Fun things to do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast include seeing funky art and gorgeous oak trees, savoring spectacular sunsets, sugar sand beaches, and seafood, and so much more.
In my worldwide search for cool, fun, and happy destinations, Coastal Mississippi quickly moved up my favorite places to visit list after my first visit. I expected the Mississippi coast casinos and a Fins Up vibe—due to local hero Jimmy Buffett—but many about along the Mississippi Gulf Coast surprised me.
Surprised me in a good way, that is.
Thank you to Coastal Mississippi tourism for hosting me on several occasions.
Fun Things To Do On The Mississippi Gulf Coast
Coastal Mississippi Southern Oak Trees
Oaks, oaks, and more oaks. Nothing enhances my #WanderFreude—Joy of Travel—more than the magnificent Southern live oaks along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “My name is Charles. I love oak trees and cannot lie.” Call Morris Day and if there is an OA addiction group, start the intervention.
Here are a half dozen spots to see the best Coastal Mississippi live oak trees.
— Friendship Oak, Long Beach MS
On any Coastal Mississippi trip, allow time to visit the Friendship Oak at University of Southern Mississippi in Long Beach. In an area with many magnificent oak trees, the Friendship Oak reigns as the oldest and most prominent. It is over 500 years old but lost a huge branch during a storm in 2018.
— Ruskin Oak, Ocean Springs MS
The Ruskin oak tree in Ocean Springs is estimated to be over 325 years old and is a majestic sight to see. There are so many things to do in Ocean Springs MS but exploring the town’s oaks is among my favorite.
— Lovers Lane in Ocean Springs MS
Many Ocean Springs residents know about Lovers Lane and I was thrilled to have a local expert—Anna Roy the extraordinary Public/Media Relations Manager for Coastal Mississippi—show me around the area on my last visit. Lovers Lane is in a residential section of Ocean Springs, on the right side of the Biloxi Bay Bridge when heading west (to Biloxi). Exit highway 90 by McElroy’s or you will have to continue all the way across the bridge. When you find Lovers Lane and the surrounding small streets, you will be rewarded with gorgeous oaks all along the streets, creating a canopy across roads, and in most of the giant properties. Breathe, enjoy, and hug!
— More Ocean Springs Oak Trees
A favorite spot of mine for oak tree spotting is a house at the corner of Martin and Cleveland in Ocean Springs, a small lot with a dozen oaks. It is less than a block from The Roost (where I stayed for three nights) and I walked by this house many times. Just walking near this house made me happy, I cannot imagine how lucky the residents are.
See more of our favorite Things to Do in Ocean Springs.
Also in Ocean Springs bask in the magnificent batch of magnificent oak trees by Anthony’s Under the Oaks and the Julep Room Lounge and all along downtown Ocean Springs on Washington Avenue.
See also our favorite Places to Stay in Ocean Springs
— Pretty Oaks in Pascagoula MS
Driving around the Moss Point area of Pascagoula, where I was told there are beautiful oak trees, I found this street.
Visiting the live oak tree at Mary Mahoney’s is one of our favorite things to do in Biloxi. Although the restaurant owners claim the tree is over 2,000 years old, independent tree experts say the Friendship Oak is the oldest oak tree along the Mississippi coast (at about 540 years old). So, you be the judge but make sure you visit this grand oak tree.
Later in this article I will gush about the creative and artistic Mississippi Gulf Coast people. Here is a great example. Old and damaged oak trees are not simply removed but are lovingly transformed into public art. The below angel oak tree is in Bay St. Louis.
Even Coastal Mississippi live oaks that no longer exist can be amazing. The remains of a multi hundred year old oak near Hotel Pass Christian has a trunk diameter of over seven feet.
Coastal Mississippi Celebrates Mardi Gras Every Day of the Year
While touring the Biloxi Shuckers (local AA baseball team) stadium, the marketing director mentioned that they will have a “half way to Mardi Gras” promotion in August. That sounded fun and was definitely not the only time I heard about Mardi Gras. Seems like every other mailbox and plenty of trees still have beads—in June, for heaven’s sake.
One local small business owner told me Mardi Gras is on everyone’s mind year round—from the western Louisiana border (with Texas) to east of Mobile. I shall deem that region the #MardiGrasBelt.
McCool Travel note: The Coastal Mississippi Mardi Gras Museum opened in November 2019 in downtown Biloxi.
Coastal Mississippi Funkiness #MSCoastLife
Certainly most US Gulf Coast beach communities have funky and artsy vibes but that art funkiness is pervasive and prevalent along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They embrace and celebrate their funk here. In fact, one local small business owner told me, “we are different from the rest of Mississippi. Everything below I-10 is cool.”
Driving east on Beach Boulevard (US highway 90) between the casinos, your eyes will dance when seeing the ultra funky Ohr-O’Keefe Museum. Designed by Frank Gehry, it is Cali cool with Southern charm.
