub food, from fried pickles to chicken wings and patty melts. If you have a sweet tooth, enjoy one of their tipsy milkshakes made with vanilla vodka.
On your way back to Breaux Bridge/Henderson, stop by the Longfellow Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville. Founded in 1934, this is the oldest state park in Louisiana and once served as the meeting place for exiled French aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution. Today, you can explore the visitor’s center to learn about Acadians, Creoles and Indians who all settled in the region known as the Bayou Teche. You’ll even find an Acadian cabin illustrating how a single-family home would have looked in the early 19th century. This tiny cabin is furnished with original Louisiana Cypress furniture and has a small garden with several traditional medicinal herbs and plants native to the area.
Stop for dinner at Hebert’s Boudin and Cracklins, a fast-casual spot with a few outdoor tables specializing in traditional Cajun specialties. Cracklin, a by-product of rendering pork fat for lard, similar to pork rinds, is one of the most popular menu items, along with smoked Boudin sausage and crawfish pies. After dinner, end the weekend at Silver’s Travel Plaza & Casino for games and entertainment. With DJ nights, excellent drink specials, video poker, and slot machines, this casino is the perfect way to top off a fantastic Louisiana weekend.