Gulfport may well be the economic dynamo of the state, but it’s also a visitor-friendly city packed with great things to see and do. Highway 49 makes a beeline through the very center of town, making transportation to and from the busy port an important business consideration, and east and west of the port lie miles of beautiful white sand beaches that welcome thousands of visitors year round. This is a city with something for everyone.
The city bustles with almost 70,000 residents, but its humble beginnings in 1898 were a far different place. In those distant days, wooden schooners loaded with longleaf pine cut and milled nearby, transported lumber all over the Gulf and beyond. The port is undergoing an expansion project today and still accounts for millions of dollars in tax revenue. Other important employers include the Naval Construction Battalion, Memorial Hospital, Mississippi Power, and Island View Casino.
When visiting for the first time, perhaps the first adventure should be to Ship Island. Take the Ship Island Excursion ferry from the harbor and tour historic Fort Massachusetts, walk the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and enjoy the unspoiled barrier island. If a trip over the salty water of the Mississippi Sound is not for you, then take a day off and enjoy the white sand beaches that stretch for miles in Harrison County. Park at the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor where yachts and workboats are berthed side by side, then stroll the lovely man-made beaches, or bring a blanket and soak up the sun. Keeping to maritime theme, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies makes for an entertaining and educational stop for the whole family. Get up close and personal with the dolphins, watch the sea lion show, and be amazed at the hands-on experience with a variety of sea life in the Discovery Room.
Downtown Gulfport is also seeing a renaissance, and the old city-center is packed with innovative restaurants and shops. Just a few blocks west of the port is the Island View Casino, where world-class cuisine, exciting entertainment, incredible accommodations, and activities are available for the entire family. Just a few blocks east of Highway 49 is Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. It’s one of the top 50 children’s museums in the country. Bring the kids to view fascinating exhibits, interesting programs, and there are professional cooking classes in a world-class kitchen for adults. “Discover fun” is their motto and that means for the whole family. One more place you should not miss is the Busted Wrench Garage, a classic car museum. It’s free to the public and jammed with beautifully restored cars and motorcycles.
If you are a foodie, then Gulfport is a dream come true! Many restaurants celebrate the bounty of fresh seafood harvested from local waters. You can choose from Gulf Coast classics like Chappy’s Bistro, where you will find his famous Trout Long Beach irresistible, or dive into The Chimneys’ fish of the day. If you want a healthy take on fresh seafood try the Beach Boulevard Steamer, where you can create your own combo platter of good things from the sea. Right next door you’ll find a sweet treat at the Coast Candymakers, where house-made delights will make your day. Quality Bakery is just up Highway 49 and has been in the business of confections since 1949. It is well worth a leisurely stop.
There is a new generation of young chefs that are making culinary history with their innovative takes on Southern cuisine, and Gulfport has its share. Stop by Bacchus Food and Drink for the grilled oysters, or a killer cheeseburger. Just down the street take a break at the Half Shell Oyster House, and enjoy a platter of Cajun boiled Royal Reds, or their signature Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce served in a martini glass.
If you are in the mood for great barbecue and music then Murky Waters is the place to be for live entertainment and the best food around. This hot spot is loaded with atmosphere and great vibes!
You’ll think you are in Southeast Asia when you stop at Thai Basil where you can enjoy a steaming bowl of pho or a savory curry. Big Mike’s has daily specials and the best meatloaf around. Salute is the Italian destination in town, and the best pies are found at Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria. Another local standard since 1961 is the Blow Fly Inn. It has a great view of Bayou Bernard, and the shrimp and grits and the fries and gravy are sent from heaven.
If you are in town for lunch, stop by Café Climb, a teaching café where at-risk kids get a second chance. Come for a good lunch, and help a good cause.
Gulfport is a food destination with diverse eateries that will surprise you. Eat at a different, remarkably good restaurant every day of your visit.
Gulfport may be the second largest city in the state, but it’s opportunities for shopping are unparalleled. From the huge variety of shops at Gulfport Premium Outlets to downtown boutiques in 100-year-old brick and timber buildings—you can shop till you drop, and there will still be one more bargain calling your name.
Vintage Vault Co. is a unique shop located in the old train depot. Here you’ll find locally made soap, jewelry, reclaimed furniture, and even vintage wedding props for rent. Right next door is Back on the Rack, an upscale resale shop where you just might find that Ralph Lauren dress, or the Gucci purse you’ve been looking for. Stop in Panache for exceptional options in ladies clothing. For gifts and great ladies apparel, check out The Radish Loft.
Courthouse Road is another shopping mecca to not miss. Look for something special at Heritage House Gifts, or if you are in need of something new to wear check out S.F. Alman, LTD, where you will find the best in men’s, ladies, and children’s clothing along with unmatched service. J’Anna Bergman Salon is another spot worth a visit. Their mission is to help busy men and women across the Gulf Coast achieve their perfect look. One more prime location, where the cut is always refined, is Chuck Kelly Salon and Spa. Leave Chuck’s and walk over to Fabrics to Fringes and find
designer fabrics at discount prices. The diversity of shopping here is
One last business that deserves special mention is Gilded Pear Gallery with Cocktails and Canvas. They say come by and uncork your inner artist, with step-by-step painting classes, this could be fun!
No other city in the state offers more things to do than Gulfport. There are dozens of events, festivals, and parades. Enjoy the Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras parade and join in a second line, watch powerboat races at the annual Smokin’ the Lake, or go fishing at the annual Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. If you are hungry for a Southern treat, attend the annual St. Ann’s Catfish Festival. If fitness is a priority, join in St. James’ Fun Run. One of the largest events in the Southeast is the annual Cruisin’ the Coast. This event draws hundreds of vintage automobiles from hot rods to antique classics.
Parade, fish, walk or run, play golf, tour beautiful homes, and listen to live music. Gulfport has more to do than you can shake a stick at.
If you’ve not had the chance to visit this vibrant city, there are no excuses. Gulfport is full of activities for the entire family, delicious food, exciting events, and gracious people who will be more than happy to have you visit their hometown. The beautiful white-sand beaches stretch for miles, and the music you hear might be a classical recital or a booming rock concert. This is a city you won’t soon forget, and it will entice you back many times.
Back on the Rack
Bridal and Formal Boutique and House of Tux
The Dermatology Clinic Spa
Gulfport Premium Outlet
Jana Bergman Boutique
Fabrics to Fringes
Gilded Pear Gallery and Cocktails and Canvas
Chuck Kelly Salon Spa
The Radish Loft
S.F. Alman, Ltd.
Vintage Vault Co.
Bacchus Food and Drink
Beach Boulevard Steamer
Big Mike’s Speakeasy
Blow Fly Inn
Half Shell Oyster House
Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria
Mardi Gras Mayhem in the Park
Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras (day and night) parades
African American Literacy Fair
Shenanigan’s St. Patrick’s Day parade
Shenanigan’s Irish Festival
Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association Golf Classic
Smokin’ the Lake
Bear Creek Music Festival
Gulfport Music Festival
St. Ann’s Catfish Festival
Mississippi Memorial Day Blowout
Sounds by the Sea—an outdoor concert
Running with the Dogs Boat Poker Run
Paddle @ the Dock
Christmas Tour of Homes
Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo
Gulfport 4th of July fireworks
7th annual Croaker Classic
Annual Sonny Johnson Memorial
18th annual Cruisin’ the Coast
Ship Island Excursions Ferry
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulfport Small Craft Harbor
Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
Island View Casino
White sand beaches