One of the first settlements in America, Biloxi, Mississippi is filled with history, dating back to as early as 8,000 B.C. when Native Americans inhabited the region.
Biloxi was the capital of French Louisiana between 1720 and 1723 until the capital was moved to purpose-built New Orleans. Mississippi became a U.S. state in 1817. From then until the 1860s, Biloxi gradually became a favorite summer resort for southerners looking to escape the heat. Many grand hotels were built, and that legacy is carried on today.
The Civil War took a toll on Biloxi as have many hurricanes.
Biloxi was once the Seafood Capital of the World. In the 1920s, more than 40 seafood factories were occupying the two cannery districts. The fishing industry is still a viable part of Biloxi’s economy.
Biloxi Visitor Center
It’s not often I start a “best things to do” list with a visitor center, but in this case, it’s a must-see and a first stop. Besides providing visitor information about the area, the Biloxi Visitor Center is an attraction in itself. The 24,000-square-foot facility houses a museum, a theater, and an extensive gift shop.
There are dozens of multimedia exhibits that tell the history of Biloxi its people. A grand staircase leads to the second floor and a beautiful 67-seat theater where visitors can watch the 10-minute film We Are Biloxi.
Step out onto the balcony and you’ll come face-to-face with the Biloxi Lighthouse. Just past the lighthouse is Biloxi Beach and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. The Visitor Center gift shop is the best place to shop for Biloxi souvenirs made by local artists and craftsmen.
Built in 1848, the cast-iron Biloxi Lighthouse has stood the test of time and survived many storms and hurricanes. It is the city’s signature landmark and has become a symbol of their resolve and resilience as well as a beacon of hope for the future for Gulf Coast residents.
Inside the tower, blue bands have been painted on the brick wall to indicate the level that the sea rose to during various hurricanes. The highest band represents 2005 Hurricane Katrina, when the water reached 21.5 feet above sea level.
The 64-foot-tall Biloxi Lighthouse isn’t one of the tallest lighthouses in the land, but she is one of the mightiest. She is the last standing out of the more than 10 lighthouses originally built on the Mississippi coastline.
The Biloxi Lighthouse is open to the public for tours, weather permitting.
Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
A fantastic Biloxi museum is the Maritime and Seafood Museum. I have to admit, I was not thrilled when it was suggested to stop here. After exploring for a couple of hours, I wished I had more time.
The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum was established to preserve and study the 300 years of maritime history and heritage of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It is the only museum of its kind on the Gulf.
Inside the beautiful building you’ll find displays with hundreds of Gulf Coast artifacts and an extraordinary collection of photographs of shrimping, oystering, fishing, boat building, and netmaking. There are even historic catboats, a Biloxi oyster skiff, and a shrimp-peeling machine.
Also worth visiting, the Wade Guice Hurricane Gallery shows actual footage and radio broadcasts from Biloxi hurricanes through the years.
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
If you are traveling with children or grandkids, this children’s museum is a stop you’ll want to make.
The discovery center is just that–a place to discover Biloxi. Its mission is to inspire children and adults with interactive educational experiences and exploration. All of the exhibits have been designed for adults and children to play and learn together.
Inside the 15,000-square-foot building there are three floors of interactive, hands-on exhibits including an art studio, train station, maritime port, vet’s office, market, hotel, television station, and indoor climbing structure.
Outside exploration includes a treehouse village, bait shop, solar sunflowers, train station, kids’ street, and a creek and green space.
Rain or shine there is always fun and education (you don’t have to tell the kids that part) to be had at the discovery center.
The Beauvoir and Jefferson Davis Presidential Library
The Beauvoir is a stunning 52-acre estate and Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ last home before his death in 1889. Through the years various hurricanes have taken their toll on the buildings of the estate. The mansion has been restored, renovated, and reconstructed to its former glory.
Also on the property is the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library, Beauvoir Museum, Beauvoir Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bayou, Mrs. Varina’s Garden, and historical cottages.
Daily tours are available with discounts for seniors, military, and children. Unique, behind-the-scenes guided tours of the entire Beauvoir property are available by reservation. For information about the property, tours, and stays at the Hayes Pavillion check the Beauvoir website.
Some of the most incredible fishing can be found along the Gulf Coast, with over 200 species of fish known to inhabit the waters. Whether you are an experienced angler or a newbie, going out with the boys or the family, you will have a great sportfishing experience with a local charter.
Biloxi is home to several sport fishing outfits with seasoned professionals available to take you to the best spots and show you the ropes of reeling in the big ones. Here are just a few:
Mega Bite Fishing Charters specializes in offshore and inshore deep-sea fishing in Biloxi Bay, near Horn Island and Ship Island. They are family-friendly and offer four-, six-, and eight-hour fishing excursions. Other charters offering boat and group options include Fishing Booker, Side Bet Fishing Charters, and Island Time.
Play, eat, and stay at Biloxi casinos. Attracting visitors from all over the world, Biloxi has long been a Gulf Coast premier entertainment destination. I had no idea that people flocked to Biloxi for their summer vacations and that casinos have long played a big part of the appeal.
