Louisiana’s famed gumbo is a spicy blend, and the Bayou Teche Corridor of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is the geographical equivalent. Iberia Parish is the heart of the famous bayou, a 135-mile long waterway that meanders through New Iberia, Jeanerette and Loreauville.
Life on the bayou has its advantages, from bird watching to kayaking, fishing and even biking and hiking, not to mention the bounty of fresh seafood that comes from Gulf waters.
Plan your own adventure and experience the great outdoors in Iberia Parish—by land or water.
1) Jefferson Island Rip Van Winkle Gardens
Near the southernmost part of Louisiana's delta country lie a series of five wooded "islands," which rise up above the grassy marshlands and prairies that surround them. From 50 to 100 feet above sea level, these areas of high ground are sitting on top of mammoth, immovable columns of salt, which hold them up above the surrounding countryside. These monoliths of salt are two to three miles wide and five miles or more in depth.
Jefferson Island is one of the five islands. A mysterious place, the island is haunted by the legend that Jean Lafitte, the pirate, buried his treasures under the giant live oaks that would later shelter a home and garden. Pick up lunch from Cafe Jefferson on the island and eat near Lake Peigneur.
Visitors can also watch a documentary on the 1980 collapse of the salt dome and browse through the gift shop before exploring the gardens. The Jefferson Mansion (ca. 1870) is also open for tours. The grand architectural masterpiece was built as a hunting lodge and painting studio for famous 19th century stage actor, Joseph Jefferson, who portrayed Rip Van Winkle.
2) Rip’s Rookery at Jefferson Island
Located on a coastal salt dome and ﬂanked by 25 acres of semi-tropical gardens and Lake Peigneur, Jefferson Island and Rip Van Winkle Gardens contain a manmade wetland in Rip’s Rookery, where thousands of wading birds like the brightly colored roseate spoonbill migrate each spring.
Before you go check out our South Louisiana birding guide.
3) Jungle Gardens of Avery Island
Bird City, a bird refuge at Jungle Gardens is also a local favorite to spot thousands of snowy egrets rearing their young while the alligators prowl the lagoon.
Take a look at our Avery Island Birding Guide for a bird checklist and birding tips.
The 170-acre semitropical garden stretches along Bayou Petite Anse and visitors will enjoy the gently rolling landscape, botanical treasures and abundant wildlife. The self guided driving or walking tour includes beautiful flowers, such as azaleas, camellias and colorful bamboo, as well as Buddha, a magnificent centuries-old statue.
Fans of TABASCO® can visit the TABASCO® Factory and Country Store next door and grab a bite at Restaurant 1868.
4) Shadows-on-the-Teche's Gardens
Visitors meander along the gravel paths of the plantation home's gardens on self-guided tours beneath the canopies of 100-year-old live oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from the branches. Aspidistra lines the gravel walkways, and, along with strategically placed hedges, divides the gardens into smaller rooms.
As you circle the back of the house, you’ll come to the gazebo where two benches allow you to rest your feet and enjoy the gorgeous view of the Bayou Teche, just as Weeks Hall did a thousand times over. The gardens are his contribution to this magnificent site.
Brochures detailing the Weeks family and enslaved people who lived and worked at the Shadows and the sugar making process will be provided in order to create a better interpretive experience. Specialized QR (Quick Response) codes have also been placed throughout the garden for an interactive tour.
Guided tours of the plantation home are also available.
Just outside of New Iberia, Spanish Lake offers boating, fishing, hiking and excellent bird watching, with approximately 240 species of birds recorded there. Keep an eye out for herons, woodpeckers, warblers and hawks.
5) Lake Fausse Pointe State Park
Located next to the Atchafalaya Basin, America’s largest river swamp, Lake Fausse Pointe State Park is another great spot for birding. Camp or rent a cabin for the night and explore the basin’s waterways via ﬂat bottom boats, kayaks and canoes. The state park has three nature trails, ranging from 3/4 of a mile to 3.3 miles, and a nature center. The nature trails also provide plenty of bird watching opportunities. Species to look for include herons, egrets and allies, as well as ospreys and bald eagles.
Find a birding checklist here or at our welcome center.
6) Cast a Line or Kayak the Teche
Cajun Country’s coast is teeming with fishing opportunities for both serious anglers and recreational fishermen. Some favorite fishing holes include the Atchafalaya Basin, Bayou Carlin Cove, Spanish Lake, New Iberia City Park, Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, Cypremort Point State Park, Vermilion Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Iberia Parish offers several public boat launches and expert charter fishing services. Various community organizations also hold fishing rodeos throughout the year.
Launch a kayak from New Iberia City Park or Loreauville’s ﬂoating dock at 118 Bridge St. Stop to browse art galleries, shops, 21 trilingual markers or get a snack from a downtown restaurant in the New Iberia National Register Historic District along the way. Pick up an Atchafalaya Water Heritage Trail map and a historic district brochure at our welcome center.
Visit our paddling page, TecheProject.org and WaterHeritage.Atchafalaya.org to plan your paddle tour.
7) Take a Dip
Cool off after a paddle at Cypremort Point State Park. A gateway to the Gulf of Mexico on Vermilion Bay, Cypremort Point has a public beach with swimming, fishing, birding and boating. Six cabins, primitive camp sites and three pavilions are also available by reservation.
Float down the lazyy river at the Isle of Iberia RV Resort, a full service campground with a swimming pool with splash pad and swim up bar, a catch & release fishing pond, and fun activities every weekend.
New Iberia’s Bike Trail is a 3.2-mile path that starts in Church Alley Park on East Main Street and crosses the Bayou Teche before winding through New Iberia City Park, which has its own network of trails. If history, architecture and literature are more your speed, then bike or walk the New Iberia National Register Historic District Trail lined with stately homes and notable buildings or James Lee Burke’s Iberia Trail with sites featured in his novels.
Trilingual markers throughout provide more information on significant landmarks. Walk the trail and take a break at Church Alley and George Rodrigue pocket parks and PJ Allain Waterfront Park and Sculptural Garden, which are the perfect spots to snap a few selfies.
Rent a bike from Bayou Lit Bikes for sightseeing during the day or take a glow-in-the dark-night tour with your favorite music!
Want to get out of town? The Historic Jeanerette Trail is a self guided tour of Sugar City, with the Jeanerette Museum, LeJeune’s Bakery, Cooper Street, and even some plantations along the way.
9) Other (Indoor) Options
The heat in South Louisiana is no joke so we thought tossing in a few indoor options would be helpful, as well.
Konriko Company Store is home to the oldest operating rice mill in the U.S., which celebrated a century of operation in 2012. Tour the mill and shop their selection of KONRIKO® products, other local food products and arts and crafts.
The Bayou Teche Museum is a state-of-the-art museum with a permanent collection of artifacts and memorabilia from the region telling the story of a growing city, its people, culture and industry, all centered around the "snake-like" curves of the Bayou Teche.
Step into the past at the Jeanerette Museum and learn about the last 200 years of the sugarcane industry, the cypress lumber industry and the days of the steamboat.
And if you decide you'd rather make the day a stay at home adventure, check out our virtual experiences blog for self guided tours, videos, puzzles and more.
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