Drive a little further east and across the street from the Margaritaville Resort Biloxi you will see the funkiest Catholic Church. Take my word for it and see with your own eyes. I love that residents create outdoor art galleries in their front and back yards. Even non-artists (like me) can get away with that.
While everyone wants to be an artist, only a select few become commercially successful. Visit Shearwater Pottery and Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs and learn about the legendary local Anderson family.
The artistic mentality of Mississippi Gulf Coast extends to their food and drink. I simply had to, really had to, try the grit beer at Hops and Growlers in Ocean Springs. While the grit beer highlighted my experience, I also sampled other craft brews, including You Got the Beet and Oh My Porter. See also our favorite Coastal Mississippi Craft Beer places.
Please also see Fun Gulf Coast Bars, Breweries, and Beverage Spots.
Science and Nature Along Mississippi Coast
— Pascagoula River Tour
Impress your friends and frenemies with this factoid: Pascagoula River is the largest free-flowing (undammed) river in the continental USA.
What that means is that you can witness gorgeous natural scenery which looks the same as it did 10,000 years ago. Well, actually, the Pascagoula River watershed area changes all the time but my point should be that you should visit it and see a natural wonderland with your own eyes. The 32 varieties of clams and mussels in the Pascagoula River are more than every other North American river (except two).
— Mississippi Space Coast
Space exploration does not happen without the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While rockets launch from Florida and California, and mission control is in Houston, it all starts in Mississippi. NASA rockets and parts are tested at the Stennis Space Center long before entering service. They are currently testing the B25 engine for deep space exploration.
But space exploration is not the only game at Stennis. GPS was invented here. I was surprised to learn that Stennis Space Center has more oceanographers than any other facility in the world and the only Navy Exchange at a non-military property. The Secret Coast is the Space Coast!
— Fun Science at INFINITY Space Center
Take a bus tour of Stennis from the INFINITY Science Center—where you can see carnivorous plants (yes!), incredibly fascinating hands-on activities (create your own hurricane, design a flood-proof city), the largest and most powerful engine ever created, and much more. Their deep ocean immersive experience and Apollo 11 ride simulated ride are popular attractions.
Between INFINITY and Bay St. Louis, the Westonia Scenic Byway to Space and Beach Boulevard Scenic Byway are fun Mississippi scenic drives. Those Hancock County Mississippi Scenic Byways are much more interesting than I-10 or even highway 90.
— Coastal Mississippi Liquid Road Trip on Wolf River
I love liquid road trips and kayaking the Wolf River, especially during a lightning storm, was thrilling. Wolf River Canoe & Kayak provides boats, transports you a few miles up river, and lets you do your thing. I brought along a collection of yummy goodies from Serious Bread in Bay St. Louis and another group brought a whole cooler for their #LiquidRoadTrip adventure. Fun!
I may or may not have heard banjo music but there was definitely lightning, so I pulled up on a beach until the storm passed. McCool Travel tip: bring drinks and snacks and look for petrified wood along the river banks.
See also our Complete Guide to Kayaking on Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Some places to visit to learn about the nature of Mississippi Gulf Coast include Pascagoula River Audubon Center, Marine Education Center, Gulf Islands National Seashore (meet the local gators), and Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum.
Coastal Mississippi Ethnic Fusion
Biloxi has vibrant Vietnamese and Croatian communities. That surprised me but also makes a lot of sense. Vietnamese fishermen brought their techniques to Coastal Mississippi to what was once the world’s most prolific seafood provider. Biloxi is still the shrimping capital of the world (#BigShrimpin). Croatians began immigrating to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1897 to work in the seafood canning factories.
Check out Le Bakery Cafe in Biloxi for remarkable Bahn Mi po’ boys and French sweets.
Coastal Mississippi People
So totally trite and overused (not by me, though) is the concept of people making a place special. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of best examples I have experienced. With casinos, military, and other industries, the Mississippi Gulf Coast population is definitely transient. However, the people I met along the Mississippi coast absolutely love it here. They choose to be here.
My Coastal Mississippi host (Anna Roy) is from Belgium. The happiest hotel manager I ever met relocated from Michigan. The happiest hotel worker I ever met—at the same hotel, The Roost in Ocean Springs—has Croatian ancestry. An absolutely riveting and disruptive young entrepreneur at Le Bakery (above) is Vietnamese via San Diego. The Bay Town Inn former owner ran tourism sales in New Orleans. She (Nikki Moon) told me that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is where people from New Orleans choose to vacation. And on and on.
There are even native locals. Amanda, the owner of Paddles Up in Ocean Springs, lived elsewhere for awhile but returned to her childhood hometown because it is in her blood. Dave, the first mate on the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, is super entertaining and informative and their shrimp tour is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Biloxi and one of our favorite unique US Gulf Coast activities.
