According to Ben, Ship Island is my new favorite place.
That’s a fairly accurate statement, because who wouldn’t love a trip to a island that included a boat ride, dolphins, pelicans, beautiful white sandy beach, clear waters, and a fort?
Located about ten miles off of the Mississippi Coast near Gulfport, Ship Island is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and barrier islands protected by the United State Park Service. Due to the distance from the coast and limited transportation, the island is fairly undeveloped. For example, there are no trash cans and you pack out what you pack in.
Our first attempt at making the trek out to Ship Island was deterred by thunderstorms, causing Ship Island Excursions to cancel ferry trips for that particular day.
Despite a sketchy weather forecast, we headed back down to Gulfport not too long ago to give it another shot. I’m glad I didn’t listen to Ben (just kidding! not really…) because we woke up bright and early to the sun breaking through partly cloudy skies and a perfect day for the beach.
We made our way to the ferry docked at Ship Island Excursions, paid for two round trips ($26 each), two chairs and an umbrella rental ($20), and walked up the gangplank. The boat ride lasts about an hour each way, and we observed many types of birds, groups of dolphins and interesting people. At 9 a.m. I witnessed a woman polishing off a beer and entire bag of pork rinds. To each their own.
Shortly later, we arrived and traversed the narrow width of the island to the swimming side and set-up chair stations. It was so much fun to play in the surf, stroll down the beach, snack and nap. Shortly before the ferry ride back to mainland, we explored Fort Massachusetts. The day was pleasant, relaxing, and flew by quickly.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sparsely populated beach, but sadly, public perception of the oil spill lingers and probably contributed to the lack of visitors.
I’ll take this moment to say, in the last few months I’ve visited Ship Island on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Orange Beach in Alabama. Both areas are perfectly clean! It may not have been the case early on, but now the sand and waters are oil free (despite what probably is lurking deeper and farther beyond the surface, like chemical laden dispersants, but we won’t go there). There also have been diligent clean up crew present in each location. Come visit!
After arriving back to Gulfport, we made a quick stop at Lil’ Rays before heading to New Orleans for the Saints and Falcons football game. The island snack shop had nachos and hot dogs, but I wanted seafood.
Lil’ Rays fully delivered and we had some of the best seafood I’ve had in awhile. We split a bowl of gumbo and the Red Fish Special blackened and served with fries, garlic toast and hush puppies. It is a very casual atmosphere, complete with picnic tables inside. They receive their seafood every day from the coast, (as it should be), and it was apparent. The fish was delicious sprinkled with a little lemon juice, not overly dressed letting the freshness shine through.
I’d like to go back soon, and visit two of my new favorite places.
500 A Courthouse Rd
Gulfport, MS 39507