This byway crisscrosses through the heart of central Acadiana and has so many points of interest that you could easily spend a week on it and not see everything there is to see. So, your best bet is to cover the trail in segments over a period of time, possibly on a two- or three-day trip.
A Trip Thru the Marshland: Walking on the Wild Side
From Abbeville, the southern leg of the Jean Laffite Scenic Byway begins on Hwy. 82 South. Also known as the Hug-the-Coast Highway, this scenic roadway eventually travels through some of the most extensive marshlands in North America. But between the town of Perry and the Intracoastal Waterway, the drive winds through picturesque scenes of cultivated crawfish ponds and verdant rice and sugarcane fields, with farmers on tractors working their crops and old red barns that are still in operation. The marsh is spectacular, especially in the spring when the marsh flowers are in full bloom, including water hyacinths, Lousiana iris and other native species you won't find in a typical nursery. On Hwy. 82 there are also nice spots for crabbing and fishing, one of them being Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. You will know that you are approaching the Refuge, when you begin to see massive live oaks alongside the road. It is the best known wildlife refuge in Lousiana, and one of the best known in the world. The refuge plays host to hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, coots, and many wading birds each year, in addition to serving as a resting area for migratory birds.
From Rice Fields to Fine Art
Again starting in Abbeville, take Hwy. 14 west to Kaplan, a French-Acadian rice-farming community home of the country superstar Sammy Kershaw. Vincent Refuge, a 640-acre tract of land for birds, is located north of Kaplan. Then you'll come to Gueydan, home of the annual Duck Festival. Westward from Gueydan, is "Lousiana's Beauty Spot," Lake Arthur. To the north, is Jennings, a town that has beautiful Victorian homes, the W.H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum, the Louisina Telephone Museum, and the Zigler Museum. The Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge is your next stop on the Jean Lafitte Scenic Byway, whose 33,000 acres are mostly comprised of freshwater marsh.
Fresh Shrimp, Victorian Homes and Wild Animals From Africa
If you drive eastward from Abbeville on Hwy. 14, you will go through the towns of Erath and Delcambre, home of the Acadian Museum and Shrimp Festival each August. Jefferson Island, "a place of peace and beauty," is located just off Hwy. 14 between Delcambre and New Iberia. The "island" features 25 acres of landscaped gardens. Just outside of New Iberia, continuing on Hwy. 90, head north toward Lafayette, but visit the Zoo of Acadiana and the town of Broussard's Historic District first.
Lafayette: Metropolis of the Cajun Country
From stately plantation homes to world-class restaurants and the hip-swaying of tempos of a Cajun or Zydeco, Lafayette is one of the most distinctive cities in the South. It is the home of two of the finest festivals in the country- Festival Acadiens, and Festival International. In addition, the city also hosts the second-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country. Vermilionville and the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Acadian Cultural center are two important cultural attractions in the city which a thriving arts community. Among the art places to visit are the USL University Art Museum, the Artists Alliance Gallery, and the Lafayette Museum. For a little older art, visit the St. John Cathedral, a mixture of Dutch Romanesque and Byzantine architecture.
The Last Leg
North of Lafayette, the village of Maurice is one to visit for the world-famous Maurice City Bar. Leaving Maurice and continuing southward on Hwy. 167, is Abbeville, the finishing or starting point of the Jean Lafitte Scenic Byway, depending on how you see it.