Driving the Beach
I lived in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area years ago. Driving the beach, so much has changed but some things remained the same. The Lighthouse still stands sentinel as it has since 1848. It has withstood many hurricanes including Hurricane Katrina.
The Gulf Coast residents refused to let Katrina destroy their community. Along the beach you’ll see dozens of chainsaw art called Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures. They were created from the live oaks killed by Katrina’s salt water tidal surge.
Created by chainsaw artists Dayton Scoggins, Marlin Miller, and Dayle Lewis, these sculptures along Highway-90 are one way the people of coastal Mississippi said “We will not be destroyed.”
The Gulf beaches are a fun place to sun and swim. Another way to enjoy the Gulf and understand what it offers is to take a shrimping cruise with Captain Mike who runs Living Marine Adventure Cruise.
You’ll see how shrimp are caught and cooked in his 70-minute cruise. It’s amazing how simple it is to fix such a delicious dish. You’ll even get to meet his ship’s mascot, Thomas Jefferson, a friendly black lab.
The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum is on the waterfront at the site of a former 1934 Coast Guard barracks. The original museum was destroyed by Katrina. The beautiful modern new museum was rebuilt and showcases all things related to catching and processing seafood from the Gulf.
Two things out front caught my eye. One was a statue of a fisherman tossing a net and the other a life-sized replica of a German U 166 which was sunk in the Gulf in 1941.
Inside the real eye-catcher is a sailboat, the Nydia, standing 40′ high. The museum completed in 2014, was built around the sailboat and resembles a giant boat-in-a-bottle. Nydia was built around 1898 by Baldwin Woods at Johnson Shipyard and believed to be the last remaining Johnson boat.
The other exhibits tell the story of people, places, and things that make up the Gulf’s seafood industry.
The area’s famous residents are remembered. Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s last home, was renovated and re-opened in 2008 after massive damage from Katrina. It’s a must-see for history buffs. In spite of all it’s been through, it still showcases many of the family treasures and offers a glimpse of life on the coast in the post Civil War era.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is a treasure for art lovers. It showcases the work of George Ohr known as “The Crazy Potter of the Gulf Coast.” His pottery was modernistic for his time–turn of the 20th century–created with thin walls, metallic glazes, and twisted, pinched shapes. It wasn’t well received in his lifetime but re-discovered and acclaimed in the mid-1900s.
He cultivated an eccentric aura, dressing oddly and behaving strangely. The museum showcases Ohr’s work and that of other artists.
The Pleasant Reed Center is part of the museum containing a replica of a house built by Pleasant Reed, in Biloxi during the 1880s and 1890s. It showcases the life of a middle-class African American worker.
Another famous Gulf Coast artist, Walter Anderson, is remembered in an Ocean Spring museum.
If shopping for antiques, Blue Rose Mansion in Pass Christian built in 1848 is filled with treasures plus being a historic home with an interesting history.
The perfect place to stay is the brand new Centennial Plaza. Once an ugly VA hospital, where I worked as a “token” woman carpenter’s assistant back when women weren’t usually carpenters, is now a beautiful complex of hotels and dining. There are two choices there: Oasis, where I enjoyed a stay, and Grand Centennial Hotel.
The casual Oasis Grill or more elegant Blue Marlin offers you a vast array of dining choices at Centennial Plaza.
If you just want a great cup of coffee or tea, try Bankhouse Coffee located in Hancock County Bank Building, circa 1926, and home of Coast Roast Coffee in Long Beach.
There’re upscale restaurants like White Pillars and The Chimneys that are housed in historical mansions.
Then there is Lovelace Drugstore, in Ocean Springs, which besides having one of the few remaining old-fashioned soda fountains, is where Elvis Presley ate while he was on the coast.
In April there will be a brand new aquarium gracing the beach.
Mississippi Gulf coast is all about revival and renewal.