Best Outdoor Activities in Ocean Springs

Ocean Springs, an idyllic coastal town on the Mississippi Sound, has all the makings for the getaway of your dreams.

With mouth-watering dining options ranging from a beloved donut shop to a semi-finalist James Beard restaurant, you’ll enjoy incredible meals. There is a white sand beach perfect for swimming, sunbathing and enjoying breathtaking sunsets. The fantastic shopping and live music along Government Street make this an exciting downtown area. And famous artist Walter Anderson’s paintings inspire an artistic vibe wherever you go. For active people, there are more outdoor activities than you can schedule in one getaway.

Just 24 miles from the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport by car, Ocean Springs is easy to get to but hard to leave. The neighboring towns along the Strait are all unique, but here are the best outdoor activities in this little gem of a town if you decide to stay put.

Note: I was a guest from Coastal Mississippi for parts of this trip and was accommodated for some meals and some of the activities during my stay. All opinions are mine.

Walter Anderson Museum

1. Discover the arts and cycling

The Walter Anderson Museum of Art offers a unique excursion around Ocean Springs led by Director of Education Tony DiFatta. The visit begins in the museum with the new exhibition, Walter Inglis Anderson: The South’s most elusive artist. As you are inspired by Mr. Anderson, you will find out that he has cycled around Ocean Springs and thousands of miles to New York City, Texas and beyond.

After seeing his famous bike, you will ride your own. You’ll visit various historic locations in Ocean Springs including Walter Anderson’s Cabin (not open to the public), Shearwater Pottery (the studio of his older brother Peter), and more. Loan bikes are available for group or personal tours.

If you want to cycle around Ocean Springs, take the 25-mile round-trip Live Oak Bike Trail throughout downtown and the Davis Bayou area. Follow the green and white bicycle lane signs on the right side of city streets. Maps are available at the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce inside the historic L&N Railroad Train Depot. Bike rentals can be found here.

2. Put your toes in the sand

In Ocean Springs, Front Beach is the place to go, starting at the Biloxi Bay Bridge and extending all the way to Ocean Springs Harbor. If you want, you can even walk or run on the bridge. There is much or nothing to do; Everything depends on you. If you want to be as close as possible to the action, settle in near Fort Maurepas Park, the highest point in Ocean Springs. You will see a bronze statue of Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville, war hero and sea captain. He founded the first permanent establishment in Louisiana.

The park overlooks the beautiful sandy beach, which accepts dogs. Facilities include fishing piers, a covered pavilion, fire pits, volleyball courts, and an oversized chess board. There is also a one kilometer long cycle path for running, cycling and walking.

If you don’t like all the activities, drive along Front Beach and cross the bridge to East Beach, where it’s quiet. If you want nice chairs for the day, contact Belly Up Beach Chairs. Owner Rita Paoletti started her business in 2016 and has never looked back. She will set up resort style chairs for you in either location. Book in advance by booking on its website.

Coastal picnic and company, front beach.
Coastal picnic and company

3. Picnic at the beach

If you would like to organize a special meal, event or party on Front Beach or East Beach, contact Coastal Picnic & Company. Tina Dinh and Maegan Fisackerly will create a stunning scene at either location. Choose the day, style and add-ons; they will do the rest. Coastal offers 2 hours of enchanting picnic ambiance that includes music, cold cuts or meals prepared by partner Eat Drink Love. Organizing events is their passion, and if you want them to throw an afternoon at the beach, check out their website.

Perhaps you would rather prefer a meal prepared by a chef at the beach? Chef Michael Paoletti and his wife Stéphanie are trained kitchen professionals whose businesses, Food, Booze, & Hiccups, have shifted to pop-up tasting menus during the pandemic. They’ll cook for you at the beach or on their grassy field in town and create five-course meals for 2 to 24 people. They also create intimate experiences for couples or small groups, including romantic s’mores and bonfire parties on the sand, with Stephanie’s homemade marshmallows.

Castle complex design of the University of Sandcastle.
Sandcastle University

4. Build a sand castle

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to build the perfect sand castle, hire Sand Castle University. Janel Hawkins started his business in 2017 and has never looked back. She will bring all of her tools and skills to Front Beach and teach your small or large group how to build the perfect sandcastle. The two-hour class is ideal for a large group, such as a birthday party, or Janel can tailor it for a couple or a small group of four. She will guide you through the steps and then unleash your creativity. After class, she will take a photo of your creations for you to keep.

Janel compares her classes to group painting classes. “Get together a fun group and enjoy the day playing in the sand. Ocean Springs is a creative place, and inspiration is easy to find here.

5. Visit Gulf Islands National Seashore in Davis Bayou

You can take a 25-mile round-trip bike ride or head to the Davis Bayou area, three miles east of downtown Ocean Springs. Either way, your first stop should be the William M. Colmer Visitor Center. Here, you’ll find exhibits on the islands off the coast and the four that make up the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi. There is a fishing pier right next to the Visitor Center, a great place to cast off.

You can also take a map which details all the small hiking trails around the Bayou. You will encounter alligators and several species of birds, including bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, and the Mississippi sandhill crane. There are campgrounds with 51 sites, a small boat launch and shaded picnic areas.

Pro tip: Check the website for unexpected closings. Remember to bring water, bug spray, and sunscreen for biking or hiking. Food is not available, so please bring your own.

6. Fishing offshore

Reel Southern Charters has everything you need for a perfect day of fishing. Your private charter includes a four, six or eight hour excursion with up to four people on board. Everything is included, from the permit to cleaning and threading your catch. Captain David Kuehn is in his fifth season and knows all of the best fishing spots around the Barrier Islands and in Biloxi Back Bay. You might catch red snapper, cobia, rockfish, speckled trout, or black drum.

On your return, head to Knuckleheads in town, where they’ll prepare your catch for you.

Sunset over the ocean from Horn Island of the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi
Jason Patrick Ross /

7. Boat to Horn Island for the day

Reel Southern Charters also offers a water taxi to Horn Island, the closest barrier island to Ocean Springs, where Walter Anderson was inspired by the natural world. This beautiful island has no facilities because it is uninhabited. Set up your beach chairs for a few hours and enjoy the calm and the clear blue water. You can also hike the island and explore nature.

Captain David will drive up to six passengers to Horn Island for a few hours of relaxation, then return to pick you up. The taxi takes about twenty minutes each way. Horn is about ten miles offshore and is a favorite with the locals.

Pro tip: Be prepared to bring anything you might need, such as drinks, meals, snacks, chairs, towels, sunscreen, hat, and proper footwear, especially if you plan to hike .

8. Sip a craft beer or a cocktail on a terrace

It all started with a recipe book and a few ingredients. The happy mistake turned into passion and, later, into business. At Craft Advisory Brewing, you’ll taste at least 16 different types of house beers, from lagers to IPAs, which pair with delicious snacks and burgers. Or head to Mosaic for tapas and handcrafted cocktails on the beautiful outdoor patio. If you want to move on, ask for a go-cup – the entertainment district lets you travel with your cocktails.

Golf cart rentals in downtown, Ocean Springs.
Golf cart rental downtown

9. Drive a golf cart around town

Driving a golf cart around Ocean Springs is so much fun; even the locals do. At Downtown Cart Rentals, you can rent a cart for four to six people for an hour, four hours, or on weekends. People love to take the cart to shop, to bars and to the beach. It’s a great way to get around the city and take in all that this fabulous place has to offer. Golf carts should not be driven on sand or on Route 90. If you go to bars, choose a designated driver.

Pro tips: The Roost Ocean Springs is a lovely place to stay in town. This is a wonderful boutique hotel with fabulous facilities. Anytime is a good time to come, as there is usually a festival. Check out the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce to see what happens when you want to visit. And while you’re around, think about:

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