As you know from previous entries, my family and I elected to hit Gulfport, Mississippi, because it was within driving distance and I really wanted to visit a beach. I read online that the town is nice, the beach is nice, and the water is nice. Sounds perfect, right? I guess it’s all relative, though, isn’t it?
I’ve already written about my thoughts on our resort, the Oasis. Today’s article will cover the beach, the town, the restaurants, and the attractions.
The town: As we rolled into the outskirts of Gulfport, I got a bad feeling. I could tell right away that it wasn’t the typical kind of beach town I associate with places like Myrtle Beach. It looked a little old, rundown, and unkempt. I kept hoping things would improve the closer we got to the beach, but, in my opinion, they did not. Let me say that I’m sure it’s a fine town with fine people, but it’s just not the beautiful vacation destination the online pictures depicted.
The beach: Our first morning there, a Sunday, we woke up and left to take a stroll on the beach. We knew we had to cross a highway to get to it from our resort, and that went fine. There were crosswalks and “Walk” signals, etc. I also knew it was a manmade beach. However, as soon as we got on the sand, we knew something was up. There was NOT a soul on it with us. At nine in the morning … nobody. We quickly noticed that there weren’t any waves. This is because of the barriers further out. We also noticed that, up close, the water looked pretty brown. That made sense due to the Mississippi River’s impact. What we didn’t count on was the garbage from the night before. Water bottles, beer bottles, glass, debris–all kinds of stuff. Okay, it was a Saturday the night before–party night. I got it. Surely it would look better on a Monday morning or a Tuesday morning. But then the nail in the coffin arrived. If you look in the below picture, you’ll see an enormous pipe. These things occurred about every 100 feet. They didn’t look good, so I wouldn’t let my kids even walk in the water until I knew what they were all about. We were later told that these pipes drained the city’s storm water. Yes, you read that right. All of the storm water from the city is flushed out onto their beach, where people are swimming. Needless to say, we did all of our swimming at the Oasis. That was our only visit to the beach, which was supposed to be the entire reason we were there. My lesson? Accept no substitutes when it comes to beaches–go to the real deal.
Restaurants: I already addressed the Oasis’ two restaurants that were very good, but we also tried a few restaurants in Gulfport’s downtown area. Here’s something we knew about the area before arriving–they have a large homeless population. I only mention that because it will soon be pertinent.
Half Shell Oyster House: The Half Shell Oyster House had very good reviews so we thought we would start with it. We loved the interior, ended up sitting in a great spot on the upper level, had a fantastic waiter, and enjoyed the food. My daughters particularly loved their dessert. We definitely recommend. I do have to note, though, that on our way out we were greeted by a homeless man. He remained seated and was perfectly pleasant, but thought I would mention it because the homeless were common in this area.
Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria: The kids were ready for good old fashioned pizza, so an Internet search led us to believe Tony’s was the way to go. It was also in the downtown area, not far from Half Shell Oyster house. Tony’s is on a side street and is fairly small. It appeared as though it could seat maybe fifty people at the most. Though we were seated quickly, it took our waitress twenty minutes to bring us water. On the one hand, we felt bad for her because she seemed to be handling phone and online orders as well, but we definitely felt as though we were an afterthought. To make matters worse, a gentlemen who seemed to be either high or mentally unstable came in and out of the restaurant no less than fifteen times. He wanted to use people’s cell phones, he wanted water, he wanted a car ride–in, out, in, out, in, out. The staff finally had to stand at the door and try to keep him from coming all the way in, and at that point it got very tense. The police finally showed up after about thirty minutes of this. Within three minutes, they cuffed him and stuffed him into the squad car. I have no idea if the pizza was any good or not. I was so rattled by the whole thing that I couldn’t eat. Very weird situation.
The Rack House Steak & Spirits: Across the street from Half Shell Oyster House, The Rack House Steak & Spirits also had an excellent ambiance. Our waitress was exceedingly friendly and even answered questions we had about the 4th of July fireworks taking place that night. We were very pleased with both the food and the service.
The fireworks: Speaking of which, my idealistic fantasy before we actually arrived in Gulfport was to walk about a mile down the beach from our resort towards the downtown area where the fireworks were going to be detonated. Well, after the pizza ordeal as well as the many, many people setting off their own fireworks on the beach, we decided to stay on the grounds at the Oasis and watch what we could. We could see and hear the fireworks pretty well, but they didn’t last very long nor were they all that impressive.
Gulfport Premium Outlets: We learned an outlet mall existed not too far away from us, so we decided to check it out. My kids were not interested in the beach, we’d already been swimming at the Oasis pool that day, and walking around downtown Gulfport was not going to happen anymore. Even though it was pretty hot, we gave it a look. We loved it! The Gulfport Premium Outlets had some great stores and we found some awesome deals. My oldest daughter particularly loved a video game store that had a little bit of everything pop culture and video game related. I highly recommend this mall if you’re in the area.
While we met a lot of very nice people, we don’t plan on visiting Gulfport again. Outside of a few good restaurants and a great mall, it didn’t really appeal to us, and, let’s be honest, we don’t need to drive twelve hours to experience a mall and a few good restaurants. I do wish we had checked out their aquarium. It’s supposed to be very good, but so was everything else I’d read online about the area.