You can’t really do the Gulf Coast without visiting southern Mississippi along Biloxi and Gulfport so we made the short drive from Pensacola to Biloxi. It is a simple drive along I-10 and despite it being a rainy day; we made it quick and easy.
Biloxi is a very historic town; it was the early 20th century playground for the rich from New Orleans. Antebellum houses lined both the beach roads and the long wide white sand beaches for miles. Unfortunately, hurricanes have taken their toll, the last major one being Katrina in 2005. It pretty much removed Biloxi from the map. But they have rebuilt, recreated and remade the city. The old light house is still standing watch and the houses are back, some new, some restored. Fortunately for us, after a rainy arrival day, the skies pretty much cleared, the sun came out and we were able to enjoy the Gulf beach.
We spent most of our days here having lunch at beach-side restaurants and walking the sandy beaches. Always in search of good gulf seafood, we found some good restaurants with great views and local sea food. Our criteria for where to eat was simple. Does it have a beach and water view? That was it. Ironically, it was a more challenging task than we thought. The beachfront is all open and most of the businesses and homes are across the road from the beach. We had lunch at a couple of good finds and then spent time walking the beach. Shaggy’s is a popular stop right on the beach along the boardwalk, so we got a beachside table and enjoyed lunch with a view.
We decided to drive west along the beach highway all the way to Bay St Louis. It was a lovely drive. There are some fabulous homes nestled along the coast and it is continual beach from Biloxi all the way to the bay. We stopped at Steve’s Marina Restaurant in Long Beach for lunch and had some great gumbo and fish tacos on a beautiful sunny day. On the way back from the drive, we found a couple spots to go for a walk on the beach.
Our RV Park, Gulf Beach RV Resort, was directly across from and walking distance from the beach. We did some beach walking and the sunrise and sunsets from here were beautiful.
One of the reasons we picked Biloxi, besides the beaches, was to be close enough to New Orleans for a day trip, but far enough away to not be in New Orleans. Our day trip was centered around a visit to the National World War II Museum. The museum was founded by the historian, Stephen Ambrose, as the National D-Day museum. As the interest and collections grew, it transformed to cover the entirety of World War II. Now you might be thinking, why New Orleans? Well, New Orleans is where the famous landing boats, the LCVP or Higgins boats were made. These are the boats that brought soldiers to shore during all the major amphibious landings. They were invented by Andrew Jackson Higgins and over 20,000 of them were made in New Orleans. Dwight Eisenhower once claimed that Higgins was “the man who won the war for us.”. With all this history, and the Higgins boats’ significance to the landing on D-Day, it was a logical link for a D-Day museum. It is now designated by Congress as America’s official museum about World War II. The entrance starts in a mock train station where we “boarded” a train, just like the soldiers did on their way to boot camp. It is divided into two main campaign segments: The Road to Tokyo, Pacific Theater Galleries, and Road to Berlin, European Theater Galleries. There is also the large US Freedom Pavilion filled with armaments and stories from the war. The most moving part of the entire day was the opening movie, Beyond All Boundaries, which tells the story of the war and is narrated by Tom Hanks. While we were in New Orleans, and so close to the French Quarter, we decided to make a short pit stop to grab some beignets at Café Du Monde and to walk some of Bourbon Street. Craig had never been there before and could not pass up the opportunity. It was very quiet in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, but things were gearing up as we were only a week away from the College Football National Championship game being played in New Orleans. Still, I am sure it is much different at night!
For the last few months, Jennifer has been following a 97-year-old WWII veteran, Ernie Andrus, who is running across the United States. He did it West to East back when he was just 90, now he has decided to run back the opposite direction. His goal is to reach the west coast near San Diego in 2023 for his 100th birthday. Well, as fate would have it, Mr. Ernie was in Biloxi and was actually running the morning we were headed to New Orleans so we got up early and drove to meet him. It was a wonderful opportunity! Jennifer was able to talk with him and learn more about his life; how he quit high school at 17 and enlisted right after Pearl Harbor, that he was a medic because he was not sure he could shoot anyone, and he was on a crew of Higgins boats. The irony. Jennifer even ran/walked along with him for a short stretch. You can learn more about him at https://coast2coastruns.com or you can follow him on FaceBook.
In all we had a wonderful time along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi; great weather, great beaches, great food and amazing experiences. We can’t wait to see what our next coastal stop in Galveston has to offer.