25 Best Things to Do in Gulfport (MS)

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As the second largest city in Mississippi, Gulfport’s special appeal lies in its relationship to the sea.  As the home of the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Seabees, maritime construction serves as an important industry in the area.  The area’s miles of white sand beaches bring in visitors year-round.  Along with watersports and gambling, outdoor recreation keeps the region humming with activity.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Gulfport (MS)

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore Park
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Answer the call of the sea on one of the barrier islands lying off the coast from Gulfport.  Most islands in the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS) Park can only be reached by private boat or charter.  The pristine condition of their beaches makes for excellent swimming, sunbathing, and fishing

Cat, Deer, Horn, Round, and Petit Bois islands are mostly undeveloped, so travelers must bring their own supplies.  The U.S. government conducting training exercises in the area during WWII, but human activity began here centuries ago.  Observant explorers may find arrowheads in the sand.  Rangers are available for consultation before visiting. 

2. Gulf Islands Water Park

Gulf Islands Water Park
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Drawing travelers from around the region, Gulf Islands Water Park is the ideal destination for a cool escape from the Mississippi summer heat.  The huge park features waterslides of every size and configuration, suitable for all ages.  Take a ride on the 500-foot Horn Island Blaster, the Gulf Coast’s only water roller coaster, or enjoy a ride with the whole family on the Camille Cutter, a giant raft adventure. 

Special events include Celebrity Meet & Greets and animals shows.  After you have built up an appetite, the onsite restaurants serve up hot meals and sweet treats.

3. Island View Casino

Best casino in Gulfport MS
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As the largest casino on Mississippi’s Gulf Shore, Island View lights up Gulfport Harbor each night.  With over 120,000 square feet of gaming, a large variety of slots and table games are the site’s principal attraction.  Island View’s Sports Book offers live betting on sporting events every day.  Island view also offers a second, smoke-free facility on the beachfront

Check out the live entertainment when you are ready for a break from the gaming tables. Gamblers can extend the fun overnight in one of the resort’s 970 rooms and suites.  The Beach Tower pool includes a swim-up bar and excellent views of the Gulf of Mexico.

4. Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts

Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts
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As the most accessible spot in the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS), Ship Island can be reached by ferry from Gulfport.  The brick Fort Massachusetts dates back to just after the War of 1812, and is open for tours.  Ship Island also features a boardwalk, restrooms, a picnic area, and a snack bar.  Visitors can rent beach chairs and umbrellas for a day in the sun. 

Split into western and easter halves by Hurricane Camille in 1969, Ship Island was reconnected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2019.  West Ship’s fine sand beaches are surrounded by clear gulf water, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

5. Fishbone Alley

Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts
Fishbone Alley Downtown Gulfport Facebook

Discover one of the country’s most quirky alleyways between 26th and 27th avenues in Gulfport.  Decorated with reclaimed brick, colorful graffiti, and original murals, Fishbone Alley invites visitors to enjoy live music as they stroll along its pleasant pedestrian-only length. 

Originally used to dump trash and provide maintenance access the alley has since been turned into a local hotspot of Gulfport’s cultural life.   The alley proves that run-down city corners can be reclaimed and converted into vibrant public spaces.  Check out the funky shops, trendy restaurants, and lively bars as the alley comes alive each evening. 

6. Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

Interesting Museums in Gulfport Mississippi
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Situated on Bayou Bernard just northeast of Gulfport, the non-profit Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) promotes research, education, and conservation of marine mammals.  Since its founding in 1984, the IMMS has helped care for stranded dolphins, whales, and sea turtles throughout the Gulf Coast.  IMMS aims to rehabilitate these animals for release back into the wild. 

Partner organization Ocean Adventures Marine Park offers encounters with dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays at the same location.  They also put on regular shows displaying the exciting talents of resident animals.  General admission permits access to all animal shows, a tour train, playground, discovery center, museum, touch pool, and aquarium.

7. Lynn Meadows Discovery Center

Things to do with kids in Gulfport MS
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Mississippi’s first children’s museum, the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is just a few minutes’ drive up the beach from the center of Gulfport.  Situated in a repurposed school building, kids can explore its many dynamic spaces. 

Bear Camp Bayou is designed for the smallest children, with a puppet show a giant reading nest.  Kids can ride on the Dolan Avenue Express train become a Little Pet Vet.  The Port invites kids to help load bananas onto a ship by crane, or fish for shrimp in the Gulf.  In the center of it all is the Super Colossal Climbing Structure where kids can make their way up to the next floor in an unconventional manner.

8. Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum

Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum
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At the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum you can see the largest LEGO railroad in Mississippi.  The museum is home to model trains for every enthusiast.  Aside from the 2,000,000-block LEGO railroad, highlights of the large collection include a Jurassic Park exhibit, a swamp train, and the Futurama outdoor display.  Another display honors POW-MIA service personnel. 

