The Best Things to Do and See in Gulfport, Mississippi

The Small Craft Harbor in Gulfport, Mississippi, is a great place to watch the sunset
The Small Craft Harbor in Gulfport, Mississippi, is a great place to watch the sunset | © RSBPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Shay Lee
3 August 2021

Facing the Gulf of Mexico on America’s south coast, a seafaring heritage has shaped this Mississippi city. Tuck into Gulfport’s legendary charbroiled oysters, spot dolphins on a sunset cruise, paddle board along the waterways, and learn about the man behind the seaport. There’s also fun for kids, from a waterpark to an activity center.

Meet the dolphins at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

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The common Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus) found on the east coast of the USA
© Cayman / Alamy Stock Photo
Although its dolphin shows are controversial, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) remains a popular day out in Gulfport. The non-profit organization conducts marine research, makes conservation efforts and rehabilitates sick marine mammals. You can interact with dolphins and stingrays as you learn about the creatures and, on certain dates (announced on the IMMS Facebook page), take part in a sea turtle release program. Other animals you’ll see here include alligators, snakes and sea lions.

Learn and play at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center

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Hands-on fun for kids is taken to a new level at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. Inside a 1915-built converted elementary school are a host of imaginative spaces to spark interactive play. The themed rooms include an art studio, a shrimp fisherman’s port, an 1890s hotel, a grocery store and a veterinary complete with toy animals. A climbing structure acts as a central axis for the rooms, linking up the floors through the full height of the center.

Ride on a train at Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum

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The Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum is the place to go to feel like a kid again. It has 80 running model trains, including some which you can ride, and a railroad display made from two million LEGO pieces. You can also learn about Mississippi’s 200 years of train and railroad history, with trains dating back to the 1800s forming an exhibition.

Grab a beer at Chandeleur Island Brewing Company

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Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, locally brewed craft beer in downtown Gulfport, Mississippi, USA.
© BHammond / Alamy Stock Photo
The branding alone is enough to pull you into the Chandeleur Island Brewing Company – its cans of beer are colorful works of modern art. Try Lil’ Miss Sour (the white can with a mermaid emblazoned upon it) for a refreshing sour ale brewed with wheat and tangerines. Pull up a stool in the spacious taproom to sip your way through a few of the craft beers, or book a brewery tour, which includes a beer of your choice and a pint glass for keeps.

Feast on seafood at Half Shell Oyster House

Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
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The Half Shell Oyster House is pictured in this aerial view, May 8, 2021, in Biloxi, Mississippi.
© Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright / Alamy Stock Photo
Half Shell’s charbroiled oysters are legendary in Gulfport – the delicacy is cooked over an open flame with white wine, butter, garlic and herb sauce, then topped with parmesan cheese. However you like your oysters, this restaurant has got you covered, from rockefeller-style (buttery and topped with breadcrumbs) to bienville, featuring mushrooms, crab and shrimp. Also on the classic Southern comfort-food menu are barbecue shrimp and rib-eye steak, served in a cool setting featuring a double-height ceiling and exposed brick.

Splash about at Gulf Islands Water Park

Park, Theater
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The biggest waterpark along the Mississippi coast, Gulf Islands Waterpark is a winner with kids. For small children, there’s a lazy river, wave pool and “Little Pelican’s Bay”, a 200sqft (19sqm) wading area with water-play features. Older children will have a scream on the waterslides – they can race each other on the Riptide Racer, plunging head-first down a 45ft-high (14m) slide on mats, or take to a two-person dinghy on the Master Blaster, which funnels you around 500ft (152m) of twists, turns and slopes.

Hire a Wut Sup stand-up paddle board

Sports Center
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Girl on Paddleboard, Lake Idro, Italy
GF096T Girl on Paddleboard, Lake Idro, Italy | © Krys Bailey / Alamy Stock Photo
South Mississippi is a great place for stand-up paddle boarding, thanks to its beaches, rivers and creeks. You can hire a board through Wut Sup, who will give you a 15-minute lesson on technique before you take to the water (and a waterproof pouch for your map and phone). The Gulf Coast has seven water trails, which they call Blueways, including the biggest free-flowing waterway in the lower 48 states: Pascagoula River Jackson County Blueway.

Cruise the gulf with North Star Sailing Charters

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Set sail out onto the Gulf of Mexico, on a private charter. Captain Jim is at the helm of this six-passenger sailing yacht, and he’s happy to share his wealth of knowledge as you take in the views. A sunset cruise is the most romantic type of charter – especially as you might see pods of dolphins leaping beside the boat. You can also bring your own refreshments on board, including alcohol, for a toast with the backdrop of an orange sky.

Dine at Salute Italian Restaurant

Bar, Restaurant, Italian, $$$
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Courtesy of Salute Italian Restaurant
A piece of Italy in Mississippi, Salute Italian Restaurant is a favorite with locals. Grab a shady table on its shrub-lined patio, which overlooks the Gulf (time your meal for sunset for an extra-special view). The menu’s highlights include grilled shrimp skewers, oysters, shrimp scampi bruschetta and blackened seared tuna. There’s also a martini bar, hence the logo of cocktail glass and olive. Treat yourself to the Godiva Truffel-tini – it’s a delicious chocolate martini made with Smirnoff vanilla vodka.

See the Joseph T Jones Statue

Architectural Landmark
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Atop a carved granite plinth is the life-sized bronze statue of Joseph T Jones, facing the harbor the benefactor created. Jones (1842–1916) was an American entrepreneur who co-founded Gulfport, having funded Mississippi’s Gulf and Ship Island Railroad and developed the seaport. On the face of the plinth are a sailboat and steam train, together with the words “vision” and “courage”.
These recommendations were updated on August 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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