Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties comprise the portion of Mississippi that US 90 traverses along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. They incorporate the “Mississippi Blues and Jazz Trail,” and offer drivers many enjoyable sights highlighting the arts, blues, and jazz. Plus, there are many historic buildings, plus sweeping vistas of the Gulf of Mexico.
Begin at Bay St Louis, which has some stunning old architecture including the city hall dating back to 1906, Our Lady of the Gulf Roman Catholic Church circa 1926, St Rosa De Lima Roman Catholic Church built in 1926, and the St Augustine Seminary by the noted architect William T, Nolan from 1930. The Bay St. Louis Historic L & N Train Depot is a standout in its 1920s mission style. Consider having a meal at the Iron Balcony Restaurant and stay at the Bay Town Inn. In Pass Christian, Oak Crest Mansion is a Bed and Breakfast with old southern charm, built in 1920. At Long Beach, be sure to see The Friendship Oak, a 500-year-old live oak tree. Blue Skies Gallery offers works by local artists.
In Gulfport, you can have a free ranger or volunteer guided tour of Fort Massachusetts during the spring, summer, and fall. The tours begin inside the Fort, once the Ship Island ferry boat docks at the island. Tours are scheduled twice daily in the summer, and once daily in the spring and fall. Access to Ship Island is seasonal and by passenger ferry aboard Ship Island Excursions. The ferry departs from Gulfport Yacht Harbor located at the intersection of Highway 49 and U.S. Highway 90.
Fort Massachusetts is located on the western tip of Ship Island – 12 miles south of Gulfport and operated under the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Fort Massachusetts was one of the last Third System forts constructed. The importance of this location is the strategic deep-water harbor located near the island. It was used by the British to stage their invasion of New Orleans in the War of 1812. The Gulfport Galleria in the Carnegie Building showcases the works of 40 regional artists.
Biloxi is known as “The Gem of the Gulf Coast” and is filled with history. Take a tour of the downtown Biloxi Historic Distinct. The White House Hotel by architect George B. Rogers was completed in the 1920s. It reopened after 40+ years, in 2014. Local notables are buried in Biloxi cemetery. Visit Pleasant Reed, a man born as a slave who contributed to American history in spite of incredible odds, Lazaro Lopez, a seafood pioneer, city leader and philanthropist, and George Ohr, “The Mad Potter of Biloxi.”
Biloxi Lighthouse dates back to 1848 and is open for tours; there is a stunning view from the top of this 65-foot tall structure. Mary Mahoney’s Old French House is a Greek Revival mansion dating to the 1830s, where you can dine. St. Michaels Catholic Church built in 1964 is in the modern expressionist style. The Mississippi Craft Center is an esteemed crafts retail gallery, featuring the artistic creations of members of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi. The Saenger Theatre hosts live performing arts productions.
Fun fact: at 140 Keller Avenue in Biloxi, you can find the first home of Barq’s root beer, created here by Edward C. Barq in 1898 and produced on this site until 1936. In Biloxi, you can also see the world’s largest rocking chair, built in 1995 by the Dedeaux Family Furniture Factory as an advertisement. The Magnolia State Rocker stands 35 feet high and is crafted out of Southern pine. There is also another oversized chair on highway 49 (this one is 25 feet tall). Throughout the Biloxi area, you will see Hurricane Katrina Tree Sculptures; these are trees that were killed in the violent storm, but whose roots held. Artists have used their remaining trunks as the source of sculpted reminders of that event.
Ocean Springs offers you The Ohr O’Keefe Museum of Art The museum shop at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is filled with works by more than 300 artists who come from Mississippi and throughout the USA. Pottery, books, woodworking, and more can be found on display and for sale. Shearwater Pottery is a small but world-famous family-owned pottery founded in 1928 by Peter Anderson with the support of his parents, George and Annette Anderson. Peter was Shearwater’s master potter while his brother Walter Inglis Anderson created gorgeous stylized works celebrating the region. Also in Ocean Springs are The Gryder House by famed architect Bruce Goff also known as The Cat House, the Ocean Springs Community Center with its Walter Anderson murals, the Charnley Norwood House by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright and The Art House which is a co-op gallery of local artists.
In Gautier, a landmark is the Nature’s Playground sculpture by Dean Mosher of Fairhope Alabama. The steel structure is coated in copper and topped with a stained-glass lighted sphere.
Pascagoula, which means “bread people,” is named after a legend. The story goes that the peace-loving tribe walked single-file into the Singing River, now known as the Pascagoula River, because the local Biloxi tribe were planning to attack them. The Singing River is known for its mysterious music which sounds like a swarm of bees in flight; it is best heard in late evenings in late summer and fall. The Jolly McCarty Depot Art Gallery is home to The Singing River Art Association, located in the old train station, offers a venue for local artist of note. Arts on the Avenue is another art gallery to visit.
The Round Island Lighthouse originally stood on Round Island, Mississippi, until it was toppled by Hurricane George in 1998. It was then moved to the City of Pascagoula and rebuilt just off US Hwy 90. Hungry? Go to Bozo’s for your shrimp po’boy. Jacks by the Tracks is another Pascagoula favorite and often serves up live music along with po’boy sandwiches, sushi, and fish tacos.
Moss Point offers outdoor adventures and tours, including the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch and Airboat Swamp Tours. For southern cooking that gets raves, eat at Heritage House. As you complete your exploration of Mississippi Highway 90, you ponder the signs of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina; yet, you will be glad that it did not let that deter you from going and enjoying the sun, sea, sky, and heritage to be savored on this lovely drive.