Planning a Trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Mary Gormandy White
Mississippi's Gulf Coast at Dusk
Dusk along the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Coast includes several cities and towns situated along the Gulf of Mexico including Biloxi, Gulfport, Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis and others, each with its own special southern charm. If you're looking for a place where you can enjoy Gulf beaches that can easily be accessed by the public paired with small town charm, high stakes casino action, and numerous entertainment options, the Mississippi Gulf Coast may be the perfect vacation destination for you.

Getting There

Just off Interstate 10 and situated between New Orleans, Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida, the Mississippi Gulf Coast can easily be accessed from any southern city by road. Based on Google Maps searches, it takes less than two hours to drive to the area from either New Orleans or Pensacola, and you can drive there from Houston, Texas or Atlanta, Georgia in about six hours.

It is also easy to travel to the region by air, via the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT) from anywhere in the U.S. - or the world. Airlines that fly in and out of GPT include Delta, American, United, U.S. Airways and Sun Country Airlines. According to Beach.com, if you fly in, you'll want to rent a car, as that is the easiest way to get around the region.

Entertainment Options

Gulf Beaches

There are 62 miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which include 26 miles of white sand beach. Unlike many beachfront communities where it's hard to see or access the beach if you don't own or rent space in a high rise condominium, you can easily see - and get to - the Gulf of Mexico and its shoreline directly from Highway 90, also known as Beach Boulevard or the 'coast road' - as those who live in or near the area often call it.

There is plenty of public parking for beach access and the beaches are typically not nearly as crowded as some of the more well-known Gulf of Mexico beachfront destinations (such as Orange Beach, Alabama or Panama City, Florida). The beach area is narrower than you'll find at these other areas, but is definitely more accessible. Sunbathe, look for seashells, swim and even rent water sports equipment like jet skis, kayaks catamarans and more.

Casino Action

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Biloxi
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Biloxi

If you enjoy gambling, you'll find more than enough casinos to keep you occupied any time of the day or night, with any games of chance you prefer. There are numerous casinos located all along the coast, with Biloxi having the highest concentration. That's why Biloxi has been referred to as the Las Vegas of the South.

Boat Tours

There are numerous opportunities for boat tours in the region. A few examples of the types of outings you can enjoy include:

Ship Island Excursions
Ship Island Excursions
  • Ship Island Excursions - Travel 11 miles from shore to a barrier island onboard the Captain Pete passenger ferry. You'll debark the ship upon arrival at the island, where you'll be able to spend a few hours on the beach or in the water before returning to shore on the same vessel.
  • Biloxi Shrimping Trip - Spend 70 minutes onboard a shrimp boat, during which the crew will actually trawl for shrimp. The journey will be narrated, so you'll have an opportunity to learn about what's involved in catching shrimp, as well as get tips for cooking and eating this local delicacy.
  • T & J Island Cruises - Enjoy a two hour leisure cruise onboard the Nile Wind, a 36-foot yacht. Both daytime and sunset cruises are available, as well as cruises to nearby Horn Island depending on the season. The boat is also available for private charter, and you can even book overnight stays on the vessel.

Charter Fishing

Fishing is a favorite activity along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, so it's no surprise that a number of companies book private fishing charters in the area. Visit the website for the Mississippi Charter Boats Captains Association for an overview of the various options available to you. You can view charter options by boat size and specific location, though you'll need to follow up with the specific companies you're interested in for particulars.

Museums

Learn about the history and culture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast by visiting one or more of the area's museums. Two of the most historically significant ones are:

Beauvoir Museum
Beauvoir Museum
  • Beauvoir - Visit and tour Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis, who was president of the "Confederate States of America" during the Civil War. Depending on when you visit, you may also get to see a civil war reenactment. The property is an antebellum mansion across from the beach in Biloxi. It houses Jefferson Davis' presidential library.
  • Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum - Learn about the rich maritime history of this part of the Gulf Coast by touring this Biloxi museum. You will learn about various aspects of the seafood industry, how the area's economy ties to the water, learn about the devastating impact Hurricane Camille had on the area and much more.

Waterpark

Gulf Islands Waterpark
Gulf Islands Waterpark

Gulf Islands Waterpark in Gulfport is a great place to enjoy family fun in the sun during the spring and summer months. They have numerous water attractions, with options that will appeal to children and adults alike. The park is home to the Gulf Coast's first water roller coaster, exciting tunnel slides, a rafting ride, a special area just for small children and much more.

