#21 Holly Beach

Mais sometimes a Cajun just has to get away for a while. They need to kick back, relax, hang out with friends, and maybe throw back a beer or twenty. Growing up in Louisiana, there was no better place for this than Holly Beach, or the Cajun Riviera as we like to call it.

Located in southwest Louisiana, Holly Beach was the weekend getaway spot for Coonasses and their families. It was a loose community of around 500 camps organized around a strip of beach, and we’re not talking about million dollar beach houses. Most of the camps were just trailers, with a few nicer structures jacked up on stilts to protect against flooding. Holly Beach was a poor man’s beach, where just about anyone could go for a good time. It wasn’t one of those stuck up beaches with the blue water, clean sand, and public intoxication laws. No, it was the type of beach where you wore shoes in the water so you didn’t cut your foot on a broken beer bottle, a place where you’d occasionally see an alligator on the beach. It was the type of place that if you were too lazy to walk 100 ft, you could always drive your truck right up near the water.

Holly Beach is such a big part of Cajun culture that it even inspired several songs, including (Holly Beach) Under the boardwalk, Hurricane Woman, and the Waltz of Holly Beach.

My family would drive down to Holly Beach just about every summer when I was young. We’d head on down to Cameron Parish, cross on the ferry, and drive past the smelly pogie plant, until we reached our destination. My sister and I would play around in the sand and water (shoes on of course) during the day, and our parents would prepare a boiled seafood feast every evening. Afterwards, the adults would usually wind down by kicking back a few beers and playing a friendly game of cards. Many a good time was had there.

I’m talking about Holly Beach in the past tense, because it was completely wiped out by Hurricane Rita, the forgotten hurricane, in 2005. See that photo on the right? That’s a before and after picture. The only thing left standing after the storm was a water tower. Today, a trip to the closest market is a 100 mile round trip, and the water still isn’t safe to swim in, due to sewage contamination issues.

Despite the devastation, all is not lost as Holly Beach is starting to show signs of life. Camps are gradually being rebuilt, though some people are still fighting their insurance companies or FEMA for reimbursement. Cajuns are a resilient people, so I have no doubt that before we know it, Holly Beach will be restored to its former greatness, and its noble citizens will once again have the truest sign of civilization, a drive through daiquiri stand.

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35 thoughts on “#21 Holly Beach

  1. In the meantime, cajuns can go to the Isle- an opposite direction- to check out the beach situation. Somehow, fortunately, there are still a bunch of camps, a grocery store and several other things in Grand Isle. We usually go there in the summer. There are other Cajuns out that way as well-

  2. What, no mention of washed up, decomposing fish parts or the chocolate milk colored water? That’s the quintessential Holly Beach I remember. That and stopping along the way to do some crabbing (turkey-neck on a string) and alligator spotting at one of the small boat launches or bridges along Hwy 27. Ah, good times.

    But then, I grew up near Holly Beach, in what could be labeled as a Cajun fringe area. This is where fishing outranks hunting (ok, marginally), and while French is still spoken, there’s enough outside influence that many Cajun surnames are pronounced *literally* (fais pas ca!).

  3. Well, I trying to be nice by saying that the water wasn’t blue. We used to do some crabbing along the road. Some fools were dumb enough to tie a string with meat on it to their wrists. I wonder if anyone ever got pulled in by a gator.

  4. I remember a particular trip to Holly Beach when I was about 11. My cousin and I rode in the back of my grandfather’s El Camino all the way from Abbeville to Holly Beach, past Sulphur and “the smell”. There must have been a million jellyfish that year.

    There’s another Riviera that Cajuns like to invade…Gulf Shores, AL. It’s not far from me (Mobile) and every time I go, I see more Cajuns there than Rednecks.

  5. I loved Holly Beach during 4th of July! I’m ashamed to admit it, but the first time I ever shop lifted was at Holly Beach. And it was an Alice in Chains cassette tape. Shame.

  6. Growing up in Lydia (Iberia Parish), we always went to Cypremort Point or da poirnt as we called it. I am ashamed to say that I’ve never been to Holly Beach. We still had to keep our shoes on in the water at Cypremort Point.

  7. Remember the big headless dragon… uh, thing out in the water that gushed water down on you when you swam? Wasn’t that at Holly Beach?

  8. Working for FEMA, I first saw Holly Beach or what was left of Holly Beach several days after Rita. There was nothing left. I hope Ike did not destroy what was rebuilt and I wish all my “Cajun” brothers and sisters well.

  9. I have a camp at Holly Beach and was one of the fortunate few who sustained minor damage. All of the new camps that were built to code are still standing. The foundations of many of these new camps were damaged by water washing the soil from underneath the slab. All other structures such as mobile homes were washed away completely. Although the media has not said much, Ike did much more damage in Cameron parish than Rita did. The water was several feet higher for Ike. Many of the homes that survived Rita, were destroyed by Ike, especially in Johnson’s Bayou. The school there was completely gutted. I don’t think there’s a church left in Cameron parish this time. There are probably less than 100 homes in the entire parish that were not damaged by this storm. Many people had moved manufactured housing in after Rita. Almost all of the manufactured homes and trailers sustained major damage and are not fit to live in. I am heartsick for these hard-working, independent people. They will be hard-pressed to make a comeback this time.

  10. I have never been to Holly Beach, but then I grew up in Grand Isle. Why leave paradise to go to some Riveria place. My wife used to go there when she was a kid and she can still give very vivid explanations of her experiences there.

  11. I really miss Holly Beach. We had a camp owned it for 9 fantastic years . Great memories were made there. We can’t re build because of codes plus we own only two lots. We still go back we live in Breaux Bridge and go all the way for just a day there. Ike would have destroyed even the new built to code houses if it would have turned on the same path as Rita. But the GOV. FEMA and all the rest won’t see that until it happens. A lot of residents can not come home because of the rules and codes. They just can’t afford to. So even though eventually Holly Beach may re build it will never be back to its former glory. Before Ike came we were staying for summer vacations with Mr.& Mrs Sonny Meaux fantastic people.

  12. Do ya’ll remember the old bummpy road pass Pecan Island. Whewwwf what a time we all passed. Long Live HOLLY BEACH, the people who called it home, GOD BLESS YOU !!

  13. I can remember ridin back home after a long day of crabbin near Holly Beach. We always wore our special old tennis shoes to protect our feet from gawd knows what was lurking in the water. You could hear the crabs clicking away from the packed sack in the back of the station wagon, and everything and everybody had a smell of wet and rotten. Mom would drive slow and dodge the gators as they pulled out to soak in the last bit of warmth from the roadbed.
    I live near Philadelphia now, near the real Boardwalk, and whenever the radio plays “Under the Boardwalk” , I hear the Holly Beach version playing in my head.

  14. Ohh Holly Beach. I can remember spending one or 2 summer vacations there in my youth. But da point was the place to be if you were from Jeanerette. This blog made me smile and took me down memory lane. Thank you!

  15. Song for a lost friend

    Holly Beach.
    Memories that go back at least to 1963
    My cousins, my brother and me
    rollin’ down that way through Hackberry
    and Johnson’s Bayou
    with handmade crab nets
    and chicken necks
    and hopes for a boiled seafood dinner
    after a crappy winter
    and a promising spring.
    that was just the most adventurous thing.

    That first sighting after the sweet smell
    of the Gulf water and sand
    and the revelation that taht was where the land ended
    and further out the exotic began.

    Remeber it well and treasure it more.
    The camps, the “moskeets” and the strange
    flotsam and jetsam along the shore.
    Later years coming with Papa and all
    catching catfish by the Cameron ferry
    and so much more.

    Later still with a future New Jersey wife
    and Cajun-baptizining her in the water
    where she and I swam skinny-dipping
    and slipping so naughty laughing on the beach.

    The camps gone?
    The shoreline changed ?
    maybe physically out of reach
    but not for me – at the very least, mentally.

    No.
    Never.
    Holly beach will still remain for me
    There are just some things that can’t be
    destroyed.

    • Lots of people would not rent from the Monceaux’s or the Abshire’s because they discriminate against certain people and if one gets mad at you(for something you didn’t even do),they will call the other one and tell them not to rent to you,so if you rent from the Monceaux’s gentlemen : watch out for your ladies,if you rent from Brenda Abshire,watch out for the bad odor,it’s not a incense either.

      • please disregard the reply above someone hacked into my email and used my password, I was notified by whoever did this and told me where to find this comment and I am outraged,I have had my facebook hacked into and I have no idea who could be doing this or why,I do not know these people but I have rented a place there I’m not sure from who but I know that all the people are good people and I apologize for that comment it is not true,I believe whoever did this was just being ugly and for no reason maybe to hurt me and these other people should not be involved, so enjoy hollybeach and rent the campers, there awesome ,the people are to, I have only met good people here.

  16. We went to Holly Beach for a weekend, and just as we sat down for dinner, we heard the sirens. Noticed an orange glow coming from the window. We went out to watch the Holly Beach Volunteer Fire Department “put out” the fire. They just pulled the trailer camps immediately to the left and right out of their spots and let the rest burn to the ground. Great evening entertainment.

  17. wow Holly Beach…good times! I grew up in Lake Charles, my paw paw had Shrimp boats there in Cameron and we spent many a summer on the Riveria. Then mom and Dad bought a motor home and we go where the classy cajuns were…Grand Isle. But I’ll never forget the smell of the poggie plant or getting sunburnt crabbing…kids just don’t know what they are missing.

  18. Can any one tell me if there are camps for rent down at Holly Beach? Planning a trip back home to Lake Charles and would love to show my husband the area and do some fishing.

  19. i lived in holly beach when rita hit i worked at the T&T store linda and gerald r the best people miss it so much even if i was only there for a bit used to go when iwas a kid and im from dallas tx all friends scatterd nothing like holly beach life was so much different there going camping in may for a week on scalvin and renella hargraves land will be seeing sonny muaex and loretta at least we can still remember

  20. Pingback: Well, at least the Crawfish were good. | Driving Inertia

  21. dang i remember going to Holly Beach when i was a kid, with my mawmaw, uncle david,mom, dad, and brother, we had a great time, but since my mawmaw and uncle passed, havent seen it since, wish i could bring back them days, sure do miss them

  22. I went as a kid and still go back now. Going tomorrow with my okie wife and daughter. It may not be the same but we are making our own memories of camping on the beach and beachcombing through trash and such. It will come back but maybe not the same.

  23. Does anyone no where I could put my horses after a long ride on Holly Beach?My name is Erlean Jeansonne,and me,my daughter,son-in law and 4 grandbabies love crabbing,fishing and playing at Holly Beach.Please call or text me.My no. is 318 854 1308. Thanks

  24. Thank GOD for great memories. I smiled the whole time reading this. (o: We live in a FANTASTIC state! We are truly blessed!

  25. Holly beach, fishing, crabbing, boudin and crackers, horseback riding, sunburn, salt and sand in places I didn’t know I had places. Trying to sleep in a wind-whipped tent with roaring pounding surf. Walking at the water’s edge with kerosene lanterns in the middle of the night. Running for cover when drunken folks came drag racing down the beach. Huge driftwood bonfires. Waking up earlier than everyone else to rebuild the fire and cook breakfast. Picking up seashells that I still have now. Lovely memories all. No they can’t take that away from me.

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