Located just east of Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is a scenic, artsy seaside community that’s definitely worth visiting. Once known for the namesake mineral springs that drew visitors seeking rest and recuperation, the city is now known as a destination for dining, antique and vintage shopping in its highly walkable downtown and art and nature appreciation. Here’s a guide to the top 10 things to do in Ocean Springs.
Take a Hike or Two
Check out the Davis Bayou Area, part of the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore chain of parks in Mississippi and Florida. The park offers easy, scenic hiking trails along the water and through light woods, plus opportunities for camping, fishing, and simply enjoying a picnic meal. Also, visit the lovely marshland along Twelve Oaks Walking Trail. It’s a short walk or drive from downtown, and you can try to spot the rare namesake birds in the very gently hilly trails of Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re more of an urban explorer, stroll down Government Street to explore the many shops and restaurants that downtown Ocean Springs offers.
Have Some Coffee
There’s no shortage of options for coffee and light bites in Ocean Springs without having to resort to the big national chains. Bright-Eyed Brew Co. serves up coffee from locally roasted beans in a cozy downtown location, as well as a creamy, nitrogen-infused cold brew. Coffee Fusion boasts a variety of caffeinated beverages, including bubble-infused smoothies and Thai iced tea. And Li’l Market Deli & Bagelry offers coffee alongside items that will make Northeasterners feel at home, including bagels, Boar’s Head cold cuts, and even New Jersey-style Taylor ham sandwiches.
Get to Know the Art of Walter Anderson
Painter and illustrator Walter Anderson might be Ocean Springs’ most famous resident, known especially for his watercolors of nature scenes from the Mississippi coast. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art downtown has a fabulous collection of his work, incorporating a city community center featuring his murals and a room found by his family after his death, featuring floor-to-ceiling paintings of Gulf Coast wildlife. If you find yourself enthralled by his art, consider shopping for prints to take home in the museum’s gift shop. Also visit Realizations, a shop in a charming restored railroad depot devoted to largely affordable art by and inspired by Anderson, and stop by Shearwater Pottery, a studio owned and operated by the Anderson family for nearly 100 years.
Hit the Beach
It’s easy to find a quiet spot on the beach in Ocean Springs: walk, stroll or bike down Front Beach Drive or East Beach Drive until you see a welcoming spot on the sand, then enter the water or spread out your towel. Street parking is generally available near the beaches—make sure to heed the signs. If you’re feeling restless, you can take a walk, bike, or drive across Biloxi Bay Bridge, enjoying the sparkling water below.
Enjoy Some Seafood
Stop by Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant, a sprawling waterfront establishment, for the famed all-you-can-eat fried catfish or grab an entree like the catfish Creole to go. During crawfish season in the early months of the year, visit the Crawfish House & Grill for some boiled crustaceans. Or check out Mikey’s on the Bayou for a casual spot offering fried seafood, oysters, and po'boys.
Entertain the Kids
If you have children visiting Ocean Springs with you, you can find entertainment for them too. Miner’s Doll and Toy Store offers collectible dolls that might be better suited for adult shelves but also stocks items from well-known brands intended to actually be played with, along with activity and sticker books that can keep children amused. Kids can also enjoy the splash pad and pirate-themed playground at Fort Maurepas City Park and Nature Preserve, near the water.
Go Shopping for Antiques
Downtown Ocean Springs is chock full of antique and vintage shops. Among the highlights is Coastal Magpie, offering a mix of fascinating antique furniture and industrial equipment alongside regional art. Ocean Springs Mercantile houses an eclectic array of old and new housewares and gifts, while Buddyrow houses a unique mix of vintage clothes and new arts and crafts.
Treat Yourself to Dessert
Grab one of the eclectic ice pop flavors at Pop Brothers, like Key lime pie, Vietnamese coffee, or strawberry basil. If you’d prefer something that won’t chill your lips too much, consider grabbing a rich baked good or a scoop of gelato from French Kiss Pastries. Or decide if you agree with TatoNut’s claim to offer “the only real donut.” Stop by Caboose Cones for snowballs, ice cream, and more in a vintage railroad car.
Get Yourself Some Artwork
There’s no shortage of galleries and other stores offering original art in Ocean Springs. Among them, the Pink Rooster offers originals and prints by a variety of artists, including many from the area, at a good range of prices, as well as art supplies if you prefer to make your own art. The adorable cottage called The Art House features work by members of The Ocean Springs Art Association, and Love & Aesthetics, with its distinctive anatomical heart logo, offers unique housewares and jewelry. You can also look into arranging a tour or taking advantage of a periodic open house at the Charnley-Norwood House, a historic building designed by renowned architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan in 1890 that’s visible from East Beach Drive even when not open for tours.
Grab a Drink
If you’re looking for an adult beverage, consider stopping by Craft Advisory Brewing downtown for some of its beers made onsite. Other bar options on the main downtown strip include the country-themed tavern Boots & Spurs, the Rooftop Taco & Tequila Bar, which claims Mississippi’s largest tequila selection, and Mosaic Tapas Bar, featuring beer, wine, cocktails, and frequent live music.