Exploring the Hidden Treasures of Gulfport, Mississippi

When it comes to traveling across the United States, Mississippi often remains overshadowed by more popular destinations. While the state’s capital, Jackson, may be its most populous city, there’s a charm to be found in the smaller communities that dot the Mississippi landscape. Gulfport, located on the state’s southern coast along the Gulf of Mexico, is one such hidden gem, according to this travel blog article from SouthernLiving. With approximately 70,000 residents, it’s the state’s second-largest locale, yet it retains an aura of exclusivity, offering a unique coastal escape that goes beyond the typical sun and sand experience. In this blog post, we’ll explore the landmarks, activities, and natural beauty that Gulfport has to offer for an unforgettable weekend getaway.

The heart of Gulfport lies in its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Coastal Mississippi boasts 26 miles of pristine white-sand shores, with Gulfport contributing six miles of its own. A visit to Gulfport should undoubtedly begin with a relaxing day at one of its exquisite beaches. Gulfport Beach is a prime choice, offering easy parking and access to Boca Ciega Bay beach. Here, you can set up for a perfect day in the sun, equipped with everything from refreshing drinks to beach toys. The Gulfport Beach Waterfront Complex provides additional amenities such as a fenced playground, pavilion, restrooms, volleyball nets, and even a fishing pier.

For a more adventurous day out, consider taking a ferry ride to Ship Island, located 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi. Ship Island Excursions offer ferry services between Gulfport and Ship Island, where you can explore historic Fort Massachusetts, enjoy the pristine beaches, and even indulge in dolphin watching or a Starlight Cocktail Cruise. This offshore adventure adds a unique dimension to your Gulfport experience.

For those who are passionate about the ocean, a visit to the Mississippi Aquarium or Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is a must. The Mississippi Aquarium goes beyond the beach to showcase the diverse aquatic life of Mississippi, from the Delta to the coastline and the Mighty Mississippi River to the marshy bayous. With over 200 species of aquatic animals, the aquarium offers an engaging experience for visitors of all ages. Meanwhile, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies enhances your aquarium visit with special shows and encounters featuring dolphins, sea lions, birds, reptiles, stingrays, and more.

When you’re ready to explore Gulfport on land, the town’s burgeoning art scene awaits your discovery. Downtown Gulfport boasts a unique character, with lively bars, excellent dining, and a thriving nightlife. One of the standout spots is Fishbone Alley, a former utility alley turned art hub, where local artists share their talents through murals, panels, and paintings. If you’re inspired by what you see, continue your art exploration at the Gulfport Arts Center or Negretto’s Frame + Art.

As the sun begins to set, Gulfport’s dining scene takes a more relaxed and leisurely turn. Captain Al’s Steak and Seafood offers a vibrant waterfront dining experience with live music, aquatic nature exhibits, and a menu that includes everything from steak cooked over an open fire to seafood in a variety of mouthwatering preparations. Another waterfront hotspot is Flamingo Landing, where live music and a special Go-Go Sauce-enhanced menu await your evening pleasure.

Gulfport, Mississippi, is a coastal treasure waiting to be discovered. From its stunning beaches to its vibrant arts scene, delectable dining options, and diverse marine life attractions, there’s no shortage of experiences to enjoy in this hidden gem. So, if you’re seeking a unique coastal escape that offers more than the ordinary, make Gulfport your next travel destination.

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New Artificial Reefs Being Built in Lafourche and Terrebonne

The Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association is building three artificial reefs in the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche, according to an article from Houma Today.

These reefs comprise one-third of the total nine R.E.E.F. Louisiana projects that are set to be built by the end of the year. These projects are created in an effort to attract fish to the sites of various decommissioned oil platforms found along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.

The Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association started the R.E.E.F. project in 2019 after local anglers, political leaders, biologists, and CCA members from across Louisiana wanted to repurpose the sites of former oil platforms. The project aims to build these nearshore reefs, which range in depth from 10 to 150 feet, on areas that were identified by anglers as former fishing hotspots for favorite species like the red snapper or speckled trout.

In early April, one artificial reef is set to be built at Bay Marchand Block 3, which is located just southeast of Port Fourchon in Lafourche. The reef will be made of recycled materials and be built at a depth of 45 feet. Composed of recycled concrete structures, the reef will aim to host shallow-water fish and create a mangrove habitat. Mangroves serve to not only establish a barrier between the mainland and the ocean, but they also prevent soil erosion and provide a habitat to numerous fish, mollusk, and crustacean species.

The CEO of the Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association, David Cresson, remarked that each reef is constructed in one week, and it only takes less than a month after a project’s completion for fish to begin inhabiting the area. And while each reef may cost between $250,000 to $500,000 to complete, much of the total cost of each project is reduced through the donation of materials from the state’s old roadway projects and the donated labor and time from various construction companies.

Artificial reefs built in shallow waters can be constructed from recycled highway barriers, culverts, and other road materials, while old pieces of oil platforms, retired marine vessels, and recycled concrete are used to construct reefs in deeper waters.

One such reef will be built at a depth of 125 feet about 25 miles south of Timbalier Island in Terrebonne Parish, where it is set to attract red snapper fish. Nearby, at a location only 15 miles south of Timbalier Island, a 300-foot barge will be deployed to also attract red snapper.

According to Cresson, the Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association has invested $15 million over ten years to build over 30 artificial reefs across the state of Louisiana. “We’re doing this to replace habitat loss after old oil and gas platforms are removed. It’s two-fold, we build new habitats and maintain the platform reefs that are still there. These project ideas come from local volunteers and supporters and they should be proud of their efforts,” said Cresson. “It’s a marriage between a non-profit organization, state and federal partners, and corporate organizations for this to all come to life.”

These R.E.E.F. projects have received financial support from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Artificial Reef Trust Fund, the Building Conservation Trust, and companies like Chevron and Shell.

For many, the concept of repurposing former oil platform sites to attract species of fish that are originally native to this region is an easy idea to whole-heartedly support, as it speaks to a unique, environmentally-conscious spirit that’s often found in Southern Louisiana.

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