Along the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi’s coastline is dotted with lighthouses, aquariums, topnotch seafood dining, and tours galore. The destinations that line the shore range from glimmering cities to peaceful seaside escapes. Come see why Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis are top spots for group tours in search of sandy beaches, historical sites, and a heavy dose of fun in the sun.

Feeling lucky? Let the good times roll at one of Coastal Mississippi’s 12 casinos. Not only will groups find plenty of entertainment in the form of table games, slot machines, and live performances, but these casino resorts also offer excellent dining, spa services, and many other opportunities for groups to bond and relax together. Biloxi alone has eight such casinos and, as the largest of the cities along the Mississippi coast, it also presents many additional attractions to share with groups. One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks is the Biloxi Lighthouse. Built in 1848, this was one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the South, and it has since weathered wars and hurricanes alike, becoming an enduring symbol of the strength of the city. Planners can arrange a guided tour of the lighthouse by contacting the attraction in advance. Another historical site in Biloxi is Beauvoir, which was once the retirement residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The 52-acre property is home to a museum, a botanical garden, and a presidential library. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and guided tours examine Davis’ life and legacy through artifacts, artwork, and reflection.

Fort Massachusetts, Ship Island,
Credit: Adobe/Chad Robertson

The coast of Mississippi provides plenty of outdoor recreation and opportunities to connect with wildlife. America’s largest national seashore, Gulf Islands National Seashore, spans 160 miles across Florida and Mississippi and includes six barrier islands located near top group tour destinations along the coast. The most popular of these is Ship Island, which has played host to many historical events. British forces once used the island to stage an invasion of New Orleans during the War of 1812, and today, it is the site of historic Fort Massachusetts, which was built during the Civil War era. Knowledgeable National Park Service rangers lead free guided tours of the fort in the spring, summer, and fall, where groups can learn more about the thriving natural ecosystems that coexist with the people who lived and worked along the gulf for centuries. After the tour, make sure to schedule time to wander the boardwalk, search for seashells, and simply enjoy the sea breeze and sunshine.

The journey to Ship Island is just as enjoyable as the destination. Groups can access the island via a ride with Ship Island Excursions, an affordable passenger ferry service that departs from Gulfport Small Craft Harbor and crosses the Mississippi Sound. If you’re lucky, your group might even see a few dolphins along the way!

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge & Visitor Center protects the last remaining wet pine savanna ecosystem in the U.S., which is the habitat of the endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes. While the majority of the refuge is a private sanctuary for many native species, including the sandhill cranes, smaller groups can go on a two-hour guided “safari” tour for a chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive birds. Groups can also explore many different walking trails that take visitors across the wet pine savanna and two different bayous.

Interested in sharing a more niche outdoor experience with your group? The Gulf Coast Gator Ranch & Airboat Swamp Tours in Moss Point is the only attraction of its kind in Mississippi. Explore swamplands and hand-feed alligators on the ranch’s walking tours, or take to the water on a high-speed airboat tour, where groups can see birds, alligators, and other marine life in the wild.

By Katherine Lawless

Main Image: Biloxi Lighthouse, Biloxi, Mississippi. Credit: Adobe/KOVCS