Go with the Flow
Cruising the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast
Along the Louisiana-Mississippi coastline, there’s a palpable hum having nothing to do with barges, drilling rigs, or signal horns. The musical notes riding the breeze, the rustle of wildlife in the swamps, and the whispers of generations long past create a singular vibration in the area. Rich in a fascinating history from the time of the Native Americans through French and Spanish settlements, the Civil War, oil exploration, and multiple devastating hurricanes, the coast is defined by the enduring resilience of its inhabitants.
Sandbars, wetlands, commercial traffic, and oil platforms make navigating Gulf waters a pay-close-attention adventure. Heed your chartplotter and posted navigational aids, stay on your VHF, and most of all, ask the friendly locals lots of questions to simplify the journey.
Beyond the City Life
From the Industrial Canal’s turning basin head east on the GICW Rigolets-New Orleans Cut (or via the Rigolets from Lake Pontchartrain) as the jazz horns fade, the offshore rigs and commercial traffic thin out, and take time to relax into the 60NM cruise to Gulfport.
Gulfport to Biloxi
The Gulfport Municipal Marina/Bert Jones Yacht Harbor has 319 slips for boats to 140 feet in length. It’s an easy walk to Shaggy’s, a festive, casual spot for good local food. For classic, coastal, fine dining, reserve ahead at The Chimneys.
There’s a lively downtown amid ancient live oak trees and dignified old homes with plenty of snacking, sipping, and shopping options. Choose a creamy, fruity artisan popsicle like Nutella or Oreo cheesecake from a POP Brothers stand, or do a tasting at Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, a pooch-friendly taproom offering seasonal and year-round brews. Fishbone Alley, a funky little side lane featuring original local art and culture backs up to a cluster of pubs. Artists adorn the alley walls with colorful murals celebrating Gulfport’s thriving arts scene. To work off some of those earlier treats, wrestle with a one-arm bandit on Casino Row and stay for one of the many shows.
From Gulfport to Biloxi, there’s light tackle action aplenty along shallow coastal waters bustling with tasty bottom fish. Cast a line off a pier or snag a huge yellowfin tuna on an offshore charter.
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins might race your boat 11 miles south to Ship Island where sugary beaches are a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Tranquil waters, native wildlife, and deep-rooted history make the short detour worthwhile.
Pre-hurricane(s), Biloxi was the party place on the coast. The casino industry has played a major role in the city’s return to glitz and glamour. Gaming houses range from backwater barges to deluxe resort-entertainment complexes, all inviting gamblers to “beat the house.”
The Casino Hopper Trolley goes beyond blackjack tables to stops at city attractions, restaurants, and beaches. The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum’s extraordinary photographs chronicle the first Native American settlements through generations of immigrants, all part of the region’s melting-pot culture. Water-related exhibits include the opportunity to sail aboard a replica of an authentic Biloxi oyster schooner.
The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and his restored home, Beauvoir Mansion, sit on 51 acres with stunning views of the Mississippi Sound. The ceramics of George E. Ohr, self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” and other innovative ceramic artists are displayed at the Frank Gehry-designed Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. The small but colorfully engaging Coastal Mississippi Mardi Gras Museum is housed in a historic antebellum building.
Beyond legendary is the cuisine and atmosphere of Mary Mahoney’s Old French House with its elegant courtyard shaded by a centuries-old live oak. Amble over to the Half Shell to fill up on plump juicy oysters, seafood pot pie, or crawfish corn bisque.
For dockage, Biloxi Small Craft Harbor or the newly renovated Point Cadet Marina (vessels to 100 feet in length) are centrally located.
Duck inside Mississippi’s four barrier islands for the most relaxing segment of the cruise to Gulf Shores. The largest, Horn Island, was a creative source and favorite subject of famed Gulf artist Walter Anderson and is worth an overnight on the hook to reflect on your journey. The abundance of nature in the wildlife preserves, the frenzy of New Orleans, the fever of the casinos, and the tranquility of the national seashore are all part of the mystique of the Gulf Coast.
By Ellen Honey, Southern Boating June 2021