Then head to downtown Ocean Springs and work off some of your mid-day meal with a walk on Washington Avenue, lined with gnarled old oak trees, flower boxes abloom with a rainbow of tulips and storefronts as colorful as a box of crayons. Fill your shopping bags with local art and Mississippi-made jewelry like DeAna Autry’s statement necklaces adorned with freshwater pearls and Catholic saint medals at The Pink Rooster. Outfit your feet with sandals and boots at J Laurie Shoe Boutique. Don’t skip the opportunity to sift through a curated collection of vintage clothing, handbags and barware housed in a charming cottage at Buddyrow.
It should be time to check into your hip digs at The Beatnik. Half a mile from downtown, this boutique property is composed of four modern cabins big on mid-century style. Platform beds dressed with simple linens and sleek, low-slung furnishings in neutral hues and natural materials are enlivened with pops of orange and black, while moss-green velvet drapes add a touch of softness to otherwise sparse décor. The small wet bar is stocked with an electric kettle as well as coffee and tea, and the adjacent reading nook invites relaxation with a cup and a good book. Each cabin has a screened front porch facing a common green space and a shared plunge pool. To chill outside in privacy, enjoy the enclosed back patio with a hammock and outdoor shower.
If you time it right, you can watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico from Fort Maurepas CIty Park and Nature Preserve, just one mile away. From there, stroll along the paved path that runs parallel with the water and Beach Front Drive.
End your evening with dinner at Vestige. James Beard Award nominee Chef Alex Perry’s five-course tasting menu changes every day and combines Japanese influences with locally sourced ingredients. Recent offerings included wagyu beef accented with a variety of mushrooms and black-garlic butter and a twist on traditional carrot cake with black sesame miso and chai-spiced nuts. Reservations are required to dine in the restaurant’s intimate dining space located in a wood-sided cottage.
Start the day with a fat, fluffy doughnut from The TatoNut Shop, open since 1960. In addition to classic favorites such as glazed and chocolate-iced, there are special seasonal flavors such as blueberries and cream and king cake. Potato flour in the dough mix provides the doughnut with its light texture — and the Tato half of the shop’s name.
Your sugar-saturated breakfast should provide enough fuel for a paddling exploration of area waterways. Rent a kayak from Paulou’s Beach and Kayak Rentals and set out on your own to skim the surface of serene Fort Bayou, a subtidal river that empties into the Gulf, and keep an eye out for osprey and other seabirds. Most of Paulou’s craft are single-occupant, but they do have one double, so if you’re after a tandem paddle, make sure you book ahead. There are no age restrictions, but everyone must wear a life jacket.
Back in downtown Ocean Springs, grab a table at The Lady May for lunch and start with bagel chips smeared with cream cheese and house-made blueberry jalapeño jelly. Follow that up with a juicy burger slathered in bacon jam or the house specialty, the Crawfish May, a flatbread topped with garlic mayo, red onion, goat cheese, tender crawfish tails and then toasted. Dishes are served on antique china in various patterns in the bright white, airy space. Patio seating beckons when the weather’s nice.
After lunch, prepare to immerse yourself in the imagination of Ocean Springs’ celebrated native artist at the Walter Anderson Museum. On view are hundreds of the American master’s watercolors, sketches and carvings highlighting the flora and fauna of the Mississippi coast, including an entire room where every wall, from floor to ceiling, is covered in his fanciful, vibrantly hued representations of nature. Guided tours with museum docents are available, and a well-stocked onsite gift shop tempts you to take some Anderson art home.
Make the five-minute drive to Shearwater Pottery Studio, established in 1928 by Walter’s brother Peter Anderson, who produced a variety of glazed earthenware vessels, tiles and figurines, many of them featuring designs by Walter. Today, Anderson family members and other staff still make and decorate pottery the Shearwater way. The property includes a showroom with pieces for perusal and sale, as well as a small museum.
If there’s time, drive 3.5 miles over the Biloxi Bay Bridge to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the buildings themselves are works of art. Inside, artists of all stripes are represented with one common thread: they embody the innovation of the museum’s namesake, Mississippi master potter George Ohr.
Come suppertime, take your seat at the Mississippi coast’s other James Beard Award nominee, White Pillars, and dine on Chef Austin Sumrall’s elevated dishes, including seafood towers highlighting Gulf oysters, wood-fired Gulf fish atop preserved lemon risotto and warm heirloom tomato pie with goat-cheese ice cream. Dine amid the historic, elegant environs of the circa 1905 white-columned house.
Wake up and get your blood pumping with a morning hike through maritime forest on one of several relatively flat, short (2 miles or less) trails located at the Gulf Islands National Seashore William M. Comer Visitor Center. Then, fill your belly for the trip home at Fill-Up with Billups, a throw-back diner-style eatery serving hearty portions of breakfast standards and more creative fare like rum-soaked bananas foster waffles, bacon-laden bloody Mary’s and big bowls of scrambled eggs topped with your choices of cheese and meat.
If You Go
Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is 383 miles southwest from Atlanta via I-85 and I-65. Or fly direct from Atlanta to Mobile Regional Airport in Mobile, Alabama, pick up a rental car and drive 57 miles west on I-10.
Fort Maurepas City Park and Nature Preserve. Free. Front Beach Dr., Ocean Springs.
Walter Anderson Museum of Art. $10. 510 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-872-3164, www.walterandersonmuseum.org
Paulou’s Kayak Rentals. 6717 Woodlake Lane, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-380-0256
Shearwater Pottery Studio. 102 Shearwater Drive, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-875-7320, www.shearwaterpottery.com
Gulf Islands National Seashore Visitor Center. Free. 3500 Park Road, Ocean Springs. 228-875-3962. www.nps.gov
Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. $10. 386 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, Mississippi. 228-374-5547, www.georgeohr.org
The Pink Rooster. 622 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-875-1218, www.pinkrooster.net
J Laurie Shoe Boutique. 628 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-243-5408, jlaurieshoes.com
Buddyrow. 619 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-369-9414
The Shed Barbecue & Blues Joint. Barbecue plates start at $14; sandwiches at $8. 7501 MS-57, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-875-9590, www.theshedbbq.com
The TatoNut Shop. Donuts. 1114 Government St., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-872-2076, www.tatonut.com
Vestige. Tasting menu starts at $85 per person. 715 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-818-9699, www.vestigerestaurant.com
The Lady May. Sandwiches and salads start at $12. 708 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-872-8478, www.theladymay.com
White Pillars. Entrees start at $26. 696 Beach Blvd., Biloxi, Mississippi 228-207-0885, www.biloxiwhitepillars.com
Fill-Up with Billups. Breakfast plates start at $11. 100 Caillavet St., Biloxi, Mississippi. 228-207-3345, www.fillupwithbillups.com
The Beatnik. Weeknight rates from $187; weekends require two-night stay. 402 Porter Ave., Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 228-285-7424, www.thehotelbeatnik.com
Coastal Mississippi. 2350 Beach Blvd., Suite A Biloxi, Mississippi. 228-896-6699, www.gulfcoast.org.