Embark on a scenic road trip along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, where artsy small towns, sandy shores, and a singular culinary scene collide
Considering its close proximity to South Louisiana—just an hour’s drive away from New Orleans—Mississippi’s coastal region is ideal for a beach getaway. With a wealth of waterfront towns worth exploring, a road trip along the coast is the perfect way to see as much as possible over the course of a single weekend—when you’re not spending time having fun in the sun, that is. So we’ve split up six neighboring coastal communities below, to create a weekend itinerary that lets you tackle a few each day, particularly since each provides for easy accessibility and walkability. Fair warning, though: you might find yourself extending your stay to spend just a little more time in this charming, colorful corner of the Magnolia State.
Day 1: Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport
What to See and Do: Home to several of the state’s most popular attractions for family fun and adventure, the city of Gulfport has plenty of all-ages entertainment to choose from. The recently-opened Mississippi Aquarium opens a window on the world beneath the Gulf of Mexico’s waves, while the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center—a local children’s museum housed in a fully restored schoolhouse dating from 1916—showcases various outdoor and indoor interactive exhibits to keep your little ones engaged and entertained. There’s also the Gulf Islands Waterpark, the Zip’n Fun Adventure Park, and the Gulfport Dragway, if slip n slides, go-karts, putt-putt golf, arcade games, or top-fuellers are more your speed. That’s not all; for art aficionados and history buffs, the city also has the Gulfport Galleria of Fine Art and the Gulfport Museum of History waiting in the wings.
Where to Eat (and Wander): The best way to get to know the laid-back, bohemian streets of Bay St. Louis is on two wheels, so grab a bike to explore the area’s scenic Old Town Bay and the Bay Bridge Artwalk. Another suggested route for a scenic ride is the path through Pass Christian’s stunning Historic District on your way to grab a handcrafted pint at Gulfport’s Chandeleur Island Brewing Company. A fresh meal and craft cocktail at Shaggy’s, a local chain of waterfront eateries, never disappoints. While you’re there, you simply must take a stroll along Gulfport’s Fishbone Alley, a public art installation (or maybe an outdoor gallery) that is the brainchild of local painters.
Where to Stay: Relax in luxurious surroundings with picturesque Gulf vistas at Gulfport’s Island View Casino Resort. Also worth checking out are the city’s Beachview Vacation Cottages, a series of home-away-from-homes just three hundred yards from the beach. There’s no shortage of group vacation homes for rent. Popular choices include the Bridge Street Bungalow and the Great Escape River House. In the town of Pass Christian, a night at the historic Oak Crest Mansion Inn is highly recommended for its sophisticated, storied atmosphere.
Day 2: Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula
What to See and Do: This stretch of the Gulf coastline is a recognized hotspot for the visual arts. In Biloxi, don’t miss the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which is dedicated to the ceramic creations of George Ohr (the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi”), and the Mary O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts & Education. Gallery 782 and Negrotto’s Gallery, both showcase works by local and regional artists. In neighboring Ocean Springs, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) and Shearwater Pottery bear witness to the extraordinary vision of renowned painter Walter Inglis Anderson and the entire Anderson family.
Where to Eat (and Wander): Ocean Springs in particular boasts a burgeoning culinary scene that elevates classic southern fare by sourcing farm-to-table ingredients for inventive dishes. Craft Advisory Brewing and Bistro offers a full menu of gastropub-style fare in its taproom, and also offers an extensive lineup of draft beers. Government Street Grocery is a casual neighborhood bar offering home-cooked burgers and ice-cold beer. The Shed BBQ is a Mississippi barbecue institution, and for fine dining, at Vestige in Ocean Springs, acclaimed Chef Alex Perry is building an ardent following by creating experimental, naturalist cuisine that redefines “coastal creativity.”
Where to Stay: Biloxi’s casino resorts, with its public boardwalk offering easy beach access, mean you can get your fix of entertainment, gaming, food and drink, all while laying your head in luxury accommodation, all in one place. Take your pick of lodging options along this stretch of coast: there’s the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, the Escape at Margaritaville Resort, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and the Palace Casino Resort. Or, if you’d prefer lodging options with more of a small town sensibility, nearby Ocean Springs offers charming, quirky B&Bs on or near the beach, such as Front Beach Cottages, The Eaves Bed & Breakfast, The Beatnik, The Inn at Ocean Springs, and The Roost.
Day 3: Barrier Islands Excursion
Where to Stay: For an overnight adventure in rugged accommodations, book a remote cabin with Eco-Tours of South Mississippi.
What to See and Do: Try out your sea legs by exploring one (or more) of Mississippi’s barrier islands, which form part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. A day at Ship Island is the most popular; nearby Cat Island, Horn Island, and Deer Island Coastal Preserve are all options, too. Between them you’ll find recreational activities including charter fishing, sailing, shelling, birding, dolphin sightings, jet skiing, kayaking, and parasailing.
Where to Eat (and Wander): Any nature lover will want to take a sojourn to Moss Point on the state’s southeastern border, which hosts several public nature centers including Escatawpa River Observatory Birding & Wildlife Viewing Area, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Gulf Coast Gator Ranch, and Pascagoula River Audubon Center.