The Mississippi Gulf Coast has become known for its booming waterfront casinos and hotels. However, beyond the glitz of the main beach highway, there are many incredible outdoor adventures just waiting for visitors.
From exciting eco-tours of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, marshes, and bayous, to the thrill of parasailing high above the Gulf of Mexico, there is an adventure waiting for you. Here are nine of my favorite outdoor adventures you should experience along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
1. Parasail Adventures
While most of the outdoor adventures on the Mississippi Gulf Coast centers on sailing on the water, how about soaring over it? Take flight with Parasail Adventures in Biloxi for a thrilling 90-minute ride in the air over the blue gulf waters.
Up to three people can parasail at the same time, being harnessed to a parachute and then lifted high into the air behind a tow boat. It’s an exhilarating experience, to say the least!
Visit Parasail Adventures’ website for their current schedule and to purchase tickets.
Pro Tip: Of course, parasailing is weather dependent and Parasail Adventures is more than accommodating with rescheduling or refunding your trip in the event of inclement weather. For safety reasons, the maximum weight per person to sail is 285 pounds.
2. Biloxi Schooners
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Maritime and Seafood Museum is a fascinating journey through over 300 years of maritime history with exhibits covering commercial fishing, boat history, and the environment. However, a trip to the museum would not be complete without taking a voyage aboard a replica of a late 1800s/early 1900s two-masted gaff-rigged Biloxi Schooner.
This is one of the most unique ways to experience the gulf as you sail over the waves under full, billowing sail.
There are two “White Winged Queens” at the museum — Glenn L. Swetman and Mike Sekul. The schooners are available for weddings and special events but offer 2.5-hour walk-on sails periodically throughout the month (dates and times are posted on their website).
Pro Tip: Enjoy delicious seafood and margaritas while taking in a breathtaking view of the gulf at Shaggy’s on Biloxi Beach. Try their Bahama Grill — either grilled chicken or triggerfish with a soy glaze and pineapple pico with coconut rice. It’s a local favorite.
3. Kayaking The Mississippi Gulf Coast Blueways
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is veined with an intricate maze of waterways consisting of marshes, bayous, and rivers. Of course, there is the Gulf of Mexico itself. These waterways make for exciting paddling experiences.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area has developed a series of 13 blueways stretching across the entire coast that will take kayakers to some of the state’s beautiful coastal backwaters as well as open water paddles.
A map and guide to all of the adventure can be found on the Blueways website.
4. Mississippi Aquarium
Make plans to spend the good part of the day in Gulfport where you’ll be exploring the Mississippi Aquarium where you can see over 200 species of wildlife and 300 species of fish. Daily programs on a wide variety of nature subjects are held throughout the day. You will also have a chance to pet dolphins and get up close and personal with sea creatures in their habitat with SeaTrek where you don special gear and go underwater to walk among the sea life. No swimming ability is required.
Mississippi Aquarium Eco-Tour
Spend a fascinating 90 minutes with scientists and researchers aboard the Mississippi Aquarium’s tour boat for a special eco-tour to learn about the wildlife and incredible ecology of the Gulf of Mexico.
5. Biloxi Shrimping Trip
It’s a hard life making a living as a shrimper but the rewards are great and spending the day on the beautiful and protected waters between Deer Island and the Biloxi shoreline is invigorating. Now, you can experience this lifestyle yourself.
The Biloxi Shrimping Company hosts this daily Living Marine Adventure Cruise, a 70-minute excursion out into the channel as they lay their net, show you how those delectable crustaceans make it from net to table, and reveal other incredible marine life found in these waters. You may even be escorted offshore by playful dolphins.
Pro Tip: The Living Marine Adventure Cruise is offered twice daily from August through September, three times daily from March through August, and closed in winter. Trips are on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations can be made) so check their current hours online and get to the dock early.
6. Pascagoula Historic Bike Trail
Take a quiet, peaceful ride next to the gulf’s surf while taking in the rich history of the city of Pascagoula on the Pascagoula Historic Bike Trail.
Over this 11.4-mile route through the city, you will see the oldest standing building in the state — the LaPointe-Krebs House that was built in 1750, the home of former president Zachary Taylor, the childhood home of singer Jimmy Buffet, and the 1850 Longfellow House. In all, the route takes you to 15 different historic sites and that beautiful ride alongside the surf of the Gulf of Mexico.
Download the bike trail map from the Gulf Coast Heritage website.
7. Fort Massachusetts On Ship Island
Speaking of history, a real adventure awaits as you climb aboard the Ship Island Ferry out of Gulfport and take the 12-mile voyage into the gulf to one of Mississippi’s barrier islands to explore Fort Massachusetts.
Construction of the fort began in 1859 and was designed to protect the mainland from invading foreign countries. With its massive thick masonry walls, the fort (which is one of the smaller such fortifications ringing the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas) offered the U.S. military a 360-degree view of the surrounding channel and gulf waters and was armed to the hilt with cannons.
It is a one-hour ride on the ferry to the island. The Ship Island Ferry generally runs twice a day out of Gulfport, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. So plan on spending the full day exploring the 7-mile-long island after you visit the fort. You can swim and sunbathe on the white Gulf beaches and hike the entire length of the island. There is a snack bar located on South Beach, but be prepared to bring along a cooler (42 quarts or less) with beverages, a bagged beach chair/tent, and your lunch. Don’t forget the sunscreen. They aren’t kidding when they say Ship Island sunburns are legendary! It is a treeless island.
8. Fabulous Birding Opportunities
Sponsored by the Mississippi Audubon Society, the Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail consists of forty sites along the state’s six southernmost counties that have been identified as historically prime birding areas.
The organization’s website provides an interactive map of the sites to make them easier to find as well as a handy guide to the most sought-after species so that you can identify and check them off your list. There are many — the beautiful Tri-Colored Heron, the purple hues of the gallinule, and bald eagles, to name only a few.
9. Hiking The Mississippi Gulf Coast
You wouldn’t think there would be many hiking options along the water-centric Mississippi Gulf Coast, but that’s not the case. While not overly challenging in both distance and difficulty, these short and easy walking paths allow you to experience the wealth of natural wonders and wildlife the Gulf Coast has to offer.
One of the most unique is the Escatawpa Trail, a 1.4-mile dirt and boardwalk path that takes you to beautiful views of the trail’s namesake river. What makes it unique is that the trailhead is located at the Mississippi Welcome Center on westbound I-10 just past the Alabama state line. Talk about stretching your legs during a long drive.
Other notable hikes include the Pirate’s Alley Loop at Buccaneer State Park, a 1-mile loop through Spanish moss-draped live oaks and marshland; the 3-mile out-and-back Possum Walk Trail at the INFINITY Science Center (Stennis Space Center) in Pearlington where you will learn about the historical significance of the area’s former African American and sawmill community; and the trails of the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve where three short trails ranging in length from a tenth of a mile to one mile leads you through breathtaking strands of longleaf pine, wildflowers, carnivorous plants, alligators, and an amazing array of birds.
Pro Tip: If visiting Buccaneer State Park on a steamy summer day, take a cool dip in their swimming pool, slide down one of the park’s waterslides, or catch a wave in their wave pool.
For more information on traveling to Mississippi, check out these articles: