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Mississippi Gulf Coast

Great Destination:

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Pass Christian Yacht Club was the South’s first yacht club (1849).
  • The Biloxi Lighthouse stands in the middle of a four-lane highway.
  • The world’s longest manmade sand beach stretches for 26 miles along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
  • Ship Island was cut in two by Hurricane Camille (1969) and under 30 feet of Hurricane Katrina’s waters (2005).
  • The Mississippi Gulf Coast produces 70% of America’s oysters and 69% of its domestic shrimp.

Attention, anglers

Mississippi boasts 62 miles of uninterrupted shoreline, not the longest by any means, but visitors get a lot of bang from every mile. Besides, the mainland faces the Mississippi Sound, that patch of water between the coast and a series of barrier islands. All the state’s mainland beaches are manmade; the natural beaches are on Cat, Deer, Horn, Round and Ship islands.

For those who want to simply play in or on the water, there are the beaches for sunbathing and swimming, or the more active choices like canoeing or kayaking, jet skiing and parasailing.

But the really big activity is fishing. Marinas across the coast offer boat charters or other arrangements for half or full days of fishing in deep waters. Alternatively, anglers can hug the shore for wade fishing or fishing from a pier. In addition, seafood is king at mealtime. Visitors are invited to sample the local product at every turn, or to go all out at one or another festival that has a seafood theme.

Cruises are popular, too. They can be daytime sightseeing events, with some dolphin watching in the mix, or dinner cruises for the relaxation of a cooling float. Even ferries to barrier islands can offer dolphin-spotting opportunities. A unique outing on a shrimp boat provides a window on the area’s important shrimping business. Not exactly a cruise but water focused, swamp tours introduce visitors to another aspect of the area’s ecology.

Unfortunately, hurricanes bring the water onto land, as is evidenced by sculpture-like dead trees left standing after Hurricane Katrina (2005) and memorials to hurricane victims.

Water isn’t all there is. Mississippi’s coast is part of America’s Mardi Gras country, with parades and events in several towns that draw crowds every year. It’s an area with its fair share of arts and crafts activity, history extending from the French arrival in 1699 and gratifying options for birding and for seeing the countryside by bicycle.

The coast is very hot in summer. Its promoters urge visitors to remember their sunglasses, sun hats, sunscreen and bottled water.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Paddle your kayak along the 8.5-mile Jourdan River Blueway Trail through coastal floodplains. Alternatively, the Pascagoula River Blueway Trail is a daylong project. Or, take a guided kayak tour to the barrier islands.
  • Be prepared to get your fill at the Bay St. Louis Crab Festival, held in midsummer.
  • Swamp tours are available at Gautier and Moss Point. For that matter, get married in the swamp. This really is an option helped by operators of tours to the cypress swamps and salt marshes of the lower Pascagoula River.
  • Attend one or more of the Mardi Gras parades scheduled for a host of towns and cities along the coast. More than 20 parades are spread over about three weeks’ time. Events include a coronation ball and a night parade.
  • Camp in a state park, such as Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, or settle in on one of these barrier islands: East Ship, Horn and Petit Bois.
  • Options for the active include jet skiing, stand-up paddle boarding, parasailing as well as nice long rides on designated bike trails. Take your pick.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Sample typical foods beginning, naturally, with locally sourced seafood. Also, try a gumbo stew and the po-boy sandwich, the latter a generous serving of fried seafood wrapped in French bread.
  • Rent a charter boat at Biloxi, D’Iberville, Gulfport, Ocean Springs or Pass Christian and, with license in hand, spend a day fishing in the deep. Wade fishing or tossing a line from a pier are options in several places, too.
  • Make a day of it at Ship Island (really, West Ship Island), a barrier island accessible by ferry from Gulfport good for swimming, bodysurfing, birding, fishing from a pier, sightseeing at the historic Fort Massachusetts, plus dolphin watching from the ferry.
  • A car enthusiast? Visit Gulfport’s Busted Wrench Garage, Museum and Gift Shop. Classic cars, motorcycles and boats are displayed in a 6,000-square-foot exhibit hall.
  • Conditions permitting, take advantage of an option in January or February to visit blinds overlooking crane-feeding areas at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center is in Gautier. Be aware, to protect the endangered birds and their habitat, most of this refuge is off limits.
  • Take a self-guided biking, driving or walking tour of Pass Christian with emphasis on its Scenic Drive Historic District. For the history, also allow time for a visit to Beauvoir, the Biloxi retirement estate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Make your way to an area casino to test your luck. And watch a show.
  • Play golf. There are many courses, but consider one with a lot of history. The 1927 Gulf Hills Golf Club in Ocean Springs was popular with Hollywood celebrities in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
  • Join a shrimping excursion from Biloxi and learn how shrimp are caught and handled. Round out the experience at the Scranton Shrimp Boat Museum in Pascagoula.
  • Take the kids to one of the area’s several splash pads (water playgrounds that use multiple fountains to get the desired effect) to cool off and have fun doing it.
  • Pause for art at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, showcasing the wildlife painter’s work, and the Ohr-O’Keefe Art Museum in Biloxi, which celebrates George Ohr.
  • Book one of the area’s several sightseeing cruises (often with dolphin watching as an element) or dinner cruises. Also, consider riding on a replica of a Biloxi oyster schooner.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.gulfcoast.org