Lake Martin, St. Martinville & Breaux Bridge
Travel beyond the city limits to experience some of Cajun country’s small towns and scenic beauty. Start with an outdoor adventure at coveted Lake Martin. Moss-draped cypress and tupelo trees emerge from the swampy waters and shelter an abundance of wildlife. Take a boat tour of the swamp or head out in a kayak to learn about the area’s ecology and cruise up next to the animals.
The Nature Conservancy maintains the Lake Martin Cypress Island Preserve, which protects a massive bird rookery that draws thousands of birds every year. A boardwalk and levee trail offer opportunities for viewing the nesting birds. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to learn more about the importance of conserving this special area.
From Lake Martin, head southeast to St. Martinville, home to the legendary Evangeline Oak. In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the epic poem, “Evangeline,” to describe the exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia. The ancient live oak on the banks of Bayou Teche was named after the poem’s fictional heroine, who spent her life looking for her true love.
The town is centered around the lovely St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, known as “the Mother Church of the Acadians.” Across from the church is La Petite Paris Café, a great choice to stop for lunch and grab a coffee to go. Then wander around town, snapping photos of the La Maison Duchamp mansion and the Duchamp Opera House and Mercantile. Also be sure to visit the African-American and Acadian Memorial museums inside the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center.
Take Main Highway north toward Interstate 10 and you’ll travel through the town of Breaux Bridge, the crawfish capital of the world. Pick up a downtown tour map at the Visitor’s Center, located next to the 1950s steel bridge spanning across Bayou Teche. Look for the giant crawfish painted on top of the bridge. While you walk your way past the historic buildings, browse through the numerous antique stores and pick up some gifts for friends and family back home.
End the day with a return to Lafayette and dine in style at Charley G’s. Enjoy a cup of oyster, brie and champagne bisque followed by béchamel crab cakes or filet mignon. It’s sure to be a meal to remember.
Where to stay:
Bois des Chenes Bed & Breakfast Inn – Rated one of the 25 best Southern inns in National Geographic Traveler, this historic house dates back to before the Civil War. Rooms feature antique furnishings and modern conveniences, and guests receive a Louisiana-style breakfast in the morning.
Great Photo Op: Lake Martin, with its cypress trees emerging out of the water, is one of the most picturesque spots around the Lafayette area.