12 Things to Do in Gulfport, Mississippi

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Located on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast along the Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, coastal cuisine, and abundance of recreational activities. With its tropical climate, proximity to the water, and laidback atmosphere, Gulfport offers visitors a relaxing escape and plenty of things to see and do for travelers of all ages and interests.

From family-friendly attractions like water parks and mini golf to museums that highlight the area’s rich maritime history, Gulfport has something for everyone. Outdoor enthusiasts will especially love the miles of scenic walking and biking trails as well as fishing charters and water sports. And the fresh coastal seafood simply can’t be beat.

1. Relax on the White Sandy Beaches

Gulfport’s beaches are the main draw for many tourists, with good reason. The sparkling white sand and calm blue-green waters make Gulfport Beach an ideal place to spend a relaxing day working on your tan, building sandcastles, swimming, or simply unwinding.

Beachside restaurants and bars provide refreshments and entertainment. For convenience, there are also beach equipment rentals available. Gulfport Beach has lifeguards on duty during peak season.

2. Charter a Fishing Trip

Fishing is hugely popular in Gulfport thanks to the abundance of different fish species just offshore. From Gulfport harbor, you can charter fishing boats for nearshore or offshore fishing trips with experienced local captains and crew members.

Depending on the season and type of charter, expect to reel in fish like red snapper, tuna, mackerel, grouper and more. Most charters provide all necessary fishing gear and tackle plus licenses, bait and ice. They’ll even fillet and bag your catch so you can savor the freshest seafood in Gulfport’s restaurants.

3. Explore Gulf Islands National Seashore

Just west of Gulfport lies one of the area’s most treasured natural escapes – Gulf Islands National Seashore. Made up of several protected barrier islands and coastal areas spanning Florida and Mississippi, this park preserves unique coastal habitats including bayous, bays, salt marshes, estuaries and marine life.

Here you can hike unspoiled nature trails, catch glimpses of shorebirds and dolphins, picnic amid live oaks, or comb the beach for shells. The Davis Bayou area closest to Gulfport offers fishing spots and campgrounds too.

4. Play a Round of Mini Golf

For family-friendly fun, try your hand playing through one of Gulfport’s creative mini golf courses. Both Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf and Gulfport Mini Golf serve up whimsical themed holes, water features and fun surprises around every turn.

Pirate’s Cove transports players to a swashbuckling world with pirate ships, waterfalls and vibrant decor. Gulfport Mini Golf impresses with massive dinosaurs, erupting volcanoes and real gators in a tropical setting. Both make for an entertaining afternoon with a friendly competitive vibe.

5. Tour Gulfport Harbor Lighthouse Museum

For a bit of history, make your way to one of Gulfport’s most iconic landmarks – the Gulfport Harbor Lighthouse. Dating back to 1904, this white hexagonal lighthouse once safely guided ships entering the harbor.

Today it functions as a museum that details Gulfport’s early history. Climb to the top for panoramic harbor views. The museum also showcases artifacts from shipwrecks discovered through archeological diving expeditions offshore as well as historical exhibits spotlighting Gulfport’s founding families and industries like shipping and fishing.

6. Sample Fresh Gulf Seafood

Seafood plays a starring role in Gulfport’s dining scene thanks to the daily catch brought into its harbor. Oysters, shrimp, grouper, snapper, catfish, blue crab and crawfish highlight menus at most local restaurants and fresh seafood markets.

Specialties not to miss include seafood gumbo, jambalaya, po’ boys dressed with crispy fried seafood, buttery chargrilled oysters and sweet royal red shrimp – a Gulf specialty. The Seafood Industry Museum’s restaurant gives visitors a taste of local seafood too.

7. Explore Gulfport Galleries, Shops and Markets

Stretch your legs walking and shopping your way through historic downtown Gulfport. Colorful cottages house unique boutiques, antique stores, gift shops and art galleries brimming with local paintings, pottery and jewelry.

Thursday through Saturday mornings, locals flock to the Gulfport Fresh Market to browse stalls filled with handmade arts and crafts, fresh baked goods, jams and jellies, plants and produce. The market often features live music too. Just down the street, the Gulfport Merchant’s Association hosts a clothing and accessories market on the first Friday evening of each month.

8. Have Fun at Ship Island Excursions Waterpark

Cool off with a day of waterslides and poolside play at this popular Gulfport waterpark near the Gulfport-Biloxi airport. Little ones love the shallow lagoon pools while daredevils take on steep mega slides like Humunga Tonga that drops nearly 60 feet!

The Caribbean-themed park also features a lazy river, splash pad for toddlers, and FlowRider for surfing simulator fun. Cabanas, lounge chairs, and food and drink concessions offer conveniences for parents too. Buy tickets for direct park admission or package deals with shuttle transportation from Gulfport.

9. Visit the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

For an up-close look at marine life native to Gulfport’s shores, visit the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. This fascinating museum and research center cares for sick or injured wild dolphins and sea turtles with the goal of rehabilitating them back to health for release into the wild.

Interactive exhibits showcase whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sharks while outside you can view rehabilitating animals through above-water and underwater viewing windows. General admission supports marine conservation and rehabilitation efforts.

10. Spot Birds and Wildlife on a Nature Trail

Gulfport is surrounded by a handful of scenic nature spots that highlight coastal habitats and wildlife. Just five miles inland, the Bolton Branch Bird Sanctuary’s walking trails wind though wetlands, pine savanna and past an alligator pond.

The fontainebleau State Park north of Gulfport spans a half mile of undeveloped beach and also offers chances to spot gators. For birdwatching, check out Shelter 3 in Gulfport at Jones Park – a migratory stopover for neotropical songbirds.

11. Grab a Cocktail on the Harbor View Hotel Rooftop

For a birds-eye panorama over Gulfport Harbor and the Gulf beyond, head to the Harbor View Hotel’s breezy rooftop bar. Soak up the views over craft cocktails at sunset or with a cold local brew any time of day. Bar bites like charcuterie boards and seafood nachos pair perfectly too.

At just three stories tall, this hotel rooftop offers a more relaxed and intimate setting compared to high-rise hotels but still gives you that signature rooftop vista. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day of adventures in Gulfport.

12. Catch a Show at the Gulfport Little Theater

Gulfport’s historic Little Theater continues to wow audiences today with its award-winning community theater productions. From thought-provoking dramas to big Broadway musicals and comedies, the talented cast and crew put on an impressive lineup of shows year-round in this intimate yet beloved venue.

Enjoy dinner at one of downtown Gulfport’s restaurants before catching a show during the main October to April season or one of their summer productions. Tickets are very affordable with great sightlines making the Little Theater a top-rated night out.

Conclusion

From lazy beach days to offshore fishing adventures, interactive museums and theater shows, Gulfport truly offers memorable experiences and southern hospitality for visitors of all interests. Its prime coastal location, rich maritime culture and lively downtown district make it easy to see why Gulfport is a beloved weekend escape for locals and vacation hot spot for tourists.

Whether you’re planning a family trip or romantic coastal getaway, Gulfport serves up plenty of activities plus that laidback charm distinctive to Gulf towns.

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