Forget Far-Flung Locales

Your Backyard is bucket list worthy

From island adventures to stunning, picturesque museums, the Coastal Mississippi is overflowing with charming niches just waiting to be added to your bucket list.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply in search of a little sweet relaxation, there are a myriad of spots to enjoy for an entire staycation. So don’t pack those bags just yet or hit the road for too long. Instead, get ready to experience the most enchanting locales offered right in your backyard.

Berry Special  

In case you plum forgot, summertime is the prime time to pick the state’s official fruit, sweet juicy blueberries. If you thought the coastal farmers and fresh markets were bountiful, just wait until you check out one of the you-pick blueberry farms that pepper Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties. Guests of all ages can grab a basket, learn how to find the ripest fattest berries, and get to picking, or perhaps, even tasting. Any of these blueberry farms such as Blueberry Heaven or Spring Lake Berry Farm, both in Vancleave, have all the makings of a great way to start your staycation bucket checklist off with a bang—or maybe a hand-picked, home-made blueberry pie.

Fins Up

Sometimes a staycation calls for you to ditch your phone and build a sandcastle on one of the many fine-as-sugar white beaches along the 62 miles of shorelines. But there’s so much more to explore than just a gorgeous sunset. In Gulfport, you can have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with dolphins at Ocean Adventures Marine Park or Mississippi Aquarium. Both facilities are worth a bucket list add, offering unique, touchable windows into the Coast’s marine life.

Catching Excursions

If checking out wild dolphins on a journey across the Mississippi Sound—where the Gulf of Mexico meets the barrier islands—is more your staycation speed, Ship Island Excursions recently kicked off its 98th year, offering passenger service to West Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts. Staycationers and tourists take off from the Gulfport Yacht Harbor at Jones Park to enjoy seven miles of beaches to swim, shell-hunt, and sunbathe.

But some bucket list excursions just go better with a squeeze of lemon and the fishing opportunities are bigger and better on the Coast. The peaceful waters will warm up your staycation and offer everything from freshwater to brackish water to saltwater fishing with 200 fish species ready for the reeling. You’ll find inshore, off piers, wading, or deep-sea fishing to mark off your bucket list and there are plenty of charter boat crews such as Strike Zone Fishing Charters to show you how.

And don’t forget one of the Coast’s biggest industries, shrimping. The Biloxi Shrimping Trip has been educating guests aboard the Sailfish since 1955 with a 70-minute peek into a real shrimping expedition. Watch as a 16-foot trawl drags the bottom of the Sound, searching for all of her delicacies and exposing you to spectacular sea life you never knew existed.

Or does embarking from a no-name marina in search of a chilling staycation sound like more fun? Then join the Mystic Ghost Ride Company for a historical ghost boat tour teeming with pirate lore, Bay St. Louis haunts, and the history behind unbelievable legends and true ghostly encounters.

Exploring Legacies

Coastal Mississippi features countless museums showcasing the coastal heritage, hands-on science, historical figures, and heroic veterans. You can find something that interests people of all ages in each coastal city to tour or spend the day in, which is one reason the Coast has always been a popular destination for passionate history buffs.

For unique historical insights, visit the Biloxi Lighthouse, Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum, Coastal Mardi Gras Museum, Gulfport Museum of History, Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum, Mississippi Shipbuilding and Maritime Center, La Pointe-Krebs Museum, Waveland’s Ground Zero Museum, and the Beauvoir and the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library. And don’t forget to add the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the G.I. Museum to your list as well. For hands-on science centers, check out the Traintastic Museum, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, and INFINITY Space Center.

Cultural Masterpieces

From artisan masters to local painters and sculptors, immersing yourself in cultural masterpieces is as easy as it is inspiring. Throughout the Coast, you’ll find original, authentic artwork in all media at galleries such as the Walter Anderson Museum of Arts, Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Dusti Bonge Art Exhibition, and Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum.

Parks, Trails, and Alligators

Thankfully, the South doesn’t experience those harsh winters that our northern friends do, so we typically always have something in bloom and in the summertime, there are a few extra special spots that are worthy of a bucket list add.

Spend some time exploring areas such as Shepard State Park in Gautier, Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, or the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point and do a little sightseeing, birdwatching, camping, kayaking, or hiking.

If taking a walk or ride on the wild side fits your staycation plans, add the Gator Ranch & Airboat Swamp Tours to your list and see just what lurks beneath the surface. Hint. Hint. It’s alligators and they are some of the biggest and oldest in captivity. Stroll along protected walkways and hand feed gators up close and personal. It’s the oldest alligator farm in the Magnolia State on 105 swamp land acres that are tucked snuggly along the Grand Bay Estuary in Moss Point and Pascagoula. You can even mark holding a baby alligator from your bucket list.

Southern Charm

One of the Coast’s most majestic don’t-miss experiences is also one of the oldest living things in America, the Friendship Oak in Long Beach. This grandiose Southern live oak tree is well over 500 years old, but its age isn’t even the most impressive thing about it. There’s also the sheer size of the massive tree that dates back to 1487. Throughout centuries, the Friendship Oak has withstood numerous hurricanes, which is pretty remarkable considering the tree sits near the beachfront of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast campus. This must-see sight is just perfect for that staycation selfie.

 

So, make yourself a staycation bucket list with lots of nearby attractions you’d like to see or try. As you check off your list, add new adventures such as trails you’ve always meant to hike, gazing at the stars while lying on one of the glorious beaches, eating at a restaurant your friends and family endlessly jabber about, or attending a festival you’ve avoided your entire life.

Turns out, this touristy stuff can be pretty amazing if you give it a chance.

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