The first legal Biloxi casino, the Broadwater Beach Resort, opened in 1939 with many others soon to follow. The Broadwater no longer exists but its heritage lives on with modern-day casinos such as Hard Rock, Golden Nugget, Beau Rivage, Harrah’s, and a host of others including the Palace Casino Resort, the only smoke-free casino in Biloxi.
Be sure to check the adventure packages that most Biloxi casinos offer, including a Paddle Boat Dinner Cruise and Shipp Island Ferry Boat Excursions leaving from the Margaritaville Resort and the Palace Casino Resort’s Hotel and Golf Package.
For more fun, visit what my granddaughter calls the “kid’s casino” at Margaritaville. The resort replaced its adult casino for a 55,000-square-foot Family Entertainment Center that includes arcade games, rope courses, an indoor zip line coaster, golf simulators, and a three-story rock-climbing wall.
Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
Set within a grove of oak trees, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is a series of six buildings connected by an open brick plaza and walkways. The museum is dedicated to the creative spirit of master potter George E. Ohr, the self-proclaimed Mad Potter of Biloxi.
You’ll notice it from U.S. Highway 90; you will see four giant stainless pods beneath the trees. The unusual buildings house displays of Ohr’s pottery. There is also a welcome center, gallery of African American art, exhibition gallery, the City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics, an 1895 Creel House, and interpretive center.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday. Visitors are free to wander the grounds on their own or take a guided tour.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Outdoor recreational activities are plentiful around Biloxi. Four barrier islands are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and require a boat to visit. One drivable option 10 miles from downtown, just across the Biloxi Bay Bridge, is Gulf Islands National Seashore Davis Bayou. Hike, bike, fish, birdwatch, picnic, camp, or just spend time on the beach.
The park features the Davis Bayou Trail which takes visitors through a coastal forest and over two bayous. The waterways here are teeming with wildlife. My 5-year-old granddaughter saw an alligator on her first hike here. Ranger-led programs are also available.
A new addition to the Gulf Coast is the Mississippi Aquarium in nearby Gulfport. Opened in September 2020, the aquarium is a window into Mississippi’s aquatic world, from the gulf waters to the delta, rivers, marshes, and bayous.
It includes interactive exhibits, a Shores of Mississippi exhibit, an outdoor boardwalk, an aviary, and habitats for various marine life. Some species that live at Mississippi Aquarium are alligators, river otters, river fish, dolphins, stingrays, crocodiles, shorebirds, sharks, and more.
The aquarium experience includes shows, animal feedings, and the new SeaTrek, an underwater adventure for guests age 10 and up.
Personally, I think the best thing to do in Biloxi is to eat. There are dozens of eateries serving up everything from pizza, burgers, and southern barbecue to the best seafood you’ve had in your life. Hands down Gulf Coast cuisine is at its finest in Biloxi.
This is by no means a complete list of all the amazing restaurants that Biloxi has to offer but a few of my personal favorites:
An off-the-beaten-path shrimp shack, Taranto’s is where the locals go for shrimp po’boys and fresh mud bugs (crawfish).
Owned by the fourth generation of a family of fishermen, you know the seafood is the freshest it can be at Gallot’s Fresh Catch Seafood. Enjoy lunch on the outdoor covered patio with great views of the back bay and marina.
Rounding out my top three Biloxi seafood restaurants is Half Shell Oyster House. Inspired by the New Orleans French Quarter, the food and sides are off the charts delicious. Try the grilled asparagus with gorgonzola butter and sweet potato crème brûlée.
Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza and Ice Cream Joint has the best pizza (and meatball subs, for that matter) in town and is fun for the whole family.
Another fun place with a cool, hang-out vibe is Shaggy’s. It’s located right on Biloxi Beach and has classic bar food plus seafood and margaritas.
Also on the beach is The Reef. With its rooftop bar it is my third “fun” eatery with excellent food and a casual atmosphere.
A couple of scrumptious places that I would consider fine dining are the Rack House with its Bourbon Society and Cora’s, in the White House Hotel.
How to Get There
Biloxi is located on the Gulf Coast on U.S. Highway 90, less than three miles from Interstate 10. By car, New Orleans, Louisiana is 92 miles west on Interstate 10 while Mobile, Alabama is 62 miles east. Jackson, Mississippi is 166 miles north on U.S. Highway 49.
Most major airlines fly into New Orleans, but Gulport-Biloxi International Airport is the most convenient, less than 15 miles from downtown Biloxi and serviced by several major airlines.
Where to Stay
As previously mentioned, area casino resorts are probably number one on the list of where to stay in Biloxi. Many offer packages combining area activities with your stay and have restaurants, pools, and more.
At the Beauvoir, the Hayes Pavilion has been host to many guests in its 167-year history. The cottage can be rented for $125 per night. RV parking under the oak trees is also available.
The White House, not to be confused with the one on Pennsylvania Avenue, is a historic accommodation in Biloxi. Completely restored in 2014, the hotel, once the home of a prominent lawyer and his wife, has welcomed guests since it was built in 1895. A Gulf Coast crown jewel in the 1920s, the White House is just as impressive today.
If you are traveling with an RV, the Davis Bayou Campground (see Gulf Shores National Seashore above) is a great option with 52 campsites, water, and electrical hookups. There is a central restroom facility with flush toilets and showers plus there is an on-site dump station.
Last Updated on March 3, 2023