Lying quietly between the jazz horns of New Orleans and the jet blasts of Pensacola are the sand beaches of the Gulf Coast. Beyond the beaches await coastline towns overflowing with art, history, music and delectable cuisine. Boating from Biloxi to Orange Beach makes for a great weekend getaway. Check out the itinerary below.
Some people think of Biloxi as a go-to destination for golf courses, fishing and casinos, but its streets are also peppered with local cultural exhibits. The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum’s photographs chronicle the first Native American settlements through generations of immigrants — all part of the region’s melting-pot culture. Exhibits include an authentic replica of a Biloxi oyster schooner.
The Mardi Gras Museum is housed in a historic antebellum (c. 1847) building. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and his restored home, Beauvoir Mansion, sit on 51 acres with views of the Mississippi Sound.
A stroll in one of several arts districts like Rue Magnolia turns into an art walk. The eye-catching Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (OOMA) showcases the ceramics of George E. Ohr, the self-proclaimed “mad potter of Biloxi.” Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, TIME magazine named this museum one of the top five architectural structures in the world.
Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and the newly renovated Point Cadet Marina (vessels to 100 feet) are centrally located. For local cuisine and music, amble over to the Fillin’ Station or the Half Shell. To explore more distant attractions and casinos, jump aboard the Casino Hopper.
DAY 1: PASCAGOULA
Biloxi to Pascagoula — 33 NM
Heading east, stay in the channel to avoid the many islands and sandbars along the route to Pascagoula, which Outdoor Life rated one of the top 200 best towns in America. Pirate Jean Lafitte, Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant all considered it home at some point in their lives. The city touts a rich three-century history and incredible antebellum architecture.
The LaPointe-Krebs house (c. 1757) is the oldest confirmed building in the entire Mississippi Valley. Dating from the French Colonial Period, it pre-dates the Revolutionary War by two decades. The house is currently undergoing an extensive restoration and is a point of pride to residents.
Situated in a natural estuary, the city is an ecotourism mecca. The 10-mile Pascagoula River Blueway is home to abundant animal life including more than 22 endangered species. Two-thirds of Eastern breeding migratory birds use the river and its marshes as a resting point. Round Island Lighthouse anchors Lighthouse Park, which is the trailhead not only for the Blueway, but also for Pascagoula’s Environmental Trail and Historic Bike Trail.
Nearby, kid-friendly Pascagoula Beach Park includes a splash pad, playground, picnic areas and a series of walking paths with markers revealing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city.
After all the sightseeing, adults head for Jacks by the Tracks for “food, friends, music and whiskey.” Scranton’s Restaurant distinctive dining experience includes peeking inside the old town vault and original jail cell with bars intact.
Gulf Coast explorers seeking a friendly port are welcome at Singing River Yacht Club. For an overnight slip, try Tiki Restaurant & Marina or Mary Walker Marina, both in Gautier.
DAY 2: MOBILE
Pascagoula to Mobile — 59 NM
Cruising eastward, be mindful of the numerous ships in the channel. Mobile is one of America’s oldest cities and was once called the “Paris of the South.” Known for miles of streets with canopies of majestic live oaks, the city’s oldest living resident, a massive 300-year-old Duffee Oak, is one of the city’s 3,000 centenarian trees.
As a cultural center of the Gulf, Mobile delivers an authentic gumbo of experiences unlike anywhere in the south. Throughout old historic neighborhoods, sweeping front porches — considered a living room extension by Mobilians — have swings and rockers with colorful pillows, large hanging plants, intricate lighting and often a napping dog. Bienville Square is home to a colony of squirrels so tame they’ll eat a treat right out of your hands.
Of the 550+ restaurants in Mobile, locals like Dauphin’s and Felix Fish. A classic regional dish created by a hometown chef is West Indies Seafood Salad: lump crab meat, onions, citrus and a sprinkle of Creole spice.
The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is one of the largest intact wetland ecosystems in America and is so rich in diverse wildlife, it has been designated a national natural landmark.
But you can also experience plenty of wild life on the city streets. Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in America, but if you follow the sound of music and festivity, you may find a street party any time of year. Close off a street, adorn ancient oaks with hanging lanterns, top tables with white linens and flowers, and you have a traditional Mobile street party.
The city’s diversity is showcased in cultural and historic attractions from tea time at a historic plantation home to the Battleship USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park. The recently renovated Mobile Museum of Art is now the largest art museum on the coast between New Orleans and Tampa.
Just five miles south of MM 0 on the ICW, the Dog River Marina Complex is close to town and offers transient slips, competitive fuel rates and comprehensive service.
DAY 3: ORANGE BEACH
Mobile to Orange Beach — 60 NM
Orange Beach offers miles of sugar-white sand beaches and access to the interior bays and bayous lying just north of Perdido Pass.
Transients are welcome at two world-class marinas. Nestled in a fully protected harbor only minutes from the Gulf and ICW is Orange Beach Marina, a full-service facility. The on-site restaurant made Southern Living’s list of Top Five Restaurants in the South. Fisher’s Upstairs or Fisher’s Dockside, two kitchens with distinct concepts, can satisfy any palette. A superb sport fishing area is just minutes away or take a southerly course to reach one of the best bill fishing hot spots in the nation.
Along the ICW is The Wharf Marina, part of a family entertainment district with multiple dining and shopping options, a zipline, a ferris wheel and more. Come dusk, The Wharf ’s main street is flooded with a magical show of light and sound. Saunders Yachtworks, with locations in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, is family owned and offers a complete range of services and maintenance for yacht owners.
Because of the proximity to Pensacola, you might even see the Blue Angels practice flight maneuvers during your visit. Before leaving town, stop by The Ruby Slipper for breakfast or lunch. Then head over to the
Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum dedicated to the preservation of Native American, coastal waters and local history to get a comprehensive feel for the region.