Teche Country is off the beaten path and is a little wild with its lush vegetation and hauntingly beautiful moss-draped oaks. Bayou Teche Byway meanders alongside Bayou Teche, a stream that twists and turns for 125 miles through the semi-tropical land of southern Louisiana. This is a journey into the geographical heart of Acadiana.
Once described as the “most richly storied of the interior waters and the most opulent,” this body of water was the center of a booming cypress industry in the early 1900s. Get a firsthand glimpse of giant oaks with 150-foot reach trailing moss sometimes a yard below the branches along the brown-watered stream. The opulent Greek Revival mansions scattered here and there along it appeared on the landscape as a result of the “sugar money” derived from the area’s most abundant crop, sugarcane. Stop in the small villages and towns along the bayou and you may hear the authentic and uncorrupted dialect of the Acadian people.
From its southernmost point in Morgan City to its northern end in Arnaudville, the byway crosses beautiful marshes and fields of sugar cane connecting lovely towns that have well-preserved historic districts. Sample Acadian culture in cafés and dance halls serve up Cajun and zydeco music along with boiled crawfish and étouffée. Stately mansions along with the bayou exhibit the lifestyles of sugar barons from the past. The cuisine, customs, and architecture reflect the influences of Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, the Caribbean, and other peoples who settled the area. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find.
Morgan City to Franklin
Stroll Morgan City’s historic district where you can browse antique shops or view the Atchafalaya River from a wharf-side pavilion. For a closer look at the Great Atchafalaya Basin (and maybe a ’gator or two), take a guided swamp tour in nearby Patterson. There you’ll also find a branch of the Louisiana State Museum noted for its displays on aviation and the cypress industry. Next stop: Franklin, whose more than 400 historic properties include the Grevemberg House Museum, a gracious antebellum townhouse filled with Civil War artifacts and antique toys. Pause for a hamburger or po-boy at Iberia Cash Groceries then visit Charenton where the Chitimacha Museum reveals the history of Bayou Teche’s early inhabitants.
Franklin to New Iberia
In the town of Jeanerette, be sure to sample the French bread and ginger cakes at LeJeune’s Bakery whose owners still use the bakery’s original 19th-century recipes. Further along the byway in New Iberia stands Shadows-on-the-Teche. The antebellum home built by a wealthy sugar planter now is a museum surrounded by graceful live oaks.
Near New Iberia, tour the Avery Island factory where world-famous Tabasco pepper sauce is made. The plant’s founder also created a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary here. Stroll through azaleas and camellias, glimpse a deer in the garden, and step onto a boardwalk for a view of resident alligators.
New Iberia to Arnaudville
As you make your way toward Arnaudville, stop in St. Martinville and Breaux Bridge. The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville recalls the chilling expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia as told by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “Evangeline.”
Related: I’m going to Cajun Country!
In Breaux Bridge visit Café des Amis where the menu includes beignets, couche-couche (battered cornmeal cooked in a hot skillet and topped with milk or syrup), andouille or cheese grits, and crawfish étouffée—and that’s just for breakfast. About 10 minutes from here is Lafayette, considered the unofficial capital of Cajun country.
A trip along Bayou Teche is a good way to sample Louisiana hospitality, hear toe-tapping music, and as the locals say “pass a good time.”
I got swamp water runnin’ through my veins.
The Mississippi River can’t be tamed.
I pole my pirogue in the middle of the night.
I’m an uptown ruler, I can do it right.
—lyrics and recording by the Neville Brothers, 1975