A Driving Force

Coastal Mississippi offers one of America’s most scenic routes

Biloxi Beach at sunset.
Biloxi Beach at sunset.

Infrastructure projects rarely capture attention for their aesthetic appeal. But, in Mississippi, a seawall reconstructed in the 1950s has helped develop not only the world’s longest man-made beach but also one of the most picturesque drives in the continental United States. This immaculate shoreline offers uninterrupted views of the Gulf of Mexico. And summertime is the perfect season to put the top down on a convertible and embark on this scenic coastal journey.

Stretching from Pascagoula to Waveland, there lies a waterfront sanctuary that spans three counties, each home to various beaches with no two alike.

Start your Magnolia State coastal road trip in Pascagoula before heading to nearby Gautier. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, a small community surrounded by bayous and wetlands. Paddle the Pascagoula River, nicknamed the Singing River, to hear its signature haunting sounds—a low hum like that of bees in flight most pronounced during evenings in late summer and autumn. Find fresher frequencies at The Sound, a new eight-thousand-seat outdoor amphitheater that will welcome national touring musical acts this year, including Sam Hunt, Melissa Etheridge, Jewel, and Miranda Lambert.

For tranquil afternoons on the sand, Long Beach offers serene, peaceful stretches of shoreline perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, and strolls. Family beachgoers searching for nostalgic days by the shore will find bygone boardwalk entertainment in Biloxi. Uncrowded yet energetic, the beach comes with plenty of amusements thanks to the recently opened Paradise Pier Fun Park, with classic diversions like the Biloxi Tide-Turner Ferris wheel, which spins to 180 feet high, offering dazzling unobstructed views of Mississippi Sound.

While driving along coastal Mississippi, stop in Gulfport to visit Jones Park, known as the Front Yard for the State of Mississippi. Spanning sixty acres, this public space is a great place to start a cycling exploration of the area. A new tram bridge provides safe and easy trolley, bike, and pedestrian access to downtown shops, restaurants, and the Mississippi Aquarium, which cares for more than two hundred species, including sharks, bottlenose dolphins, and North American river otters.

For a rare experience found in only a few places in the South, ferry from Gulfport Yacht Harbor in Jones Park to Ship Island, one of America’s last undeveloped barrier islands. Spot dolphins along the bow during the one-hour cruise to the island. Then disembark for some of the best swimming, birding, and shelling east of New Orleans. To add in a history lesson, head to the western tip of the island to tour Fort Massachusetts. The nineteenth-century fort was constructed for coastal defense and is managed by the National Park Service. Then end the day with a sunset cruise on a schooner.

With sixty-two miles of picturesque shoreline, uncrowded beaches, hundreds of miles of blueways, and stunning natural landscapes, coastal Mississippi promises an unforgettable summer vacation. 

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