12 Attractions in Gulfport, Mississippi

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Gulfport is a port city along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast known for its natural beaches, historic architecture, and vibrant culture. Located west of Biloxi, Gulfport offers visitors plenty of unique attractions, museums, and outdoor recreation. From admiring aircraft at the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport to strolling through history at the Gulfport Railroad Museum, there are numerous ways to experience the best of this coastal city.

In this article, we will highlight 12 top attractions you won’t want to miss when visiting Gulfport, Mississippi. From family-friendly aquariums to historic forts, cultural centers to pristine nature reserves, Gulfport has something to offer every type of traveler. Learn all about the can’t-miss sites and make sure to add these destinations to your Gulfport itinerary!

1.Gulf Islands National Seashore


The Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches across coastal islands and shores in Mississippi and Florida, offering some of the state’s most beautiful natural scenery. Within Mississippi, the national seashore includes areas like East and West Ship Islands, Cat Island, and parts of Gulfport’s coastline.

Visitors can comb sandy white beaches, discover native wildlife species, picnic, swim, snorkel, and find fantastic photographic landscapes. The tranquil setting offers a peaceful outdoor getaway with family.

Make sure to visit the Davis Bayou Area unit located right near downtown Gulfport. Nature trails weave through marshes and woods along Davis Bayou, home to colorful birds like herons and egrets. You may even spot alligators!

Picnic areas dot the landscape, and the route along Bayou Portage offers exceptional fishing opportunities. Experience coastal Mississippi’s diverse ecosystems all in one place.

2.Gulfport Railroad Museum


Inside an early 20th century train depot, the Gulfport Railroad Museum chronicles local and national rail history. Permanent exhibits delve into the stories of the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad and Louisville & Nashville Railroad using artifacts, documents, and equipment.

Kids can climb aboard engines to get an engineer’s view! Rotating displays highlight different elements of America’s rail networks.

Outside, marvel at the museum’s collection of railcars. Highlights include a World War II hospital car, dining car, and vintage steam locomotive. Train buffs of all ages will love exploring this museum to glimpse railroad lore spanning over a century. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop before departing!

3.Mississippi Aquarium


The Mississippi Aquarium opened in 2020 as one of the largest aquariums in the country. Exciting interactive exhibits showcase the beauty, diversity, and ecology of aquatic ecosystems throughout Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Unique gallery spaces bring these rich underwater worlds to life.

At the Mississippi Gulf gallery, visitors can come face-to-face with local species like sharks, jellyfish, and stingrays. Walk through acrylic tunnels surrounded by aquatic life in massive tanks for an immersive experience.

The freshwater gallery recreates habitats from Mississippi’s ponds, lakes, rivers, and wetlands, including spirited otters and feisty alligators. Additional galleries feature marine avians and offshore ocean species.

Hands-on opportunities like feeding times, behind-the-scenes tours with animal care experts, and chances to touch unique creatures make this a stand-out Gulf Coast attraction. The aquarium also emphasizes conservation initiatives protecting waterways and wildlife for future generations.

4.Century Hall


Century Hall provides a stylish, modern event venue in a historic Gulfport setting. Originally opened in 1928 as a movie palace and vaudeville theater, the building still retains its art deco façade and architectural details. Today, intimate concert performances, private celebrations, city galas, conferences, and more take place in this adaptable space able to accommodate over 1,500 guests.

From the vintage proscenium stage to the elegant grand ballroom’s chandeliers and detailed crown molding, Century Hall oozes glamorous style. Smaller breakout rooms allow versatile configurations. Advanced audio-visual capabilities and expert staff help customize events.

When not hosting a private party, stop by Century Hall to appreciate this lovingly restored Gulf Coast landmark. Grab a snack at the attached ice cream parlor for a taste of nostalgia.

5.Gulf Coast Culture Center


Gain a richer understanding of Gulfport’s regional heritage and creative scene at the Gulf Coast Culture Center. Originally the historic Tivoli Hotel, this structure still retains its 1927 neoclassical façade, today housing interactive exhibits about southern Mississippi.

Interactive displays using videos, objects, music, maps and more cover topics like Mardi Gras traditions, diverse local communities, culinary cuisine, literature, art and ecosystems.

The Culture Center also manages rotating galleries showcasing works by talented Gulf Coast artists. Mediums range from paintings to pottery to metalwork.

Enjoy special cultural events like live musical performances, craft fairs, readings by authors, cooking classes and lectures. Don’t miss the museum gift shop selling distinctive local artisan wares, from jewelry to housewares.

6.Gulfport Beach


No trip to Gulfport is complete without some time relaxing on the sand at Gulfport Beach. Stretching for seven miles along the Mississippi Sound, the coastline here pleasantly mixes city conveniences with natural scenery. Families will love the amenities available, like picnic shelters, barbecue grills, a large playground with splash pad, volleyball courts and concession stands.

Of course, the star attraction remains the beach itself. Silky white sand slopes gently towards the calm blue-green waters. Wade in the shallows, build epic sand creations, search for seashells or simply claim a spot to sunbathe.

Launch your own boat or try water sports rentals for stand-up paddleboarding, jet skiing and more. Sunrise Beach Walks and seasonal Turtle Watches offer guided opportunities to experience Gulfport’s shoreline.