Concerts and Shows

The Biloxi Coast Coliseum is a major auditorium that attracts numerous arena concerts and other shows throughout the year. You can see a current listing of shows on the venue's event calendar.

Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino
Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino

Additionally, many of the casinos have their own theaters and often bring in headline performers for single-night performances, as well as limited runs of Vegas-style shows. For example, Beau Rivage Theatre and Hard Rock Live (which are located side-by-side) in Biloxi frequently bring in well-known musicians. Beau Rivage typically brings in a cirque-style show for a few months each summer, and also periodically features headlining comedians.

Shopping

Shopping can be just as fun as visiting tourist attractions or other entertainment options. Whether you like shopping big name stores or local boutiques, you'll find plenty of places to shop in this region.

Ocean Springs Downtown Shopping
Ocean Springs Downtown Shopping
  • Gulfport Premium Outlets: This outlet mall is a bargain hunter's delight. You'll find great deals on clothing for the entire family, housewares, jewelry, fragrances and more. Stores include Banana Republic, Gap Outlet, Nike, Under Armour and many others.
  • Edgewater Mall: This Biloxi mall is a great place to shop for items for your entire family, whether you are looking for clothing, jewelry, electronics, shoes, or just about any other consumer product you can think of. See the mall's directory for a complete listing of stores.
  • Local shops in Ocean Springs: In the charming town of Ocean Springs, you'll find a surprising collection of locally-owned independent shops and boutiques, including places to purchase apparel, gifts, accessories, jewelry, local specialty foods and many other ideals.

Delightful Dining

You'll find great food on every corner along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. From casino dining to small locally-owned restaurants, there are options to please any palate throughout the region.

Fresh Gulf seafood, of course, is featured prominently on many local menus, but you can also find traditional southern dishes and elegant fine dining cuisine. A few of the best places to try include:

  • Blow Fly Inn - According to Southern Living, the Blow Fly Inn in Gulfport is one of the "top 10 southern seafood dives." Serving lunch and dinner, the restaurant has been open since 1961, so its longevity alone is a testament to the quality of the food you'll find here. Southern Living recommends the she-crab bisque and shrimp and oyster po' boy, but you'll need to sample for yourself to choose your favorite.

Mary Mahoney's Old French House
Mary Mahoney's
  • Mary Mahoney's - Forbes magazine describes Biloxi's Mary Mahoney's as the "best New Orleans restaurant outside of New Orleans." The restaurant opened in 1964 and features a variety of delightful seafood, beef or chicken dishes. Guests will enjoy a truly southern dining experience, as they enjoy lunch or dinner served in an elegant dining room, or outdoors in a courtyard under the branches of a 100+ years-old oak tree.

  • Vestige Restaurant - Located in Ocean Springs, this locally-owned restaurant is highly rated on TripAdvisor, where customers rave about the service, ambiance and freshness of the food. Open only for dinner, the menu features local, seasonal ingredients selected with sustainability in mind. The menu is "market driven" - so it changes often based on what is fresh and available. Selections include what they call "small plates" and "large plates," as well as side dishes and desserts.

Places to Stay

For the ultimate in upscale accommodations, consider staying in one of the casino resort hotels. According to U.S. News & World Report, the three best hotels in the Biloxi area are at casinos - Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, IP Casino Resort Spa and Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. At any of these properties, you'll enjoy luxury accommodations and top-of-the line amenities, including on-site spa treatments.

If you'd rather stay in a stand-alone hotel rather than at a casino, there are also plenty of great options to choose among. Two of the most centrally located options along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are the Best Western Oak Manor and Four Points by Sheraton Biloxi Beach Boulevard, as they are located directly across the street from the Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos, as well as a public beach access area. These two properties are included in the U.S. News & World Report list of the area's top places to stay.

Plan Your Mississippi Coast Getaway

These are just a few of the many great attractions you can enjoy when you visit the southernmost part of the Magnolia State. If you're ready to check out the area for yourself, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau is a great resource to learn about special events and other attractions. If you're planning to visit the area during one of the festivals or another special event, be sure to make reservations and travel plans well in advance. Concert tickets often sell out early, especially for the casino shows, and rooms or camping sites can be difficult to come by during major events.

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Planning a Trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast