Gulfport Mississippi is the second-largest city in this state, nestled right on the Gulf Coast. The area has long been the summer playground of people in New Orleans, who sought to escape summer’s oppressive heat. Today, this vibrant city, easily accessible from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, has something to offer every visitor!
7 Best Things To Do in Gulfport Gulfport Mississippi
The area is full of history, art and culture, seafood shacks, and, of course, beaches! Outdoor enthusiasts will get their share of fun fishing, kayaking, and just hitting the area’s sugar-sand stretches along the warm and calm Gulf of Mexico/Mississippi Sound waters. Here are a few of our favorite things to see and do in and around downtown Gulfport MS. (You can also read my account of exploring Mississippi’s Gulf Coast!)
1. Gulfport Beach
Gulfport Beach is beloved by locals and tourists alike and is a terrific place to spend the day in the sun, sand, and surf. This man-made beach isn’t that wide but is quite long, extending all the way into neighboring Biloxi. The sand is soft, and for the most part, it’s quieter here than in other stops along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
While the water isn’t pristine, it is shallow and refreshing. Bring a picnic, book, towels, and drinks if you’re looking for a low-key outing. If you don’t want to DIY your beach day, there are plenty of umbrella rentals and quite a few cafes nearby where you can duck in for a nosh and get a break from the sun. Free parking is available near the beach and along the nearby highway.
2. Water Sports
Gulfport is the perfect place to get active on the water, whether it’s simply swimming or sea kayaking, paddle boarding, or even jet-skiing. There are water equipment rentals up and down Gulfport Beach, which makes it easy to ramp up the adventure factor during your beach break!
If you’re an angler, or there’s one in your traveling party, consider a fishing charter to really take your vacation over the top. There are plenty from which to choose in Gulfport, and most offer a full-day, full-service experience including gear, bait, pre-purchased licenses, and even cleaning service for whatever you’re lucky enough to bring to the surface!
Pro Tip: If you’re an active walker or jogger, a stroll or run down Beach Boulevard is a must!
3. Ship Island
A dozen miles offshore from the city of Gulfport lies Ship Island. You’ll need to take a roundtrip ferry to get to the barrier island, but trust us, you won’t Ship Island excursions! This pristine, sandy stretch is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is absolutely teeming with sea creatures.
For starters, keep an eye out for pelicans and dolphins on the ferry ride. Ship Island, with its crystal-clear water and unspoiled beaches, is also home to horseshoe crabs, seabirds, and even colorful fish. They can all be spotted here, making it a favorite place for snorkelers. Ship Island is also home to Fort Massachusetts, a historic base built after the War of 1812; it is open today for tours.
Pack smart for your outing: The full and direct sun on the Ship Island can blaze right off the clear water, and there aren’t many shady spots where you can escape its wrath. Slather on that sunscreen, stay well-hydrated, and consider wearing SPF gear.
4. Jones Park
Want to get your daily steps in on terra firma instead of sand? Head to Gulfport’s Jones Park, an expansive green space that sits adjacent to the city’s marina. Strolling through now, it’s hard to believe that after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the entire area was under 25 feet of storm surge, and once that receded, muck.
Rebuilding the park took 7 years, at the coast of $40 million, but today, it’s one of the Gulfport area’s crown jewels. The park routinely hosts special events in its two amphitheaters, and there are paved walking trails throughout.
5. Aquariums, Marine Parks, And More
In Gulfport MS, there are a variety of places you can meet the marine creatures that also call the city, beach, and gulf home. The Mississippi Aquarium, a nonprofit organization, is a brand-new space with a mission to tell the story of Mississippi’s marine life. Residents include alligators, river otters, dolphins, and stingrays.
The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies cares for wounded or sick gulf animals, while at the same time providing interactive programming for visitors; the Institute’s Ocean Adventures Marine Park offers many different encounters and experiences with the animals at a variety of price points.
6. Fishbone Alley
Fishbone Alley is the entryway to Gulfport’s thriving arts scene. Once used for trash storage, this side-alley secret, with its laid-back, funky vibe, now celebrates the intersection of art and culture with its bold, colorful murals. The alley backs up into pubs, cafes, and galleries.
Artists from Harrison County and across the Gulf Coast are periodically asked to leave their mark here, so the alley rarely looks the same for very long. Festivals, concerts, and other live performances take place here often. It’s the perfect place to grab a nightcap after a day on the beach!
7. Friendship Oak
A short drive east of Gulfport, down Highway 90, and you’ll reach the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park. While the campus is charming, what you want to see is the Friendship Oak. This hulking live oak is estimated to be more than 500 years old, and miraculously survived Hurricane Katrina’s wrath as well as storms that wrecked the coast in the centuries before. It’s a stunning natural wonder that has been the site of countless weddings, meetups, and picnics, so it shouldn’t be a surprise the Friendship Tree is one of the most photographed nature’s historic sites and landmarks on the Mississippi Gulf coast!
Best Restaurants In Gulfport
Seafood is king here, and the Gulf waters produce beautiful shrimp, crabs, oysters, and fish, all as fresh as can be! You’ll find it prepared in a variety of ways: fried, sauteed, blackened, and grilled. Here are our top picks for the downtown area and the beach.
Half Shell Oyster House
The Half Shell Oyster House is a great place to grab a bite, with a decidedly French Quarter flair. Located in a historic building in downtown Gulfport, it’s known for incredible local fish, plus pasta and steaks.
Shaggy’s Beach Bar
Shaggy’s Beach Bar, right on Beach Blvd., has stunning Gulf views with a laid-back family vibe. Its seafood and Southern pub grub fare (including crab cakes and fried green tomatoes!) are a great value.
BR Prime At Beau Rivage
If you’re in the mood for a great steak, consider making a reservation at Beau Rivage’s BR Prime. The casino’s swankiest restaurant does not disappoint.
Chandeleur Island Brewing
To get your brew on, head to Chandeleur Island Brewing downtown. This craft brewery is friendly and welcoming and has a large variety of beers rotating through its taps.
For a cool-down that will satisfy any sweet tooth, you’ll want to hit Pop Brothers. This artisan popsicle stand has creamy, fruity, and indulgent varieties of pops, including mango, strawberry, Nutella, and Oreo cheesecake, just to name a few.
Best Places To Stay In Gulfport
Gulfport is blessed with a wide array of overnight options to suit any sort of visitor. There are high-rise condominium complexes, which offer incredible Gulf views and are often available on home-share sites. Casino resorts also abound all around Gulfport, including amenities such as on-site golf courses, spas, and, of course, slots to go with their luxe rooms!
The Oasis Resort is just steps from the beach and features comfortable, affordable suites. If you’re looking for a slower pace during your Gulfport visit, no worries. There are plenty of seaside cottages and historic inns to consider: The Oak Crest Mansion Inn was built back in 1920 and has been charming guests since reopening after an extensive renovation in 2009. Visitors rave about its gorgeous park-like setting and luxe guest suites.
Word to the wise: Gulfport, while charming, is not the most walkable city. Many of its attractions are widely spread out along Highway 90. If you’re not bringing a car with you, plan to call a ride-share service, or consider public transportation. The Coast Transit Authority provides comprehensive bus service for just $1.50 a ride.
Shopping In Gulfport
Whatever you want, Gulfport has it! For unique artisanal gifts, the downtown Gulfport art galleries and antique stores are just the places. For children’s gifts choose from a wide selection of hip boutiques. And if you’re in the mood for a full day of shopping, Gulfport’s Premium Outlets Mall is not to be missed.
This huge shopping center features over 70 designer and name-brand stores, including favorites like Nike, Coach, Michael Kors, and Polo Ralph Lauren. Apart from fantastic retail options, the Gulfport Premium Outlets offer great dining choices perfect for refueling after the shopping spree.
Best Time To Visit Gulfport, Mississippi
Gulfport can be enjoyed almost all year round because of its moderate winter and summer temperatures. For the travelers though, the period between May to July is the safest time to get on the road. Since Gulfport’s weather is heavily impacted by oceanic currents, winters tend to be mild and short, while summers are pretty humid.
The hottest months are July and August and December is probably the wettest. Storms are most likely between August and October, but hurricanes do not occur every year in the state, making Mississippi’s most beautiful towns even more inviting.
Is Going To Gulfport Harbour Light Winter Festival Worth It?
Yes! The show is now Mississippi’s Largest Christmas Light Show with over 1.5 million lights in Jones Park. Visitors can ride carnival rides, enjoy the “Dancing Trees” Show, or stroll through Santa’s Village. Each year the show grows and brings new surprises!
Are There Any Waterparks In Gulfport?
Yes, waterparks are a great way to cool off during your Gulfport getaway. The most popular is the Gulf Islands Waterpark where your kids can meet the stars from Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, watch Sea Lion Shows, Frisbee Dog Shows, and more.
Can You Go Off-Roading In Gulfport?
Yes, South Mississippi Off-Road & RV Park is the most popular one in MS. It is a place to come for the weekend and relax so jump in your ATV, SxS, Jeep, or mud truck and take a ride around the many miles of offroad trails.
Where Can You Run In Gulfport?
With sandy beaches, flat terrain, and gorgeous views coastwide, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a runner’s paradise. For those who want more elevation, the Coffee Creek Recreational Trail trail, owned by the City of Gulfport, is free and open to the public.
Is Fishing Allowed Off The Piers Or The Beach In Gulfport?
Yes, it is. Fishing piers and beaches are located throughout the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast but recreational fishers in Mississippi are required to have a Mississippi State Saltwater Fishing License. You can get one at various locations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.