I took a road trip in March from New Orleans to Florida with my parents for the purpose of seeing my 49th state, Alabama. My previous visit to Mississippi, just a quick meal over the state line, gave me no real idea of what to expect in the state. You can read about it in the New Orleans Day Trip post.
I didn’t know that Mississippi has long white sand beaches and lots of birds to see. We headed to Biloxi mainly because it was on the way to Alabama. But, fortuitously, we chose to spend some time in Biloxi because it ended up as a highlight of my trip. There are so many things to do in Biloxi; we could have spent much more time than two days there.
The beaches are the main reason that I loved the area so much. The people are also so very friendly and willing to hold a conversation with you. As happened in much of our trip, the conversation often turns to the talk of hurricanes, which have ravaged the area.
Biloxi is named after the Native American tribe that lived there when the French “discovered” it. Throughout history, it has been declared part of France, England, Spain, the Confederacy, and the US.
Its location near the mouth of the Mississippi River and on the Gulf Coast led to its development as a summer resort for southerners as early as the early 1800s. Since Cajuns also moved in to work in the seafood and cannery industries, you can feel their influence in the food and celebrations.
I am interested in them, but there are a few casinos you can visit in Biloxi.
Things to Do in Biloxi, Mississippi
Although the water is brown due to the runoff of the Mississippi River and the dirt being trapped in by the area’s barrier island, the sand is soft and white. The shore also gently slopes into the gulf. We found fewer crowds here than farther east and many birds to watch. If you are interested in birds, I found five species new to me, including white pelicans.
This Georgian-style house on the coast of Biloxi is almost 200 years old. It was the home to the only president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and a retirement home for his army’s soldiers. It is set on 52 acres of swamps and woodlands and has a Confederate cemetery. There is also a building containing a museum and library. Although the history of the Confederacy may be problematic, the house is interesting; built on stilts and survived multiple hurricanes. There are waterfront cottages on the property available for nightly rent.
There are tours offered hourly that you can just show up for (or you can buy here before you go), or you can pre-book a presidential tour by calling the site. On this tour, which lasts 2-3 hours, you will be privately guided throughout the whole property. If you have any mobility issues, this is the best idea.
I am always interested in seeing how food and spirits are produced. One of my best memories from my travels to Maine was a lobster boat tour in Portland.
On every menu along our route, shrimp was on offer. As Bubba Gump said, prepared in hundreds of cooking styles. The Gulf holds some of the sweetest shrimp in the world.
This 70-minute tour took us right offshore within the channel, so the ride was always very calm. There were about 40 people on the boat. We sat on top so we could enjoy the sun and views, but the bottom level gives a better view of the shrimp nets.
We learned about how important shrimp fishing is to the area, why the shrimp are so tasty, and how the season works.
The captain unfurled a shrimp net into the bay so we could see how it functions. It also served to call and excite many laughing gulls who were in the area en mass breeding. Since we didn’t arrive in season, not many shrimp came up in the net because they are still too small. The boat had shrimp and a few local fish in a tank, so we could still see and hold shrimp. In the past, they have pulled up all sorts of marine life in the net, including a sting ray. There are also dolphins that hang out in the harbor.
Shrimping season changes every year but tends to run from May until December. It starts when the water gets warm enough that the shrimp grow large.
We also learned how to tell the difference between the three kinds of shrimp that the gulf produces, brown, white, and pink. They look the same when they are alive, except for the length of their antennae.
I love lighthouses, and this one confused me at first. It doesn’t sit on the water but rather in the middle of Highway 90 (Ocean Road). Because of this, I thought it was a statue, but it is actually a lighthouse.
Built in 1848, it was the first cast-iron lighthouse in the South and stood on the water’s edge. The lighthouse wasn’t moved, but a seawall was built in front of it. It has been kept by females for more years than any other lighthouse in the US.
There are free lighthouse tours daily, weather permitting, at 9 am, which do not require reservations.
Where to Stay in Biloxi, Mississippi
We stayed in the Hampton Inn, Biloxi, and were very happy with it. It was inexpensive, right across from the water, has a pool and jacuzzi, a nice free buffet breakfast, and allows dogs. Each morning I would walk right across the street and walk on the beach.
You can also stay in the guesthouses on the Beauvior Property. You can reserve them by calling the museum.
Where to Eat in Biloxi, Mississippi
We were looking for two things in a dinner restaurant in Biloxi- local food and a great view. We found both at Shaggy’s. The shrimp was excellent, and the hush puppies were the best I had on this road trip, full of sweet onions.
I hope I have inspired you to visit this lovely seaside town on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
Have you visited Mississippi?