Mississippi’s Coastal Treasures

Mississippi’s Coastal Treasures

Centuries ago, treasure hunters combed the coastal areas of the United States in search of riches.  Today, that hunt might lead you to Mississippi and U.S. Highway 90.  More than twenty miles of white sandy beaches, historic homes, trees draped in Spanish Moss, a lighthouse and towering hotels and casinos line this stretch of road about an hour outside of both Mobile, AL and New Orleans, LA.  Having traveled it numerous times, I still think it is one of the most beautiful drives in the South.  At times, U.S. 90 runs so close to the beaches and the water, you can almost reach out of and touch it.

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Hurricane Katrina left a big mark on the region, but after years of recovery, the area is bustling with activity once again.  Across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, there is a small park that is a good place to start your journey along the gulf coast.  A black granite memorial standing 12 feet high represents the height of the waves as they pounded Biloxi and nearby towns.  Etched in the stone are the names of the 170 people who died in the storm.  While visiting the memorial is a somber experience, it gives you a sense of the difficult the road to recovery has been.

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is a stop we make every time we’re in the area.  While we don’t usually hit the slots or stay for a long time, the array of rock n’ roll memorabilia inside including one of Madonna’s dresses, a stunning yellow costume worn by Elton John, and a bright green jacket from East Tennessee’s hometown girl, Dolly Parton.   The hotel recently opened its robobar where you order a drink and a robot fixes it for you.   There are plenty good views of the Gulf of Mexico from the hotel and even from its parking garage

In all, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is home to 12 casinos, most of which are located near the Gulf itself with a few on some back bays and other places. Beau Rivage, an MGM International hotel and casino is a great place to just walk around.  Inside, you’ll find ample shopping and dining and headline entertainment as well as plenty of places to test your luck.

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Just a few blocks down the street, the Biloxi Lighthouse stands  about 60 feet high right in the middle of U.S. 90.  The cast iron structure survived Katrina and has been a part of this Gulf town since 1848.  Events on the beach next to the lighthouse made history back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when people conducted “wade-ins” to demand equal access for all races to the beach.

There are about more than 25 miles of man made beaches along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  There is plenty of free access to the shoreline as most developments are on the other side of U.S. 90.   Tourist shops like Surf Style and Sharkheads provide plenty of places to pick up a souvenir, a t-shirt, or some beach gear.

This part of the Gulf Coast is protected by a string of barrier islands about 10 miles off shore.  You can take tours to some of them.  Because of the islands, you won’t find too many big waves along the beaches.  In fact, at times it looks more like a large lake than part of the ocean.

 

Biloxi is home to the stately oceanfront estate, Beauvoir, the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  The home is open for tours.   Downtown Biloxi and Gulfport are also worth a look as you’ll find much more local flavor there than you are likely to find along the water.

Long Beach, Pass Christian (home of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts) and Bay St. Louis are  other small towns along this stretch of highway.  While it may seem they are all the same, each offers something a little different and are also worth exploring.

My name is Clayton Hensley (a.k.a. the knoxdaytripper). Born and raised in East Tennessee (with a few years in SW Virginia), I have been traveling the backroads and hiking in the mountains for as long as I can remember. Through my writing and photography, I hope to inspire people to experience places they might not have heard about before or look at familiar places in a new light.

For more than 20-years now, my wife and I have called Clinton, TN home. We have two children who (for the most part) love to travel with us. My “real” job is working as a communications director for a large church and in what little spare time I have, I like to garden, take lots of pictures, collect Coca-Cola stuff and catch up on all those shows I miss because I’m always doing something else.

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