Depart from Gulfport Yacht Harbor, where Hwys. 90 and 49 intersect, Mississippi
From a pier just beside the Marine Life Oceanarium, located at the Gulfport Small Harbor, the Ship Island Excursion ferry sets out on its one-hour, 12-nautical-mile trip through the Mississippi Sound to Ship Island, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. For most of the voyage, the shore is out of sight. Only leaping dolphins and an occasional fleet of shrimp boats, their nets outstretched like wings, break the flat expanse of blue water.
The ferry lands at a pier to the right of which stands Fort Massachusetts, a grand brick structure with rows of arched passageways and waves of vault-ceilinged casemates that give the impression of walking through a Renaissance painting. Influenced by the French engineer Simone Bernard, the fort was begun in 1859 as part of a national coastal defense system. During construction, the fort was briefly occupied by Confederates, and then by Union forces in the Civil War. The fort is named for the Union ship Massachusetts, which was involved in a minor engagement here. Free tours of the fort are are conducted by National Park rangers.
The island is surrounded by high-quality white sand beaches, which are excellent for swimming, beachcombing, and bird-watching.
Open year-round. Excursions run from Mar.–Oct. Fare charged for boat.
(228) 875-9057 Gulf Islands National Seashore
(228) 864-1014 Ship Island Excursions