Thirteen years after being decimated by Hurricane Katrina, Bay St. Louis and its neighboring town of Waveland have fought back and are welcoming guests with open arms. New and renovated museums, charming B&Bs, quaint local shops, mild weather and delectable fresh seafood and bread pudding make this a wonderful time to visit this part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
1. Play in the sand at Waveland's new beachfront
The 1.9 million USD lighthouse pavilion was recently dedicated in Waveland, finally providing a beautiful anchor for this stretch of beach with much-needed public restrooms. Truckloads of sand have been brought in, and the citizens are eager for warm temperatures and school vacations so they can spend happy days sunbathing, swimming and playing here. The town leaders have ambitious plans for expansion across the street which will make this even more popular in the years ahead.
2. Ride the waves at Buccaneer Bay
Buccaneer State Park is a peaceful and comfortable place to camp or park an RV when you’re visiting Waveland and Bay St. Louis, but the wave pool and water park, known as Buccaneer Bay, attract day visitors from miles around. Pirate’s Lagoon Wave Pool contains 460,000 gallons (1741289.42 liters) of water and has 8 different wave patterns. Pirate’s Plank is a completely enclosed water slide, while Pirate’s Plunge is a body slide full of twists and turns. Lil’ Smuggler’s Cove is a shallow water playground with tipping buckets. Sea Dog Galley provides lots of shade and plenty of concessions for hungry swimmers.
3. Eat fresh seafood and cuisine with the influence of New Orleans
With New Orleans only an hour’s drive away, it is easy to see why the Cajun and Creole flavors have migrated to the Bay St. Louis part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and with the teeming waters of the bay, seafood dominates most restaurant menus. Fish can be prepared fried, baked, broiled, blackened or steamed, according to the whims of the chefs. Some favorite restaurants of the locals include Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill, 200 North Beach, Bogart’s at Hollywood Casino and Jourdan River Steamer in nearby Kiln.
In addition to seafood, you’ll find gumbo, etouffee, po’ boys and bread pudding in abundance. A fun side activity might be a search for the best bread pudding or gumbo. Hint: The Jet Away Cafe at Stennis International Airport serves some of the area’s most flavorful gumbo.
4. Discover the Mississippi coast's space contributions at Infinity Science Center
Infinity Science Center is the official welcome center for NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s) Stennis Space Center located in Hancock County’s Pearlington, Mississippi. Visitors may enjoy rides, bus tours of NASA’s rocket-testing facilities, and state-of-the-art exhibits. In the Science Express Gallery, for example, you can use building blocks to design your own inventions or learn about hundreds of carnivorous plants. In Science on a Sphere, see what is involved in tracking hurricanes or examining the surface of the sun or Mars. The new theater boasts a full slate of three-dimensional movies with surround sound.
Infinity includes a cafe and a gift shop and is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is 18 USD for adults with discounts for military personnel, senior adults and children.
5. Stay in a quaint B&B
Bay St. Louis boasts three B&Bs, several small hotels and two large hotels with casinos. One B&B in particular is called Bay Town Inn Bed and Breakfast, owned by Nikki Moon, who narrowly survived Hurricane Katrina by clinging to a tree for hours with her small dog after being swept from her 100+ year old home when it collapsed due to the powerful surge of gulf waters. She built back on the same spot, which is across from the harbor and next door to restaurant 200 North Beach. The inn has ten guest suites, each with a living and kitchen area, full bathroom and a bedroom with a king bed. The fridge is stocked with juices, sodas, yogurt and water with snacks on the nearby counter. A continental breakfast is delivered to the rooms Monday through Friday, but a full, hot breakfast arrives on the weekends.
6. Shop in Old Town Bay St. Louis
It’s no surprise that many of the shops in Old Town Bay St. Louis have bay-themed names – Bay Books, Bay Elements, Bay Life, Bay-tique, etc. But, what WILL surprise you is the number of great shops near Main Street that beckon customers with unique wares. In addition to clothing and shoe stores, you’ll find pottery, jewelry, paintings and a wide selection of home decor for indoors or outdoors. One particularly appealing shop is called Social Chair. Look for the whimsical painted chairs beside the front door.
7. Visit informative museums to appreciate the area
The Historic Train Depot, at 1928 Depot Way, which houses the visitor center for Bay St. Louis also includes three very colorful and informative museums and displays. On the first floor, you’ll be enthralled with the intricacies of past Mardi Gras gowns and costumes and learn about famous people, events and contributions to culture that have originated in the area.
Upstairs you’ll find an impressive museum showcasing the life and paintings of Alice Moseley, a self-taught folk artist who is often compared to Grandma Moses. The famous blue house, immortalized in a painting, is within a stone’s throw of the depot and is where she lived and worked for a number of years. Her spirited quote on the painting says, “The house is blue, but the old lady ain’t.” The welcome center is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Alice Moseley section opens at 10:00 a.m.
Be sure to take a few minutes to drive over to Waveland to visit the Ground Zero Hurricane Museum which resides in one of the only buildings left standing in the town when Katrina made landfall. Quilts made from found fabrics, newspaper clippings, photos and much more tell the poignant story.
A place to enjoy and be inspired
A visit to Bay St. Louis will bring plenty of surprising delights to your sight, your tastebuds, your intellect and your senses. Almost every building is brand new, but the people are long-time residents who have weathered many storms and setbacks. Their resilience, hard work and spirit will impress you, and the great food, the shops, museums and entertainment and lodging options will make you glad you chose to experience this part of the Gulf Coast.
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