The Gulf Coast is home to six barrier islands: Cat Island, Ship Island, Deer Island, Horn Island, Round Island and Petit Bois Island. Each island has something special to offer, so see ‘em all if you’ve got the time. While all islands are available by private boat, only Ship Island offers a ferry service. Also, several charter boats offer island sightseeing.
Once populated by raccoons, Spanish explorers mistook the raccoons for cats - therefore naming the island "Cat" Island. What’s more, during World War II, Cat Island was used to train dogs by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Confusing animal anecdotes aside, the inside bayous and marshes of Cat Island make it a natural wonder. It is home to many beautiful birds and gators. Take note though, all but the western half and southern tip of the island (including most of the beach) is privately owned. (Located South of Long Beach)
Easily accessible by ferry, Ship Island is home to Fort Massachusetts, a beautifully preserved brick fortification completed in 1868. Ship offers the most history of all the islands with seasonal fort tours to fill visitors in on its incredible past. There’s also excellent swimming, sunbathing, birding, shelling, hiking and fishing. Oh! And a boardwalk that extends one third of a mile across the island to the Gulf of Mexico. Restrooms, fresh water showers, drinking water, covered picnic areas and a snack bar are located along the boardwalk. Beach chair and umbrella rentals also available. Definitely worth a visit! (Located South of Gulfport and Biloxi)
The closest island to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Dear Island is believed to be named for the deer that swim there for safety during hunting season. Visitors can enjoy the beach, search for ancient arrowheads, swim and fish - all located just minutes from the mainland. (Located South of Biloxi)
A bit further out than Cat and Deer, Horn Island is a great spot for swimming, boating and relaxing. Several miles long - but less than a mile at its widest - Horn Island features long stretches of beach and sand dunes, along with sea oats, tall pines and inland lagoons. This island is a fan favorite for locals. Alligators, pelicans and other wildlife are also fans of the island. (Located South between Biloxi & Ocean Springs)
This small, uninhabited island serves as a coastal preserve for many critters. The isolated terrain consists of slash pine, interior marsh and sandy beach - a perfect feeding and resting spot for migratory birds like brown pelican, white pelican and cormorants. This island also had a lighthouse as early as 1833. This original wooden structure was since replaced (twice!), and recently the lighthouse was moved on-shore to the foot of the Pascagoula River Bridge.
(Located South of Pascagoula)
Petit Bois Island
At roughly 6 miles long, Petit bois translates to "little woods" in French. Petit Bois has a small wooded section on the eastern end of the island. It’s got great swimming and fishing in store for visitors, and just because it’s petit, it doesn’t mean you won’t have loads of fun there. (Located South of Pascagoula)