Ready to get wild, eat great, and hear the best live music? Our network of Gulf Coast locals serve up their best tips.
From the incredible natural beauty of the Gulf Islands National Seashore to fun water sports on the Pascagoula River, from Gulf-fresh seafood to BBQ and craft beer, from fine art to the hottest live music, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers a getaway for every type of traveler. We spoke with some of the locals who make the Coast tick for their favorite hotspots.
WHICH ISLAND IS BEST FOR YOUR TRAVEL PERSONALITY?
Each of the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s barrier islands offers opportunities for casual-to-adventurous travelers who want an authentic, wild experience (before they head back to shore to grab some gourmet seafood and world-class craft beer at sundown, that is!).
Chandler Borries, a travel photographer who hails from Biloxi, says “I’m a big outdoors enthusiast, and I love a boat excursion to one of the islands and taking a nature walk through Gulf Islands National Seashore.”
Each of the six barrier islands offers something unique to adventure-minded visitors. Ship Island, Borries’s favorite, is home to the historic 19th-century Fort Massachusetts, and a beach that’s perfect for swimming, hiking, or fishing. Cat Island boasts bayous and marshland that serious birders will love. Deer Island’s beach is just a short boat ride from Biloxi. Horn Island is a magnet for vacationers seeking peace, sand dunes, and pelicans. Round Island and Petit Bois Island are the smallest islands but offer glimpses of migratory birds and much more. Learn more about outdoor adventures on the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.
PADDLE, CYCLE, OR HIKE THE GULF COAST
Borries says, “I also love that the Gulf Coast has plenty of places to kayak and paddleboard.” From gentle paddling to downright wet & wild water adventures, the Gulf’s open Coast waters, scenic bayous, and beautiful “blueways,” make the region one of America’s best places to hit the water. You can charter a deep-sea fishing boat, sail on a historic schooner, or even try paddleboard yoga. And be sure to check out the Pascagoula River Blueway (the largest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states) for great kayaking, fishing, and wildlife-watching. Learn more about paddling the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.
If you want to stay on dry land, the Coast is packed with recreational trails and walking or biking tours. Borries suggests, “One of my favorite morning activities is a bike ride down Front Beach in Ocean Springs followed by a savory biscuit and coffee from The Greenhouse on Porter.” Learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s recreational trails here.
OYSTERS, SHRIMP & MORE
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is justly renowned for its fresh seafood. That’s one reason why Foursquare named Darwell’s Cafe, in Long Beach, one of America’s greatest diners, citing its crawfish étouffée with seasoned shrimp on top. We asked our locals to take travelers off the beaten path to find the tastiest joints serving up seafood, BBQ, and more.
Alex Perry, chef and owner of Vestige, a modern American restaurant in Ocean Springs specializing in seasonal, market-inspired dishes, including a Gulf-fresh catch of the day and jumbo lump crab croquettes, suggests, “Pop over to Eat Drink Love, in Ocean Springs, for their lunchtime salads, fresh cheeses, cured meats, and crostini. Some of my favorite hidden gems are La Nortena in Biloxi for excellent Mexican cuisine and Kien Giang in D'Iberville for Vietnamese.”
Corey Christy, communications director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, in Ocean Springs, and bassist for the 10-piece jam-funk band Blackwater Brass, says “My favorite place for lunch is Le Bakery, on Oak St. in Biloxi, where everything is extra-fresh and the prices are unbelievably affordable. My current favorite dinner spot is Patio 44, in Biloxi, with great bar service and a very diverse menu, including seafood gumbo with shrimp, oysters, and crab meat.”
Borries says, “Woody’s Roadside, in Biloxi, is definitely at the top of my list. Every time I’m home I make sure to stop by and grab one of their signature burgers. Phoenicia Gourmet Restaurant, in Ocean Springs, is another good option if you’re in the mood for local seafood like blackened shrimp, red snapper, and crab cakes.”
Learn more about eating like a local on the Mississippi Gulf Coast here.
From the beer snob to the party animal, the Gulf Coast has some sipping opportunities to satisfy all tastes. And Christy reminds us that his place of work, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA), in Ocean Springs, throws an annual craft beer tasting. Popular local Gulf Coast breweries include Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, in Kiln, with its refreshing Lazy Saison Belgian-style pale ale, Jefferson Stout, and hoppy Southern Hops’pitality India pale ale; Biloxi Brewing Company’s award-winning flagship Black Gold; and Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, in Gulfport, with its Surfside Wheat Ale and Freemason Golden Ale, perfect for waterfront sipping. Learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s craft breweries here.
LIVE MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE
No day on the Coast is complete without music, and Mississippi boasts a musical history like no other state. If you want to enjoy cool street art with your live entertainment, you can’t go wrong on Fishbone Alley, a new pedestrian walkway in Gulfport that links several music venues, bars, and eateries, allowing travelers to carry beer and cocktails in go-cups from joint to joint.
Our locals chime in on their other favorite night spots. Christy says, “The Government Street Grocery, in Ocean Springs, is my fave for drinks and live music.”
Borries agrees that Government Street Grocery is a must-stop. “Some of my other favorite venues are Mosaics and Murky Waters. They are all within walking distance of each other and have a relaxed laid back atmosphere.”
You must also experience the Mississippi Blues Trail’s coastal sites, where historic theaters, blues joints, and other important structures help visitors trace the history of blues and jazz in communities such as Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, and Pass Christian.
Learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s music and nightlife here.