A pier stretching out into the Gulf in Bay St. Louis.
A pier stretching out into the Gulf in Bay St. Louis.

I was trying to pronounce the strange and enigmatic names of the towns and rivers listed on the signs along I-10: Pascagoula, Escatawpa, Gautier, Tchoutacabouffa, D’Iberville, Biloxi, when I began to wonder if I had managed to take a wrong turn and cross into some previously unknown foreign country at the Alabama/Mississippi state line. But we hadn’t. We were still in the good ol’ U.S. of A., driving through the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where such names are par for the course. During our several day stay here, we would come to realize that it is more than just place names that make this a unique corner of the country. Quite a lot more.

Fishing boats moored to the docks in Pass Christian.
Fishing boats moored to the docks in Pass Christian.

I’ve been told that Louisiana is the only foreign country that American citizens do not need a passport to visit, but this adage falls short. The same could be said for the state of Mississippi, and for all the same reasons, especially the three county region that makes up the state’s stretch of the Gulf Coast. The area has known a multitude of claimants ranging from Native Indians, the French, the Spanish and both the United and Confederate States of America. Each successive culture has left traces of its uniqueness on the region, leaving behind a potpourri of influences that have managed to congeal into an identity unlike any other.

Spanish moss in Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, in Biloxi.
Spanish moss in Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, in Biloxi.

Although the far more popular tourist locale on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is Biloxi, we opted to skip the casinos and air-brushed t-shirt vendors for a quieter stay in a little seaside hamlet called Old Towne Bay St. Louis. It is a town that has received numerous accolades in recent years: it was named one of the top ten small beach towns in the country by Coastal Living Magazine in 2014 and one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” by Budget Travel Magazine in 2013. And all of this represents a massive achievement when you consider the fact that Bay St. Louis is where Hurricane Katrina made landfall just a few short years ago in 2005. The storm actually came ashore right here, threatening to wipe the town clean off the map. Locals say the entire county was completely underwater.

The Carroll House Bed & Breakfast at 304 Carroll Ave., Bay St. Louis.
The Carroll House Bed & Breakfast at 304 Carroll Ave., Bay St. Louis.

Today, its waters are calm and sailed by crabbers and fishermen. In times past, they have been sailed by everyone from conquistadors to pirates to German U-boats. In an area so profoundly tied to the water, a place where rivers and bayous meet the ocean, generations of locals can be seen fishing from the piers or climbing into boats at dawn to see what their traps have caught. And its restaurants serve up regional delicacies like fresh crawfish etouffee, catfish po’boys and seafood gumbo. Needless to say, an iodine allergy can limit your options in a place like this.

Two crabbers pose with the day's catch in Bay St. Louis.
Two crabbers pose with the day’s catch in Bay St. Louis.

The beach itself is a man-made marvel and a string of barrier islands out on the horizon block the waves that most beach-goers are accustomed to. The beaches are very quiet and don’t really get too crowded. This isn’t the kind of place you come for your college Spring Break. There are no high-rise hotels and no malls to shop, just a handful of restaurants, bars and artisanal shops. This is the kind of place you come to get away from the hustle and bustle of everything, the kind of place where you come to relax. Sit back and enjoy it.

Me standing out on a rock pier on the Gulf in Bay St. Louis.
Me standing out on a rock pier on the Gulf in Bay St. Louis.

18 thoughts on “Bay St. Louis & the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

  1. Nice article! I grew up on the coast and graduated from St. Stanislaus in 1984. I moved away after that, but I miss that atmosphere. This article brought back some memories!

  2. I’m getting married at the Carroll House!! The Bay is an excellent place for a weekend trip.We feel like we are on a mini-vacation when we drive just a few minutes ‘to town’ to the Main Street area. It is quickly building up but not too big. Visit on a 2nd Saturday of any month when everyone is out and about, live music, shops stay open late. Very family-friendly!! Check out Mississippi’s West Coast site for events. You won’t meet a stranger! Thanks for writing about your experience. So glad you found our little town!

  3. I’m getting married at the Carroll House! So glad you found our little town! It just keeps getting better! Visit on the 2nd Saturday of any month for a family-friendly day out and about the Main Street area. Shops are open late, there is usually a band or two in places such as the coffee shop patio area, someone strumming and singing in a doorway, children playing, making new friends, meeting old friends. It’s a fabulous town for a mini-vacation. We live just a few minutes away but still feel like we are on a vacation when we roam around.

  4. I was born and raised in Waveland, MS and graduated from Bay High. Unfortunately, after Katrina we moved to Picayune and stayed there. It is probably the greatest place I’ve ever been and was a wonderful place to grow up. Definitely a wonderful place to go to “escape.”

  5. Andrew thank you for featuring our “little bit of heaven”. Bay St. Louis is truly a wonderful place. I’ve lived here my entire life, graduated from Bay High, I’m raising my family here, and I presently work in the Mayor’s office. We are proud of where we came from and very proud of our future. As you mentioned, Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape here a lot, but we are building back stronger, smarter, and even more impressive than before. The resiliency of the people of this area is amazing. It is also truly exciting to meet people such as yourself and listen to what they think about the Bay. People come from all over and regardless of where they are from, or how long they are here, they seem to truly enjoy our city as much as we do. There is always something going on here and plenty for everyone to enjoy. Thanks again, and we hope you visit us again.

    If anyone would like more information about Bay St. Louis, they can visit the city’s website at http://www.baystlouis-ms.gov or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-City-of-Bay-Saint-Louis-A-Place-Apart/106832842705849.

    1. I will be visiting again sometime in the spring. You are right, people do love Bay St. Louis when they visit. I talked to so many folks from in and out of town while I was there. Everyone agrees that your corner of the country is a true gem.

  6. I also graduated from Stanislaus in 1980 . This article is AWSOME ! Hope to visit again in the near future . Thank you for the memories !!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s