With its picturesque Gulf Coast, beautiful Southern architecture and delta river towns rich in history and the blues, Mississippi certainly offers some of the most scenic sights in the nation. From Port Gibson, the town ‘too beautiful to burn’, to the idyllic seaside town of Ocean Springs, we traverse the state to find Mississippi’s 10 most beautiful towns.
Named by Smithsonian Magazine in 2013 as one of the Best Small Towns in America, Cleveland is a jewel of the Mississippi Delta. Known for its vibrant culture and history, bustling downtown and good old-fashioned Southern hospitality, and formerly a stop on the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railroad, the town grew from the late 1860s onwards, later becoming synonymous with blues music. The Dockery Plantation, a former cotton farm located just outside Cleveland, is where ‘father of the Delta Blues’ Charley Patton first learned to play guitar. Today, Cleveland is also home to a whole host of locally-owned restaurants, antique stores and institutions like Bologna Performing Arts Center, located on the campus of Delta State University.
Often hailed as the ‘Cultural Mecca of the South’, Oxford is famous as a haven for writers, artists and the like and is home to several cultural sights including Rowan Oak – the beautiful Greek Revival-style former home of American literary great William Faulkner. Though it’s full of small town charm – just see its historic, quintessentially American town square for proof – it is also the home of the University of Mississippi, and so is a lively college town with a vibrant music scene. Oxford also has one of the nation’s most famous independent bookstores, Square Books, and an eclectic dining scene.
Bay St. Louis
Located on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, a few miles from the border with Louisiana, Bay St. Louis is an idyllic seaside town brimming with rich history, beautiful sights and a lively cultural scene just begging to be explored. Named one of America’s Coolest Small Towns by Budget Travel Magazine in 2013, Bay St. Louis’s Old Town is the beating heart of the beachside community and home to a whole host of boutiques, classy and casual restaurants and events such as the Second Saturday Artwalk and Stella’s Blues & BBQ Festival, while its scenic stretches of coastline are ideal for escaping the hubbub of downtown.
Known for its cluster of antique stores, bustling historic downtown and as the birthplace of Mississippian literary legend William Faulkner, New Albany is a small northern Mississippi town located on the scenic Tallahatchie River. Nicknamed ‘the gateway to the Tanglefoot Trail’, New Albany is the starting point of Mississippi’s longest Rails to Trails path, while sights like the nearby Holly Springs National Forest and Wolf Howl Animal Reserve offer further connections to nature. Visitors can learn about the town’s history and culture at the Union County Heritage Museum, home to the William Faulkner Literary Garden, or relax in the scenic Park Along the River after a hard day’s antique hunting downtown.
Nestled in the northeastern reaches of the state on the edge of the Tennessee border, Corinth is a town steeped in history. Often called the ‘Gateway City’, the town is located at the crossroads of the old Memphis & Charleston and Mobile & Ohio railroads which made it a strategic hub in the American Civil War, with its historic depot now host to The Crossroads Museum and home to exhibits detailing the region’s history. Today, Corinth’s beautiful downtown demonstrates a modern city with respect for its past with eclectic new stores and restaurants living alongside long-standing landmarks like Borroum’s Drug Store – Mississippi’s oldest drug store.
Another of Mississippi’s picturesque Gulf Coast towns, Ocean Springs is nestled on the edges of beautiful Biloxi Bay and a charming seaside town that combines history, culture and nature all in one. First settled by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, an event commemorated in the town’s annual 1699 Historical Society Weekend of Discovery, Ocean Springs is also home to part of the beautiful Gulf Coast Islands National Seashore – full of natural beauty and wildlife – while the oak-lined streets of its picture-perfect downtown offers arty pursuits.
Boasting panoramic views of the mighty Mississippi River, stunning antebellum architecture full of Southern Gothic charm, and a rich history and musical past, it’s no wonder Vicksburg is such a popular stop-off in the Mississippi Delta. Landmarks like the Vicksburg National Military Park pay homage to the town’s pivotal role in the American Civil War and its five Mississippi Blues Trail markers are testament to part in the Delta Blues, which can still be heard today at the town’s many music venues, while downtown Vicksburg offers historic architecture, art galleries, eclectic eats and the legendary Catfish Row – now home to an art park and riverfront murals depicting the town’s history.
A vibrant river town rich in history, Natchez was founded as a fort by the French in 1716 and is one of the oldest European settlements on the Mississippi River, although its history dates back much further, it was the starting point of the Natchez Trail – a 444 mile pathway leading towards Nashville ad long-traversed by Native Americans. While Natchez’s historic antebellum homes and quintessentially Southern moss-covered trees offer old-fashioned small town charm, the town is also home to a lively and modern cultural scene. Organizations and events like the Delta Blues Museum, a homage to regional blues music, and the annual Natchez Food and Wine Festival all occur in Natchez.
Legend has it that while fighting the Vicksburg Campaign during the American Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant, who later became president, declared Port Gibson ‘too beautiful to burn’ thus sparing the town from the damage suffered by other neighboring Southern towns. The tiny town – home to just under 1,500 people and located on the banks of the meandering Bayou Pierre River – is today still surrounded by evidence of its historical past with sights like the nearby Grand Gulf Military Park and the Windsor Ruins – the hauntingly beautiful ruins of a Greek Revival mansion built in 1861 and burned to the ground in 1890.
Despite being located on the edges of the state capital Jackson, Ridgeland manages to maintain its small town charm while simultaneously embracing the cosmopolitan character lent by its proximity to a bigger city. Known for its arts and cultural scene, the town is home to institutions and events including the Mississippi Gulf Center, which promotes the preservation of traditional and contemporary Southern crafts.
By Helen Armitage