We have lived in Mississippi for a little over a year now. New Orleans was at the top of my husband's list and since crossing that off last month, the only place left either of us was super curious about was Ship Island. Don't get me wrong, there are still places down here I'd like to explore, but Ship Island was on my must visit list. There is just something about islands. As a child I spent parts of many summers exploring Washington Island off the coast of Door County in Wisconsin. Prince Edward Island, Australia, and Fiji are at the top of my travel bucket list. I just love islands.
Anyways. For my birthday my husband surprised me with a family trip to Ship Island. If you are looking for a fun little Gulf Coast adventure, this is a fun one. You certainly could spend more time along the coast in Biloxi and just make this a part of a longer beach stay, but it also worked as a day trip.
We left the house around 6:30am. Oy. I know. And headed down the coast which is about a 3 hour drive from the Jackson area. We got to the docks around 9:30am for the 10:30 ferry. We had more than enough time to look at the boats, use the bathroom (don't worry, there are bathrooms on the boat too) and find seats.
I highly recommend sitting near the edge of the boat somewhere so you have a good view. Our kids loved standing at the front of the boat both ways. We also sat for a while on the upper deck and in the air conditioned lower deck on the way home.
On board you can buy some snacks (bring cash!), watch for dolphins, and in our case have a long conversation about whether we were riding on a "fairy" boat or a "ferry" boat. The jury is still out on that one according to our kids.
When we docked we got off, watched huge sting rays in the water right around the dock and then walked along the boardwalk that takes you across the island to the beach. It is about a 1/2 mile walk. It goes quickly, but keep that in mind when you pack. We put everything in a huge hiking backpack. You can bring chairs and umbrellas and coolers and such to the island, just be prepared to carry it a ways.
It is also an option to rent an umbrella and two chairs. We opted to do this so we had some shade, but I don't know that it was needed. There are also a couple of shaded picnic areas a little ways back on the boardwalk. The main downside was that the umbrellas and chairs are situated a decent ways from the beach. We couldn't have sat in them and watched the kids and they weren't overly interested in hanging out under the umbrella.
We spent most of the time on the blanket we brought closer to the shore or in the water. We have this Beach/Picnic Blanket which I highly recommend. My husband had to have one after spending a week at the beach in Alabama with some friends. It is nylon, light weight, dries quickly, easy to shake off sand, folds down small...I could go on.
The water off Ship Island is clearer than off the coast of Mississippi. It is still quite shallow for at least 100 yards and warm. You are not going to impressed by any waves, but it is hard to beat for beach going with young kids. Our twins had a blast. They love to wade out to their bellies and then practice swimming and pretending to be various water animals. Dolphins were a popular one this trip because of the ones we spotted on the way in. We took also played in the sand digging deep holes and ate the picnic lunch we had packed.
Around 2 we headed back to the dock and boarded the ferry back. Again the front was our favorite spot. The wind felt great after a hot day at the beach. No more dolphin sightings, but it was fun to watch and wonder.
*Don't forget sunscreen and to reapply! The sun is quite strong and there is limited shade.
*In cooler months, bring a layer for the boat. The breeze felt wonderful on a hot August day, but in September it might feel cool.
*Pack lots of water - again the heat!
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