Coastal Mississippi Beaches
Soft sand and wide beaches define the beaches all along the Gulf of Mexico, from Southwest Florida all the way up and around to Bay St. Louis. Mississippi beaches are clean, inviting, and parking is plentiful right next to the beach. I love that!
Please also see Gulf Coast Events: Fun Festivals in Southeast USA.
Where to Eat Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Seafood, especially shrimp, is super fresh along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A few amazing #BigShrimpin’ entrees are shrimp and grits at Le Cafe Beignet in Biloxi, old school classic po’ boys at Bozo’s Grocery in Pascagoula, and Royal Red shrimp at The Blind Tiger right on the beach in Biloxi.
Other places to eat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast include The Shed (remarkable BBQ), Whiskey Prime (incredible fried oysters and filet mignon), Vestige (heirloom tomatoes and high quality sourced ingredients), TatoNut Doughnut Shop(they use potato flour), Eat Drink Love (massive roast beef sandwich), Doe’s Eat Place (scrumptious filet mignon) at Margaritaville Resort Biloxi, and The Green House (daily sweet and savory biscuit specials).
See also our favorite Coastal Mississippi Restaurants.
Please also see our guide to the Best Gulf Coast Restaurants.
Coastal Mississippi Bars and Drinking Spots
The Wilbur Craft Cocktail and Wine Bar was called the “most beautifully designed bar in Mississippi” by Architectural Digest. I love their extensive creative cocktail list and rum flights (careful!). The Wilbur Bar is located in The Roost, one of my favorite places to stay along the #USGulfCoast. Make sure you visit the Al Capone speakeasy room at Wilbur.
Even though you are in Jimmy Buffett territory, get your Pitbull fix at iLOV305 at Hard Rock Biloxi. Dale!
Some of the places to catch a sunset with your drink include DaBayou Bar & Grill in Ocean Springs, on the patio of White Pillars (but also DO NOT MISS the magnificent bar inside), or on the outside deck of The Blind Tiger in Biloxi. See also our favorite Gulf Coast sunset spots!
Please also see our favorite Gulf Coast Drinking Spots.
Where to Stay On the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Below are hotels I stayed in during three Mississippi Gulf Coast trips. Please see our Mississippi Gulf Coast Hotels article for more details about and reviews on these Mississippi coast properties and my Margaritaville Resort Biloxi review.
Our favorite Bay St. Louis hotel: Bay Town Inn
Our favorite place to stay in Pass Christian: Hotel Pass Christian
Where to stay in Ocean Springs:
- The Roost (named by Architectural Digest as one of most beautiful hotels in US South) and its sister property …
- The Inn at Ocean Springs.
- For a little more space and kitchen amenities, try Front Beach Cottages (I liked Bellande Cottage).
- For A LOT more space, book the three bedroom Love Me Tender, Love Me Suite at Gulf Hills Hotel.
Where to stay in Pascagoula: The Grand Magnolia Ballroom and Suites
McCool Travel tip: Mention that US Gulf Coast Travel and McCool Travel sent you for possible special rates and consideration.
Perhaps the most recent exciting project along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the Mississippi Aquarium. It opened in August 2020. When I last visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast in December 2018, the aquarium staff was excited about the Italian acrylic glass sitting a few blocks away at the port. The glass is for the big viewing wall, which will be 30 feet high, 16 inches think; the largest glass piece weighs 40 tons.
The Mississippi Aquarium, in Gulfport Mississippi, is affiliated with the University of Southern Mississippi research institute—modeled after a similar arrangement at the world famous Monterey Aquarium. The Mississippi Aquarium will be one of only four aquariums to offer the SeaTrek Experience. Visitors can wear a big helmet and plunge into the big pool with sharks. Go for it!
Getting to Coastal Mississippi
Coastal Mississippi snuggles nicely between New Orleans on the west and Mobile on the east. The gorgeous sugar sand beaches of Bay St Louis are about a 75 minute drive from New Orleans airport. A delectable Bozo’s po’ boy can be ordered within 45 minutes of leaving downtown Mobile Alabama. Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport offers nonstop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Fort Myers, Houston, and Orlando.
This Coastal Mississippi map includes places mentioned in this article.
Coastal Mississippi Resources
Before your next Mississippi Gulf Coast trip, please read these articles about things to do in Coastal Mississippi:
- Coastal Mississippi Hidden Gems
- Coastal Mississippi Hotels
- Complete Guide to Kayaking in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Restaurants
- Margaritaville Resort Biloxi
- Things to Do in Biloxi
- Things to Do in Pass Christian
McCool Travel tip: Please mention to restaurant, lodging, attraction, and shop workers that you heard about them on McCool Travel. You might get a better rate or deal!
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