Gulf Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Coast: Seeking Sun, Sea and Sand

My tour of Mississippi was coming to an end, and I looked forward to visiting the Gulf Coast and having the sunshine settle on my shoulders as I strolled along the white sandy beaches I’d heard so much about. The “Riviera of the South” was within easy reach.

After checking into the White House Hotel in Biloxi, I walked across the street, took off my shoes and pushed my toes into the sand. While the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, I stood at the water’s edge and looked out. To my surprise, a small pod of dolphins broke through the surface. It was the perfect way to start my visit.

Maritime History and Sailing

My first stop was the Biloxi Visitor’s Center, a 2,500-square-foot museum, highlighting the history of Biloxi, one of the Gulf Coast’s great communities. My next stop was just steps away and happens to be one of the most photographed sites on the Gulf Coast, the Biloxi Lighthouse. It is the only known working lighthouse located in the middle of a highway. As I climbed its spiral staircase, I saw lines marked on the walls to show how high the water had been during numerous hurricanes and storms.

Afterward, I visited The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum and learned everything I’d ever need to know about crabbing and shrimping. On display in the Grand Hall of the museum was Nydia, a beautiful wooden sailing boat (a 30” gaff rigged cabin sloop) that is over 100 years old. It reminded me of my dad’s old boat Endora, which he used to sail across the English Channel.

From the museum, I walked down to the water and stepped on board an authentic replica of a Biloxi oyster schooner. These type of boats used to be a familiar sight in the Gulf of Mexico during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The captain motored us away from the dockside before his crew raised the white billowing sails and we took a leisurely tour of the waters off the coastline. Several pelicans flew alongside to keep us company. I kept my eyes peeled, hoping to see more dolphins.

Kayaking and Small-town Charm

Still wanting to enjoy the water, I headed over to the Pascagoula River Basin to do some kayaking. Out on the peaceful, free flowing water, the paddles sliced through the surface with ease. Every so often I stopped to look through my binoculars, hoping to see alligator eyes peeking up out above the water. I’d been told they were a common sight in the area. Alas, I didn’t see any large four-legged reptiles, but the wide assortment of birds I spotted was definitely worth the excursion. Otters are also regular visitors to these waters.

I followed my kayaking tour with a drive along the scenic coastline to the quaint town of Ocean Springs. This is a great place for a stroll, with many shops and restaurants dotting the tree-lined streets. I stopped in to Mediterranean restaurant Phoenicia Gourmet for a delicious Greek salad, and then continued my drive along the coastline headed west to Bay St. Louis, an adorable seaside town with more cute boutiques and eateries.

On the way back to my hotel, I passed impressive houses that stood on high stilts overlooking the water. Finally, I pulled over to enjoy the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. A double rainbow appeared in the sky behind me, and an otter raised its head in the water like a salute.

I’d had such a fabulous short stay in this sunny part of the world, I knew I’d be back. This wasn’t “goodbye”, but “see you later”.

 

When you Go

 

Where to Stay

White House Hotel

whitehousebiloxi.com

 

Things to Do

Biloxi Lighthouse

biloxi.ms.us/visitor-info/museums/lighthouse

 

The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum

maritimemuseum.org

 

Places to Eat

Phoenicia Gourmet

phoeniciagourmet.com

 

For Further Information

Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast

gulfcoast.org