Ocean Springs, an idyllic coastal city on the Mississippi Sound, has all the ingredients for the vacation getaway of your dreams.
With tempting food options ranging from a beloved donut shop to a James Beard Semi-finalist restaurant, you’ll enjoy incredible meals. There’s a white-sand beach perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and viewing breathtaking sunsets. The fantastic shopping and live music along Government Street make for an exciting downtown district. And famed artist Walter Anderson’s paintings inspire an art vibe everywhere you go. For active people, there are more outdoor activities than you can schedule in one getaway.
Only 24 miles from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport by car, Ocean Springs is easy to get to but hard to leave. The neighboring cities along the sound are all unique, but here are the best outdoor activities in this small town gem if you decide to stay put.
Note: I was a guest of Coastal Mississippi for portions of this trip and was hosted for some meals and some of the activities during my stay. All opinions are my own.
1. Discover The Arts And Biking
The Walter Anderson Museum of Art offers a unique excursion around Ocean Springs led by Education Director Tony DiFatta. The tour starts in the museum with the new exhibition, Walter Inglis Anderson: The South’s Most Elusive Artist. As you become inspired by Mr. Anderson, you’ll discover that he rode his bicycle around Ocean Springs and thousands of miles to New York, Texas, and beyond.
After viewing his famous bike, you’ll hop on yours. You’ll tour various Ocean Springs historical places, including Walter Anderson’s cottage (not open to the public), Shearwater Pottery, (his older brother Peter’s workshop), and more. Loaner bikes are available for group or personal tours.
If you want to bike around Ocean Springs, take the 15.5-mile round trip Live Oak Bicycle Trail throughout downtown and into the Davis Bayou Area. Follow the green and white bike-route signs on the right side of the city streets. Maps are available at the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce inside the historic train L & N Railroad depot. Bike rentals are located here.
2. Put Your Toes In The Sand
In Ocean Springs, Front Beach is the place to go, starting at Biloxi Bay Bridge and stretching to Ocean Springs Harbor. If you want, you can even walk or run over the bridge. There’s plenty or nothing to do; it all depends on you. If you want to be close to the action, settle near Fort Maurepas Park, the highest point in Ocean Springs. You’ll spy a bronze statue of Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville, the war hero and naval captain. He founded the first permanent settlement in Louisiana.
The park overlooks the beautiful sandy beach, which is dog friendly. Amenities include fishing piers, a covered pavilion, bonfire pits, volleyball courts, and an oversized chessboard. There’s also a mile-long bike path for running, biking, and walking.
If you’re not into all the activity, drive along Front Beach and across the bridge to the East Beach, where it’s quiet. If you’d like some nice chairs for the day, contact Belly Up Beach Chairs. Owner Rita Paoletti started her business in 2016 and hasn’t looked back. She will set up resort-style chairs for you in either location. Make a reservation ahead of time by booking on her site.
3. Picnic At The Beach
If you want to have a special meal, event, or evening right on Front Beach or East Beach, contact Coastal Picnic & Company. Tina Dinh and Maegan Fisackerly will create a stunning scene at either location. Choose the day, style, and add-ons; they will do the rest. Coastal provides 2 hours of enchanting picnic vibes that include music, charcuterie, or meals catered by partner Eat Drink Love. Event planning is their passion, and if you want them to craft an afternoon beachside, review their website.
Perhaps you would enjoy a chef-prepared meal at the beach instead? Chef Michael Paoletti and his wife Stephanie are trained culinary professionals whose business, Food, Booze, & Hiccups, shifted to pop-up tasting menus during the pandemic. They will cook for you at the beach or on their grass lot in town and create five-course meals for 2 to 24 guests. They also craft intimate experiences for couples or small groups, including romantic s’mores and bonfire evenings on the sand, complete with Stephanie’s homemade marshmallows.
4. Build A Sandcastle
If you ever wanted to learn how to build the perfect sandcastle, hire Sand Castle University. Janel Hawkins started her business in 2017 and never looked back. She will bring all her tools and know-how to Front Beach and teach your small or large group how to build the perfect sandcastle. The two-hour class is ideal for a large group, such as a birthday party, or Janel can tailor it down to a couple or a small group of four. She will take you through the steps and then let creativity fly. After the class, she will snap a photo of your creations for you to keep.
Janel compares her lessons to group painting classes. “Get a fun group together and enjoy the day playing in the sand. Ocean Springs is a creative place, and inspiration is easy to find here.”
5. Visit Gulf Islands National Seashore At Davis Bayou
You can bike the 15.5 miles roundtrip or drive into the Davis Bayou Area, three miles east of downtown Ocean Springs. Either way, your first stop should be the William M. Colmer Visitor Center. Here you will discover exhibits about the islands off the coast and the four that make up The Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi. There’s a fishing pier right off the visitor center, a great place to cast off.
You can also take a map which details all the short hiking trails around the Bayou. You’ll encounter alligators and several species of birds, including bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, and the Mississippi sandhill crane. There are campgrounds with 51 sites, a small boat launch, and shaded picnic areas.
Pro Tip: Check the website for unexpected closures. Remember to bring water, bug spray, and sunscreen for biking or hiking. Food is not available, so please pack your own.
6. Fish Off Shore
Reel Southern Charters has everything you need for the perfect day of fishing. Your private charter includes a four-, six-, or eight-hour excursion with up to four people aboard. Everything is included, from license to cleaning and filleting your catch. Captain David Kuehn is in his fifth season and knows all the best fishing spots around the barrier islands and in Biloxi’s Back Bay. You might catch red snapper, cobia, redfish, speckled trout, or black drum.
When you return, head to Knuckleheads in town, where they’ll cook your catch for you.
7. Boat Out To Horn Island For The Day
Reel Southern Charters also offers a water taxi out to Horn Island, the barrier island closest to Ocean Springs, where Walter Anderson was inspired by the natural world. This beautiful island has no facilities, as it is uninhabited. Set up your beach chairs for a few hours and enjoy the peace and clear blue water. You can also hike the island and explore nature.
Captain David will drive up to six passengers out to Horn Island for a few relaxing hours and then return to collect you. The taxi takes about twenty minutes each way. Horn is about ten miles off-shore and is a favorite with the locals.
Pro Tip: Prepare to bring anything you might need, such as drinks, meals, snacks, chairs, towels, sunscreen, hat, and proper shoes, especially if you plan to hike.
8. Sip A Craft Brew Or Cocktail On A Patio
It all started with a recipe book and some ingredients. The happy mistake turned into a passion and, later, a business. At Craft Advisory Brewing, you’ll sample at least 16 different types of house-made brews from Lagers to IPA’s that pair with delicious snacks and burgers. Or head to Mosaic for tapas and craft cocktails on the gorgeous outdoor patio. If you want to move on, ask for a go-cup — the entertainment district allows you to travel with your cocktails.
9. Drive A Golf Cart Around Town
Driving a golf cart around Ocean Springs is so fun; even the locals do it. At Downtown Cart Rentals, you can rent a four- to six-person cart for an hour, four hours, or the weekend. People love to take the cart shopping, to the bars, and the beach. This is a great way to zip all over town and enjoy everything this fabulous place has to offer. Golf carts should not go on sand or on Route 90. If you are going to the bars, choose a designated driver.
Pro Tips: A lovely place to stay in town is The Roost Ocean Springs. It’s a gorgeous boutique hotel with fabulous amenities. Anytime is a great time to come, as there is usually a festival. Check the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce to see what’s happening when you want to visit. And while you’re around, consider: