Mississippi is on your mind. You’ve been dreaming about white-sand beaches and the humidity that forces you to relax. You’ve been singing the blues as you lather up in the shower. Plus you can practically taste fried catfish, grilled shrimp, pimento cheese spread, and mud pie. Don’t forget the sweet tea. That’s it. It’s time to head to the Gulf Coast.
You know you made the right decision as soon as you cross the Biloxi Bay Bridge. Ocean Springs, on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay, is a charming coastal town. The French built Fort Maurepas here in 1699 to prevent the Spanish from encroaching on their territory. It was later renamed for the local springs that were believed to have healing properties.
Billowing willow trees still line the streets. Art galleries, quirky shops, and small restaurants fill the center of town. Houses have rocking chairs on their front porches and kayaks propped up against the siding. Shrimp boats share the docks with yachts. The beach is only a few blocks away. While barrier islands—Ship, Cat, Horn, and Petit Bois—sit just offshore.
The Inn at Ocean Springs is on Washington Avenue in the historic downtown. Brick steps lead to the pale yellow building with white trim. Bikes with wicker baskets stand near the porch railing. Adirondack chairs sit under the pergola outside. The Avenue Suite, your room, has a king-size bed, soothing colors, and handmade organic soap. While a voucher entitles you to breakfast just down the street at French Kiss Pastries tomorrow morning.
You’re tempted to find a shady spot on the terrace, open a bottle of rosé wine, and just relax, but ultimately decide to explore before it gets too hot. Visit the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, which showcases watercolors, drawings, and carvings by the American artist. Stop at the Greenhouse on Porter for a cappuccino and a sweet potato biscuit. Tour the Crooked Letter Brewing Company and taste their pale ale and mocha porter. Then pick up seafood muffalettas—filled with shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and crab—at B.B.’s Po-boys & Seafood Restaurant and finally head down to the water.
The Ocean Springs waterfront, like the rest of the Gulf Coast, has changed a lot in the last 10 years. First, a 28-foot storm surge damaged the Biloxi Bay Bridge and left the town in ruins during Hurricane Katrina. Five years later, the Deepwater Horizon spilled oil on the still-fragile ecosystem. The beaches, the marshes, and the fish have finally recovered. And you now get to decide whether you want to ride a ferry to the uninhabited barrier islands, learn how to paddleboard, or go swimming on Front Beach. Slow down. There’s no rush. You have time for everything before the music starts playing at dusk.