By: Erin Z. Bass
Coastal Mississippi isn’t finished with its summer season yet, and as temperatures cool off, events and activities heat up.
As the August heat subsides and we get that inkling of fall weather attempting to arrive, it’s the perfect time to fit in a last-minute beach vacation. Summer never ends on the South’s secret coast of Mississippi. With charming towns like Ocean Springs, Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi’s coast is a quirky hidden gem.
Unique festivals like those focused on tattoos and songwriters, Frida Kahlo and an arts and crafts show brought to you by mermaids are just some of the unique annual events you’ll find here.
Mississippi’s collection of vibrant beach communities lies along 62 miles of undisturbed, scenic shoreline. Beaches are hardly ever crowded, with gentle waves lapping the shore, and visitors also have the opportunity to take the ferry out to Ship Island, one of the country’s last undeveloped barrier islands known for its beaches and shelling.
The state’s other barrier islands like Horn and Petit Bois islands and Cat Island are accessible by boat and primitive places to pitch a tent and build a bonfire. Just remember to be respectful of dunes, wildlife and fire safety. Renting a camper van is also a possibility for exploring coastal Mississippi.
There are plenty of land-based adventures along Mississippi’s coast. Biloxi’s famed lighthouse was built in 1848 and is the only lighthouse in the United States to stand in the middle of a four-lane highway. It was restored in 2010 and reopened for tours, which are guided each morning at 9, 9:15 and 9:30 a.m., weather permitting.
Also in Biloxi, visitors can discover the Ohr O’Keefe Museum Of Art, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant (a New Orleans favorite), live music at Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos and stay at Margaritaville Resort or White House Hotel.
Just over the bridge from Biloxi, Ocean Springs is home to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, The Julep Room juke joint, The Wilbur (featured in Architectural Digest as one of America’s most beautiful bars) and The Roost Hotel.
Embodying the charming, small-town beach feel of old Key West, Bay St. Louis also has plenty of art galleries, neighborhood restaurants and a few beach bars. The best way to get around is by golf cart, whether you’re traveling to the beach, The Buttercup for breakfast or Starfish Cafe for lunch. Don’t miss shopping at Bay Books or Clay Creations either. Old Town Bay St. Louis also has a Second Saturday Artwalk that’s a great way to experience the vibe of this area and also ensure you return home with plenty of souvenirs.
One of the newest attractions on the coast is Waveland’s Ground Zero Hurricane Museum, a tribute to the strength and beauty of the human spirit in this area. Visitors can see environmental portraits, the Katrina Recovery Quilt Collection and an exhibit on historic Waveland Elementary School in which the museum is housed.
While enjoying the quiet beaches, coastal cuisine and vibrant art of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it’s important to take a moment to contemplate the impact Mother Nature has on this region. Life ebbs and flows with the tides and storms are a way of life, but the Secret Coast remains alive and thriving no matter the season.
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