Escape to Ship Island for an unforgettable summer adventure

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The Gulf Coast is filled with incredible beaches and interesting towns—many that are less than a gas tank’s drive away. News with a Twist’s Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, is taking us roadtripping all week—and the first destination in the spotlight is a barrier island off the coast of Mississippi.

If you’re looking for an escape that will take you far away from street noise and tall buildings, and closer to nature and the aqua water of the Gulf of Mexico, head for the harbor in Gulfport, Mississippi. There’s plenty of free parking near the Ship Island Excursions ticket booth, where a round trip ticket is $29 for adults. There are discounts for kids, service members and senior citizens.

The 11 mile trip out to the island takes about an hour. Enjoy the scenery, watch for dolphins or nibble on something from the snack bar. The Skrmetta family has been running these excursions for 90 years!

Once you arrive, you’ll see a large historic structure close to the shore—that’s Fort Massachusetts, built with a blend of brick and mortar from Louisiana and New England. There’s a Civil War era cannon at the fort, and plenty of volunteer park rangers on hand to educate the public. There's also a "cancellation station" for anyone who carries a National Parks Passport.

Whether you choose to wander on your own or take a free guided tour, Ship Island is a place where you can pick up a history lesson along with your tan. This is all part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the longest seashore in the National Park System.

Next, you'll walk a third of a mile on a very sunny boardwalk that feels as if you're traipsing across the Everglades. There are restrooms near the Fort, and at the other end of the boardwalk. It’s a long walk, but well worth it when you see what lies at the end: the glorious Gulf of Mexico!

Pack a small cooler for the journey, or you can purchase food and drinks at the Snack Bar. It’s one tiny shop, but it’s full of supplies, including bathing suits and bug repellant.

If you can get out here on a weekday, you'll have more of the white quartz sand to yourself, but you may need to share it with a hermit crab or two.

June 6, 2016, by Stephanie Oswald 

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