Kids of all ages can ride on functional trains of varying size.  The collection continues to grow, and the museum has now expanded to a third building.  This is a must-see museum for any train lover in the family.

9. Jones Park

Gulfport park promenade fow walking
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Ideally positioned at the edge of the Gulfport waterfront, Jones Park advertises itself as the “Front Yard for the State of Mississippi.” Created as a part of a $40,0000 marina renovation following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the park includes a 319-slip marina, a promenade along the waterfront, and the 23,000 square foot Barksdale Pavilion. 

The smaller Market Pavilion is also available for public use at the park, along with an amphitheater area for outdoor performances. There is also a splash pad for hot Mississippi days, and a replica lighthouse to explore.

10. Zip’N Fun Adventure Park

Zipn Fun Adventure Park
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For high-flying adventure seekers, Gulfport’s Zip’N Fun Adventure Park takes the action up to the tree tops.  Their Tree-To-Tree obstacle course offers a “squirrel’s eye view” of nature, as participants traverse tight ropes, cross wobbly bridges, and make their way over swinging logs.  With fifty individual challenges, the course also integrates zip-lines into the journey. 

The adult course requires a 54” minimum height for participants, but younger visitors can hook-up with the Junior Adventure Course.  It takes them through a series of twenty challenges including rope bridges and tight-rope lines.  Everyone is in a harness, to allow for a worry-free experience.

11. Mississippi Aquarium

Mississippi Aquarium
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As the newest major attraction in Gulfport, the Mississippi Aquarium opened in 2020.  The design of this state-of-the-art facility puts visitors in close contact with the more than 200 species in residence.  Shallow touch tanks invite close inspection of sea urchins, crabs, and other small sea creatures.  The mesmerizing swirl tank contains around 10,000 fish slowly swimming in a spiral. 

A unique viewing tunnel takes guest right through the center of a saltwater tank, where they are literally surrounded by fish in every direction.  Aside from fish, species such as otters, crocodiles, and turtles are also featured at the aquarium.

12. Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo

Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo
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Every summer Gulfport hosts the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.  The world-class event is open to anyone and you can register on site.  Held over multiple days, contestants compete to bring in the biggest catch. 

The Jones Park headquarters takes on a carnival atmosphere, with rides, food booths, and a chance to watch the competitors bring in the largest of the day’s catch.  This Gulfport tradition began just after World War II and has been held every year since.  This classic sports fishing tournament is a great way to experience the best of what the Gulf Coast has to offer.

13. Seabee Heritage Center

Seabee Heritage Center
Source: Seabee Heritage Center

The United States Naval Construction Battalions originated as combat-trained construction companies for service in World War II.  Taking the nickname “Seabees” from the first letters of “Construction Battalion,” the Seabees facilitate construction and engineering for U.S. military operations. 

In Gulfport, the Seabee Heritage Center presents the public with exhibits on Seabee history, including equipment, photographs, and machinery used over the years.  Significant space is devoted to Seabee accomplishments during World War II.  A small gift store on site sells replica Seabee memorabilia.  Visitors must pass through an ID check in order to enter the Naval base in which the center is located.

14. Gulfport Premium Outlets

Best shopping places in Gulfport
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For brand name shopping, head four miles north of the city to Gulfport Premium Outlets.  Situated just off Interstate 10, the outlets serve as one of the area’s top retail destinations.  Popular labels like Vera Bradley, Ralph Lauren, and Kate Spade are on site, as well as Under Armour, Banana Republic, and Nautica.  In total over seventy different upmarket stores can be found in the shopping center. 

To give the kids a break from the stores visit the on-site playground.  Grab a bite to eat at the food court, with restaurants including Italian, Asian, and American offerings.

15. Downstage Productions Theatre

Downstage Productions Theatre
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A short drive north from Gulfport will take you to this cozy neighborhood theater located in the community of Orange Grove.  Downstage Productions Theatre puts on live performances of well-known plays like Little Women and Steel Magnolias as well as locally produced drama

Dedicated to bringing the love of theater to the gulf coast, Downstage also hosts musicals, concerts, drama classes, and a children’s theater.  In summer, the facility is home to a K-12 theater camp.  The non-profit group is headed up by the local Spears family.  Check out their website for upcoming performances.

16. Gulfport Dragway

Gulfport Dragway
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Rev up your engines for an exciting experience at the Gulfport Dragway.  Travelers cannot help but be caught up in the adrenaline as rival vehicles fire off down the track.  Located right on the north side of town, the dragway is easily accessible to Gulfport residents and visitors. 

Every week on Wednesdays and Fridays it plays host to a variety of racing events, such as the Battle of the Brands ¼ Mile Shootout and the King of the Coast Bracket Racing Series.  Visitors can bring their own food and drink or make use of the on-site concession stand.

