Southern Living: 8 Things You're Missing in Gulfport

There’s something addictive about Gulfport and its neighboring towns up and down U.S. 90 (aka Beach Boulevard). With barrier islands blocking the waves, the water is as flat as a giant mirror. Most of the beach here is manmade—miles and miles of it—stretching out like a wide, creamy ribbon between the water and the bustling beach highway. (You can catch a boat out to some of the barrier islands to experience the natural beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.) And while you’ll see the occasional palm tree, the live oak rules in these parts, and that gives Gulfport, with its pedestrian-friendly downtown and historic storefronts, an uber-Southern look.

Mississippi offers a very different coastal experience from what you’ll find on the rest of the Gulf, but it has its own special vibe that hooks you—mostly because there’s no separation at all between the beach, the town, the locals, and the tourists. Everybody’s welcome everywhere, and it’s easy to feel at home here. If you’ve never checked out Gulfport, here’s what you’ve been missing:

  1. Ship Island Excursions will ferry you 11 miles out to one of a string of barrier islands administered by the National Park Service. On West Ship, you can not only enjoy the natural beauty of the beaches but also tour Fort Massachusetts, completed in 1868.
  2. Catch a sunset cruise on one of the charters that dock at Jones Park Marina: Making Memories Sailing, North Star Sailing Charters,and the upscale Set Sail Yacht Charters.
  3. Pop Brothers is serving up small-batch popsicles made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. You’ll find them at 1501 25th Avenue.
  4. Kids will love the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, an interactive museum that plays off coastal history. A wavy climbing structure lets kids (and willing adults who accompany them) scale the height of the museum—safely. Other indoor exhibits include an art studio, train depot (the kids get to dress up in historic costumes to climb aboard), “The Little Pet Vet,” a mock seaport, and more. Outdoors, find Bear Creek, tree houses, and a kid-scaled subdivision (246 Dolan Avenue).
  5. Enjoy what twin brothers and owners Cam and Cain Roberds describe as “the perfect place for folks to cut up, listen to some good tunes, and (of course) learn about the art of hand-crafting beers” atChandeleur Brewing Company in downtown Gulfport (2711 14thStreet).Fishbone Alley in Gulfport, MS
  6. Speaking of adult beverages, Mississippi’s new “to-go cup” law allows you to carry alcohol outside of restaurants and bars in certain areas, including Gulfport’s newFishbone Alley, located in historic downtown. It’s attracting local artists and musicians.
  7. Take a 3-hour, walking “Tasty Tour of South Mississippi” and sample five Gulfport restaurants.
  8. Swim with Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins at The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.