When many people want to take a beach vacation, they think of Florida or California on the east or west coasts. However, the southern coast of the United States has some wonderful beaches too, especially if you’re looking for an affordable and accessible place to bring the whole family. Gulfport is a top beach destination along the Gulf Coast and a fun place to spend a weekend in Mississippi. Here are some of our picks for the best things to do when you visit Gulfport.
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Hang Out at the Beach
The main reason to visit Gulfport is to spend some time on the sandy beach in the warm Gulf water and under the shining sun. Gulfport Beach is clean, beautiful, and has a fishing pier. Jet skiing and swimming are popular activities here, although the beach usually has a quiet and relaxed vibe. You can also check out nearby Biloxi Beach and the casinos and tourist attractions in this area. It’s fun to rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak when you’re at the Gulfport area beaches. Ship Island is a great place to visit by boat off the Gulfport Coast to enjoy swimming and sunbathing here, as well as the island’s interesting history that includes fort tours.
Bike on the Beach Trail
There’s a wonderful paved trail that runs right along the beach and connects Mississippi beach towns along the coast. This trail is perfect for a scenic bike ride that’s flat and easy for all skill levels of bikers. You can make frequent stops along your ride to hang out at the beaches, browse the surf shops, or grab a bite to eat. Just be mindful of pedestrians crossing the path and the occasional festival or party that pops up and spreads onto the trail.
Take the Kids to Gulf Islands Water Park
Another way to spend a fun day in Gulfport is to go to Gulf Islands Water Park, which is always a big hit with kids. Come here for exciting water slides and adrenaline-pumping drops, as well as play areas for young kids. Parents will enjoy the lazy river and wave pool with their kids too. Some rides have minimum height or age requirements and maximum weight requirements, while others welcome everyone. Celebrity stars from the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon make occasional appearances, past performances include live bands and Frisbee dog shows, and quick meals and snacks are served on site.
View the Wildlife
You can see some amazing wildlife around Gulfport if you only stop for a moment to slow down and notice. This includes many types of birds, such as herons, bald eagles, and osprey. Alligators, beavers, and otters are also common around here. You can take a Gulf Coast nature tour while you’re in the Gulfport area in places like the Jourdan River Blueway, Old Fort Bayou Blueway, and Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge.
Explore the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
To learn more about some of the wildlife species that call the Gulf Coast their home, plan to visit the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. This is a nonprofit organization established in 1984 that aims to teach visitors about conservation and they also care for sick and injured marine mammals. It offers a hands-on experience for kids where young travelers can interact with dolphins, snorkel among the stingray, and meet sea lions. This is a popular spot for birthday parties, summer camps, field trips, and even job shadowing. General ocean adventures admission includes shows for dolphins, sea lions, and birds, as well as stingray touch, reptile presentations, parakeet meets, discovery center, museum, a tour train, playground, and café access.
Go for a Boat Ride
With it’s perfect coastal location, you can also take a boat ride with a sailing charter company when you’re staying in Gulfport. One local guide company is North Star Sailing Charters, which operates private charter trips, as well as Set Sail that offers luxury yachts. North Star offers sailing lessons if you want to learn how to sail yourself. Moonlight cruises, dinner cruises, and sunset cruises are available. Meanwhile, Set Sail can take you out to the barrier islands or even further to Key West or Mexico. Another fun option is to simply take the ferry boat to Ship Island and to look for dolphins in the water along the ride.
See the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum
It’s also fun to check out the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum when you’re in town to feel like a kid again or entertain your own kids. You can learn about railroad history and watch the trains run around the display. This museum covers over 200 years of railroad history. It’s also home to the largest LEGO railroad display in the state.
Shop at Gulfport Premium Outlets
If you enjoy shopping and finding great deals, stop by the outlet mall in town while you’re here. There are at least 70 stores here, including favorites like the Banana Republic, Kate Spade New York, and Ralph Lauren Factory Store. There’s also an indoor food court if you get hungry while shopping.
Sip a Beer at Chandeleur Island Brewing Company
After a long day at the beach or out sightseeing, stop by the Chandeleur Island Brewing Company for a local craft beer. The brewery’s name comes from the Chandeleur Islands off the Mississippi coast, and the founders are Gulfport natives. Come here for unique beers, such as the Guava Jelly Sour Ale and the Lovebug Passion Fruit Sour Ale. Dogs on a leash are allowed in the taproom, and there are kid-friendly activities too.