The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a crowd pleaser.
A trip along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a fantastic way to spend a vacation. As you continue reading, you will discover that I have a bias. Only Harrison County is taken into consideration in this post.
The barrier islands protect the beaches and keep the water calm, making it possible to swim, sail, and enjoy other beach activities. Cat Island is located 6 miles off the coast of Long Beach and can be seen on most days from the beach there. The distance from Gulfport to Ship Island is approximately 12 miles.
From the beach in Biloxi, one can get a good view of Deer Island.
Around half a mile away from Biloxi Beach is where you’ll find Deer Island. The Mighty Mississippi River finally reaches the end of its journey to the ocean and empties all of its sediment into the Gulf of Mexico to the southwest, which is about 50 miles away. The receding tides transport some of the sediment into the region known as the Mississippi Sound, which is located between the coast and the barrier islands.
The Mississippi Sound is the most productive acreage known to man in terms of the production of seafood due to the fact that it combines the fertile fresh waters of the Mississippi River with the calmness created by the barrier islands. There is no other shrimp that even comes close to matching the flavor of those harvested from these waters. You can get them at any of the seafood restaurants in the area, and you will find that you are in love all over again.
A brief look back
Jefferson Davis’s final residence was in Beauvoir.
In 1848, President Jefferson Davis commissioned the construction of Beauvoir to serve as his post-war home as well as his Presidential Library. Davis was the only President of the Confederate States of America. It was here that he passed away in the year 1889.
In those days, Old Pass Christian Road was the primary route for most travelers. This ancient highway is a piece of the historic Old Spanish Trail that has been preserved to this day. Approximately one-half mile inland from the coast, the road travels along a ridge. Old Pass Road is how locals refer to it now after they shortened the name. At the present time, it travels in a sporadic fashion from the west gate of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi to the Bay of Saint Louis at the westernmost tip of Harrison County. It is defeated by obstacles such as the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport and other developments such as subdivisions and other communities. Old Pass Road is a heavily traveled four-lane road that stretches all the way from the west gate of Keesler to the east gate of the Seabee Base.
A Historical Lighthouse
The Biloxi Lighthouse was constructed in 1848.
In the same year, 1848, that construction on Beauvoir began, the Biloxi Lighthouse was constructed. It was the first lighthouse in the south to be constructed out of steel. The historic Biloxi lighthouse, which was once situated on the water’s edge of the Gulf of Mexico, can now be found in the middle of a four-lane highway. After being submerged in a salty brine to a depth of 22 feet by Hurricane Katrina, the historic lighthouse did not reopen to the public until 2010, following extensive repairs. There are tours available every day.
Meet the modern Mississippi Coast
Along US Highway 90, Harrison County stretches from the Bay of Saint Louis to the Bay of Biloxi, both to the east and to the west. When traveling from west to east along the coast, the beachfront communities you’ll pass through are Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, and finally Biloxi. Long Beach was a sleepy little town that served as a bedroom community when I was growing up there. Although there hasn’t been much in the way of commercial development in Long Beach, it’s still a wonderful place to call home.
When I was a kid, United States Route 90 was still only two lanes wide. There was no Sea Wall to prevent the Gulf of Mexico from entering the city. In the event of a tropical depression or severe thunderstorm, the highway would be submerged in water. Sand beaches were rare, but they did occur naturally in a few locations; however, on the majority of the beachfront, the water came right up to the edge of the road.
Building The Sea Wall Awakened the MS Gulf Coast
Highway 90 and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were separated by a sea wall beginning construction in the early 1940s. After the Sea Wall was constructed, individuals were able to sit on it and fish or catch crabs from that location.
The construction of the Sea Wall resulted in the creation of a man-made beach. The only things that break up the expanse of this beach are the Yacht Clubs, Port of Gulfport, and other small craft harbors. It allowed cities and private individuals to construct wooden piers, rock piles, and public facilities that punctuate the beach area.
I watched them build the beach
When I was a kid, I got to see them construct the sand beach. When I think back on it, I can still picture the dredge boat anchored about 250 yards off the coast. Over the course of two years, dredging operations never stopped. Warning The markers that were set by the dredging crews are still present.
Yellow caution signs are displayed on posts that form a line through the Gulf approximately 250 yards offshore. Swimmers are advised to use caution in the area beyond the posts because the water will be deeper there. While the dredge was moving sand to the new beach, it cut a path across the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in the formation of deep water in the underwater trench.
They brought massive amounts of water and sand up from the bottom of the gulf and pumped it onto the expanse that is located close to the sea wall. A mushy carpet of water-filled sand was left behind after the sand settled out of the water. While my brother and I were watching the water spray, we saw some fish being spewed out of the dredge pipe and they were flapping their fins. The vacuum that was being created by the dredge boat caused the fish to be drawn into the pipe. We ran through the spray and caught the fish while standing on the spongy sand in the water. It was similar to catching fly balls in the right field. Within a quarter of an hour, we had caught enough fish and blue crab to fill a wash tub.
The sand was gradually transformed into a brilliant white color by the sun’s rays over the course of time. The graininess of the sand is very appealing. Even though it can get quite warm during the summer months, the surface is ideal for activities such as walking, running, and sunbathing.
Gulfport’s beaches play host to a variety of migratory birds.
The predominant species of waterfowl are seagulls, but there are also brown pelicans and birds that migrate through the area. In the spring, certain areas of the beach are cordoned off in order to provide Least Terns with areas suitable for mating. Before concerned citizens and local governments worked together to improve their nesting grounds, this tiny bird was on the verge of extinction. They were also threatened by the threat of an oil spill, but today they stand as a bountiful and beautiful testament to the concern of the public.
The beach can be found all the way from Henderson Point, which is on the Bay of St. Louis, all the way down to the Bay of Biloxi. Beautiful four-lane bridges, complete with designated areas for walking and cycling, crown the bays at both ends of the roadway. The beach stretches for a total of 26 miles, making it the longest man-made beach in the world.
After the beach was finished being constructed, there was an incredible increase in the number of tourists. In the beginning, it had a distinctively American taste to it. There were a lot of people staying in tourist courts because motels had not yet been invented. The majority of tourist courts had driveways that led off of US Highway 90. On either side of the driveway was a row of small cabins, each of which featured one or two bedrooms, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a living room and dining area that were both compacts. People who lived in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana came here and built bungalows or bought beachfront property so that they could take weekend trips and vacations there.
In the late 1940s, Harrison County took bold action and constructed a paved road along the waterfront that featured four lanes. The vast majority of the route consists of a divided highway. It is widely considered to be one of the most scenic drives in all of the United States. To the south of the highway, there is a view of the sand beach and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico that is unobstructed.
That was then … But this is now
Along the coast of today’s coastlines, one can find contemporary motels, casino hotels, condos, and high-rise apartments. People travel to the coast via tributaries that branch off of Interstate 10, which carries the majority of the traffic going east to west. The United States Highway 49, which is a very good four-lane road, serves as the primary north-south artery. Ancient oak trees can be found populating the space between the two roads in this area.
As a result of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, the trunks of some of the trees have been intricately carved to resemble various species of birds and marine life.
There was a time when the area to the north of US 90 was dotted with stately homes. There are still a good number of people living in Pass Christian and Biloxi. However, Hurricane Katrina was responsible for the destruction of the majority of them from Long Beach to Gulfport. Some of the homes have been updated, while others are brand new constructions. Rebuilding everything from scratch is still only a pipe dream.
The first people to settle in this region came from the Slavic countries of Europe and started a boat-building industry when they got here. On the “back-bay” of Biloxi is where the boatyards are located. Boat builders and other marine industries have a safe haven in the protected waters that surround the north side of Biloxi, which is reached by following the Biloxi Bay loop. In days gone by, the shores of Biloxi’s back bay were lined with processing plants for seafood. The sector is still active, albeit on a much smaller scale than it once was.
There are now restaurants that specialize in serving seafood because there is so much of it. Tons of shrimp, oysters, blue crabs, flounder, and shrimp are caught during the fishing season. The mullet is the most popular fish in this area. You can see the locals fishing for mullets by “cast-netting” in the shallow waters near the shore as they wade out into the water. The fish has a flavor that is all its own, and it is very well liked. When they were given the name “Biloxi Bacon,” mullets were elevated to the status of royalty. They are versatile enough for all three of my daily meals. At night, flounder congregate in the shallow water that is close to the beach in large numbers. They are pursued by fishermen using a light and an instrument called a flounder gig. During the warm summer nights, there are hundreds of fishermen floating around aimlessly.
Gulf Excursions and Sport Fishing Are Big
Pass Christian, Gulfport, and Biloxi all have harbors that are used as departure points for deep sea fishing charters. Passengers can take daylong or half-day trips on excursion boats that transport them to Ship Island. The water and waves on the south side of the island are absolutely breathtaking. Hurricane Camille cleaved Ship Island in half, creating two separate islands. Ship Island has a history that can be traced back to the 1600s. Pay a visit to Fort Massachusetts, which was constructed between 1859 and 1866.
Unrestricted Fun for Everyone
Celebrations of Mardi Gras can be found in most coastal towns. On Fat Tuesday, Biloxi hosts not one but two parades. At various points throughout the season, there are also other parades. The Pass Christian parade is a particular favorite of the locals.
Gulfport is home to a number of museums, casinos, and shopping destinations, including the Edgewater Mall and the Outlet Mall. There are surf shops and souvenir stands in every direction you look.
When the timing is right, there are seafood festivals, Gulfport hosts the world’s largest deep sea fishing rodeo, and an automobile extravaganza is known as Cruizin’ the Coast attracts thousands of participants. “Snowbirds” are golfers who frequent this area during the winter months. Hey, there’s just no way to cram everything into that space.
The experience of going there is one that never gets old.
When we go on our next trip, maybe we’ll run into you there.