Along the Gulf Coast

Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is 62-miles long with three unique counties and twelve distinctive communities strung along its length, replicating pearls on a string.

By Renée S. Gordon

History Travel Writer


Diversity, brought about by continuous waves of migration, permeates the “Secret Coast,” and is infused into the culture, ethnicity, cuisine and attractions. The Mississippi Gulf Coast region is recognized as so culturally important that it has been designated a National Heritage Area as selected based on its cultural significance to the United States.

Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle sailed into the Gulf of Mexico in April 1682. Despite the fact that Native Americans had populated the Gulf Coast for greater than 10,000 years, he deemed the region French territory. Seventeen years later, in 1699, French-Canadian Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville led a group into the area for King Louis XIV. They began construction on Fort Maurepas shortly thereafter and the colony was named Biloxi after a local native tribe. Iberville left a total of 86 men to guard the fort when he returned to France.

The French ruled from 1699 until 1763 when the British took command. They ceded the land to Spain in 1781 and the territory was known as Spanish West Florida until the people demanded independence from Spain. They were independent for 45-days. Americans entered the region in large numbers after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and Mississippi joined the Union as the 20th state in 1817.

Biloxi Visitor Center is a perfect place to begin your visit. An on-site museum provides an area overview as well as information, maps and guides. Directly across Beach Boulevard stands the iconic 1848 Biloxi Lighthouse. The restored lighthouse is 64-ft. tall and offers public tours.

Near the lighthouse are markers commemorating the Wade-Ins, a series of Civil Rights protests, against the fact that a black person could not use public beaches created using federal funds. In April 1960 a protest resulted in violence. Medgar Evers was sent by the NAACP to investigate and lawsuits were filed. The beaches were not desegregated until 1968.

Outside view of the LaPointe Krebs HouseThe 1757 La Pointe-Krebs House is the oldest extant house on the Gulf Coast. It was originally known as Spanish Fort. The single story, 3-room, tabby house, is located in Pascagoula. The on-site museum relates the history of the area with an emphasis on the diversity that existed even then. Joseph Simon La Pointe, a Canadian, was the original owner and a cattle breeder. He shifted into an indigo plantation initially enslaving indigenous people. He later engaged in the slave trade and used Africans as his enslaved workforce.

Some of the first Native Americans Europeans encountered were fishing in a canoe. Area natives sustained themselves on the abundant seafood. As Europeans moved into the region they developed maritime trades into reliable food sources and lucrative businesses and by the early 19th-century Biloxi had become the “Seafood Capitol of the World.”

Sailboat inside Maritime & Seafood Industry MuseumIn 1986 the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum was founded to preserve, showcase and educate the public about the 300-year maritime history. The 3-story museum’s galleries are arranged thematically enhanced by stories of individuals who impacted on the industry. Artifact highlights include the 30-ft. sloop Nyad and a shrimp peeling and canning machine.

George Ohr declared himself the “Mad Potter of Biloxi” and architect Frank Gehry designed the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in keeping with the spirit of such an artist. The campus is comprised of the Center for Ceramics, the IP Casino Exhibitions Gallery, Beau Rivage Gallery of African American Art, Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center and four Pod Galleries. Ohr’s ceramics are masterfully displayed in the pods allowing for emphasis on color, form, glaze and craftsmanship.OHR Museum exterior

Pleasant Reed was a former slave who became a prominent citizen. His self-constructed home and furnishings were moved to the museum in 2003. The original was destroyed by Katrina and replicated 3-years later. Displays in the home interpret the story of African Americans in Biloxi. @ohrokeefemuseum

Outside view of the Davis Museum President of the Confederacy Jefferson BeauvoirDavis, after his release from his 2-year prison term, retired to his 52-acre home on the Gulf Coast. After Davis’ death it served as a Confederate Soldier’s Home (1903-57). The antebellum home has undergone restoration and additional sites include The Confederate Museum, the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier, Confederate Soldier’s Home Cemetery and the Jefferson Davis Library. Exterior highlights include a statue of Jefferson Davis and one of Davis and his sons. There is an excellent orientation film.

Mary Mahoney meal In 1737 Louis Frasier brought French panache to the Gulf Coast French colony. He constructed his home with characteristic French elements, high ceilings and pegged columns. The bricks were locally handcrafted. The structure is one of the US’ oldest homes. On May 7, 1964 it began a new life as the elegant Mary Mahoney’s Old French Restaurant. The focus here is on fine-dining and superb service. This is the restaurant of choice for presidents, politicians, celebrities and discriminating diners. Specialties of the house are fresh seafood, steaks and every dish on the menu. marymahoneys.comMeal from Mary Mahoney's

The Beau Rivage Resort & Casino is a AAA Four Diamond resort that is widely recognized as a nonpareil Gulf Coast destination. It has 1,740 rooms, designer bath amenities, luxurious décor, 12 restaurants and a Fazio designed golf course. Public spaces are filled with fresh flowers in thematic settings. A full-service spa offers a menu of health and serenity inducing treatments. The casino has the first sports betting in the state as well as table games, slots and BetMGM.

March 15-16 the Beau Rivage, MGM Resorts International will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Special entertainment will include a choreographed drone show with 500 drones. Adventure, and drones, await all along the Gulf Coast.

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