7.Gulfport Premium Outlets


The Gulfport Premium Outlets promise a day of discounted retail therapy alongside the Gulf Coast shoreline. Just a few miles northeast from downtown Gulfport, shop over 140 brand name stores spread across an outdoor village-style complex.

Browse merchandise at popular national chains like Nike, Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and more, often discounted at 25-65% savings. You’ll find apparel, accessories, jewelry, beauty products and housewares all available for less.

When not scoring bargains, enjoy lovely plantation style architecture reminiscent of historic southern homes. Shady porches with rocking chairs beckon tired shoppers to take a break. Manicured lawns and benches surround a central fountain. Fuel up with food at one of the cafes or restaurants on-site.

8.Lynn Meadows Discovery Center


For family-friendly fun indoors and out, visit the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. Interactive STEAM-based exhibits spread across three themed areas engage curious young minds. In ExploraZone, kids can make giant bubbles, turn their bodies into electricity, program droids or produce TV broadcasts.

Build towering structures at Construction Zone using real tools and building materials before testing designs on a shake table. Discover diverse Gulf Coast ecosystems at Outdoor Discovery, like coastal carnivorous plants or marine touch tanks.

Special events year-round like Toddler Tuesdays, Reptile Shows and Bubble Days mean there’s always something new to experience. The center also manages 100 acres of nature trails, gardens and wetlands next door, perfect for observing native flora and fauna. Picnic pavilions, playgrounds and quiet spots for reading make this an ideal spot for Gulfport families.

9.Puppypalooza


For canine fans visiting Gulfport, Puppypalooza offers a day of four-legged fun benefiting animal welfare. Usually held each March, festivities center around locals bringing their friendly, well-behaved dogs to Jones Park for contests and activities.

Competitions involve best trick, owner-pet lookalike, obstacle courses testing agility and more. Dogs must remain leashed except during specified contests.

In between events, browse vendor booths to spoil pups with treats and toys. Food trucks provide nourishment for human attendees.

Kids Zone activities keep little ones entertained, like face painting and inflatables. And everyone loves the adoptable dogs from the Humane Society of South Mississippi hoping to find forever homes. Entry fees and vendor proceeds all support animal shelters, rescues and therapy programs along the Gulf Coast.

10.Turkey Creek Hiking Trail


Nature lovers visiting Gulfport should be sure to spend some time connecting with beautiful landscapes and plentiful wildlife along the Turkey Creek Hiking Trail. Conveniently located within Gulfport city limits, this National Recreation Trail stretches nearly four miles one-way as it follows Turkey Creek through wetlands, marshes, and mixed forests teeming with biodiversity.

While traversing bridges and boardwalks, keep eyes peeled for osprey, painted buntings, sea trout and even American alligators!

The trail makes a perfect peaceful getaway close to downtown. Constructed boardwalks and gravel paths mean conditions stay walkable even after Gulf Coast rains. Interpretive signage explains interesting ecosystem features and local history, like use of the area by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Benches dotted along the route provide places for resting or quiet reflection immersed in nature. Remain alert and avoid disturbing protected habitats as you explore.

11.Biloxi Lighthouse


Travel east along Beach Boulevard to discover the Biloxi Lighthouse, an iconic Gulf Coast landmark since 1848. Climb the spiral iron staircase winding five stories up the interior of the historic tower for panoramic views.

Gaze out windows in every direction overlooking Biloxi beaches, sea vessels traversing the Mississippi Sound, and even the Gulfport coastline to the west on clear days. On the lighthouse grounds, explore exhibits about maritime navigation aids and shipwrecks in the region.

Transient artists like plein air painters frequently capture the striking white-and-red brick tower on canvas. Grab a snack or cold drink at the adjacent gift shop located in the former lighthouse keeper’s residence, now decorated in vintage style.

The grounds also contain pretty Victorian-era gazebos and flower gardens. Don’t leave without snapping that quintessential coastal photo in front of the lighthouse!

12.Mardi Gras Museum


Just over ten miles away in Biloxi, the Mardi Gras Museum showcases elaborate costumes and floats that are the highlight of Gulf Coast Carnival festivities each year. Exhibits chronicle the rich regional history of Mardi Gras celebrations throughout southern Mississippi.

Antique train costumes from the 1920s, pearl-encrusted ball gowns, feathered masks and more represent the pageantry on display during the exhilarating Carnival season.

Kids can try on smaller costumes and hats, pose on floats, and watch videos of past parade footage. Rotating displays highlight different elements like the societal krewes or special galas leading up to Fat Tuesday indulgence before the Lent fast.

The museum’s gift shop brims with Mardi Gras-themed trinkets and baubles waiting to be tossed from seasonal parade floats or taken home as souvenirs.

Conclusion


From spectacular shorelines to captivating culture and history, Gulfport offers an array of attractions sure to entice all visitors. Families will stay entertained for days visiting interactive museums like the Mississippi Aquarium or Lynn Meadows Discovery Center.

Outdoor adventurers should be sure to explore ecosystems walking along the Turkey Creek Trail or lounging on the beach. Shopaholics will love scoring deals at the Gulfport Premium Outlets and train enthusiasts can’t miss the Gulfport Railroad Museum.

Nearby Biloxi attractions like the scenic Biloxi Lighthouse and Mardi Gras Museum easily complement Gulfport sightseeing as well. Whether relaxing or adventuring through your travels, there are plenty of things to see and do across this vibrant section of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Use this guide to maximize your fun discovering memorable attractions in Gulfport and beyond.

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