17. Gulfport Sportsplex

Sport facilities in Gulport Mississippi
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Athletes and sports fans will be glad to know that Gulfport is home to an excellent public sports facility.  The Gulfport Sportsplex includes nine baseball and softball fields on its 250 acres, along with four soccer fields.  Four batting cages are also available on site.  Restrooms are situated at the center of the site alongside a covered pavilion and concession stand. 

The site hosts local, regional, and even national-level events, bringing the gulf community together for exercise and fun.  Visitors frequently comment on the roomy, well-kept facilities and the quality of the turf fields.

18. Gulfport Little Theatre

Gulfport Little Theatre
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For those who enjoy home-grown theater productions that incorporate community members into the show, Gulfport Little Theatre (GLT) offers an authentic setting for engaging with the performing arts.  Since 1946, this welcoming amateur theater group has never missed a season. Originally located in Jones Park, the current venue is located on 13th Avenue.  Actors of all ages work together to pull off the heartwarming performances

Specializing in bringing the community into their productions, the theater puts on dramas, comedies, musicals, and more.  With drama classes, workshops, and children’s programs throughout the year GLT stays plugged into the Gulfport community.

19. Gulfport Arts Center and Galleria of Fine Art

Best art galeries in Gulfport
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Art lovers will gravitate toward the bustling Gulfport Arts Center.  A hub for community artists to work and share their craft, the Arts Center is also the site of the Galleria of Fine Art, a gallery with outstanding local pieces.  The center offers classes in watercolor, glasswork, jewelry, pottery, and a host of other media. 

Drop by the galleria and support Gulfport’s talented local artists or sign up for a workshop and enhance your own skills.  Keep an eye out for one of the many community events hosted at the vibrant center.

20. Bayou View Park

Bayou View Park
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Looking for a little outdoor space to stretch your legs in Gulfport?  Head over to Bayou View Park on the east side of town.  A creek runs through the pleasant park grounds, flowing down into nearby Bayou Bernard. 

The park includes a respectable playground with multiple slides, swings, and playhouses.  Small, covered pavilions are available on a first-come-first-served basis, perfect for a picnic or family event.  There is also a walking trail.  Members of the community volunteered to renovate the park after Hurricane Katrina. A centerpiece of the park is a lovely sculpture of playing children.

21. Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum

Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum
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On the east side of town just south of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport you will find the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum.  Dedicated to the memory of John C. Robinson, a pioneering African American pilot known as “The Brown Condor,” the facility also contains displays honoring many of Mississippi’s most famous aviators

A central exhibit tracks Robinson’s career through his service in the Ethiopian resistance to Italian fascism and his role in laying the groundwork for the development of the aviation program at the Tuskeegee Institute.  Visitors can sit in the cockpits of some of the planes on display.

22. Friendship Oak at USM Gulf Park

Friendship Oak at Gulf Park
Source: Flickr / Visit Mississippi | CC BY-ND 2.0

Long before the construction of the lovely Gulf Park campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, a southern live oak spread its branches toward the nearby waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Known in Gulfport as the Friendship Oak, the 500-year old tree has weathered countless storms.  Its acorns have been used to replant other coastal live oaks destroyed in major hurricanes over the years. 

Legend has it that those who enter the oak’s shade together will remain lifelong friends.  Covering around 16,000 square feet, the tree is a local landmark that should not be missed.

23. The World’s Largest Rocker

Gulfport Visitors Center
Dedeaux Clan Furniture LLC Facebook

For travelers in search of the eccentric and out of the ordinary, the Gulfport area offers up a nominee for the World’s Largest Rocking Chair.  To be fair, there are other claimants to this throne: a 56 foot tall specimen in Casey, Illinois holds the record since 2015, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  That said, Gulfport’s candidate is not to be dismissed easily.  At 35 feet it is reported to have been the largest when it was first constructed in 1995. 

Stop in for a peek at the other offerings onsite at Dedeaux Clan Furniture while there.

24. Gulfport Visitors Center

Gulfport Visitors Center
Source: Gulfport Visitors Center

With over one quarter of the Mississippi Gulf Coast economy coming from tourism, Gulfport works hard to extend a good welcome to travelers.  The Visitor’s Center is located at the historic Grass Lawn, an elegant Antebellum home originally constructed in 1836.  After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the existing structure in 2005, the community rebuilt the home as a period-style replica of the original. 

The home’s double-story porch provides excellent views of the waterfront.  It makes a great first stop for visitors looking to learn the lay of the land.  In addition to serving as the welcome center, the site can be rented for public functions. 

25. Banana’s Mini Golf & Arcade

Mini Golf Gulfport
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Kids of all ages will love Banana’s Mini Golf and Arcade, a great place for a family day out.  The 18 holes of mini golf allow for fun competition and is designed for a range of skill levels.  The arcade offers a range of options from air hockey to ski ball.  Banana’s also serves ice cream and snow-cones for a sweet treat. 

Located an eight-minute drive east of the Gulfport Visitor’s Center, and only a mile from the beach, Banana’s was opened in 2016.  Visitors report that the courses are well-maintained and clean.