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Tupelo, Mississippi
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Biloxi, Mississippi

Spotlight: Gulf Coast

The Magnolia State makes the most out of its small strip of coast

Spanning 62 miles of gorgeous waterfront, Mississippi’s balmy southern shoreline sits in the backyard of New Orleans and on the doorstep of the Gulf of Mexico. Sparkling views, fantastic beaches and a smorgasbord of charming seaside towns make it a popular destination for anyone looking for a place to rest, relax and have a little fun in the sun.

Moving from east to west through the counties of Jackson, Harrison and Hancock, visitors can effortlessly hop their way though the towns of Moss Point, Pascagoula, Gautier, Ocean Springs, D’Iberville, Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, Diamondhead, Bay St. Louis and Waveland. If you’re a window-shopper or someone who likes to sit on a cafe patio, people-watching and taking in the sights, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is for you.

The beaches are the undisputed main attractions here, tying together a region that’s renowned for recreation. Dusted with soft white sand and protected by chains of barrier islands off-shore, the surf is relatively gentle and perfect for families with small children. The beaches of Pass Christian and Long Beach are particularly popular for those seeking calmer waters.

Surfers on the hunt for livelier waters will want to hop on the passenger ferry in Gulfport to West Ship Island, where a 12-mile long beach offers bigger waves more suited to water sports. The beach here has been frequently cited as among the best in the country, and the scenic ferry ride often includes spontaneous dolphin sightings—free of charge.

This being the Gulf Coast, anglers will think they’ve gone to heaven. More than 200 different species of fish are found in abundance here, including bass, catfish, perch, drum and shark. All manner of fishing is available, from freshwater to saltwater to pier fishing to wade fishing.

Visit Mississippi

Visit Mississippi

Gulf Coast’s Historic Gumbo

After you’ve arrived and spent some time here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you’ll begin to discover the region’s rich diversity of culture, which is no doubt due to its long and eventful history. Originally inhabited by the Biloxi Indians, colonial-era expansion and exploration turned the entire coastline into a giant game of political chairs for the better part of 150 years.

The region changed national flags countless times between the establishment of the earliest French colony in 1698 and the end of the American Civil War in 1865. In fact, if you were born here in the latter half of the 18th century and lived to see the end of the Civil War, you would have found yourself living under the rule of six different national flags: British, Spanish, French, American, Confederate and the Republic of Florida (which lasted for all of 74 days).

Much of this incredible history can be explored at the Museum of History in downtown Ocean Springs. Known as the “City of Discovery,” Ocean Springs was the site of the first permanent settlement on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, making it a natural place for a museum that curates the history of the region.

For a more hands-on glimpse into the history of the coast, the Old Spanish Fort in Pascagoula (built in 1718) and Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island are absolute must-visits. Construction on the latter began just before the outbreak of the Civil War and changed hands several times—even while unfinished—prior to the war’s end. Park Rangers lead narrated tours through the defensive fort, highlighting its sturdy craftsmanship and telling tales of its volatile military history.

Visit Mississippi

Visit Mississippi

Wild Waters

Today the games of political brinkmanship are long gone, and the most volatile aspect of life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the occasional gulf storm or hurricane—a concern that’s not to be taken lightly. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 can still be felt here, especially in the town of Biloxi, where the Biloxi Bay Bridge was completely washed away.

The bridge has since been rebuilt but many places along the coast are still in recovery. The Hurricane Katrina Memorial in downtown Biloxi stands as a strong reminder of the loss of life and widespread devastation. The memorial consists of a 12-foot-tall black granite slab (symbolizing the height of the storm surge) amid personal art from Katrina victims.

When you’re ready for a little fun that doesn’t involve sand or surf, Biloxi is home to eight world-class casino resorts that combine gaming with a variety of other visitor perks, such as championship golfing, spa packages, live entertainment and play centers for kids.

For More Information

Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau
Mississippi Development Authority