These three fun itineraries for idyllic days in "The Bay" are tailored for fitness buffs, families with children and BFFs who want to explore Old Town's shops. You won't go hungry either, with our local eatery suggestions. Feel free to mix and match at will - you really can't go wrong.
- itineraries and photos by Ellis Anderson
Start the morning with breakfast at Lulu’s on Main (126 Main Street, inside Maggie May’s). Fuel up with one of her specialties like fried chicken beignets or a BLT with a scrumptious bacon remoulade sauce.
Pick up your copy of the historic walking/biking tour at Lulu’s or click here for the digital version. The Old Town Biking/Walking Tour winds 1 1/4 miles through the town’s lovely historic district, and the guide recounts colorful snippets of the past.
The tour winds up near the Starfish Café (211 Main Street) with its garden-to-table menu – literally. Many of the creative and delicious dishes are made with ingredients harvested from the front garden. The menu changes seasonally – but look for local favorites, like grass-fed beef burgers, fish tacos with mango slaw and veggie spring rolls.
After lunch, check out Green Canyon Outfitters (108 S. Beach Blvd). Perched in the top floor of the French Settlement building, it's the only retail shop on the beach and a must-see for new residents who lead an active lifestyle. Green Canyon proves one can find big-city brands on the coast. More pluses? One of the best views of the harbor and beachfront scene - and it's dog-friendly.
Rev up again by biking or walking the serene beach path (start at the Washington Street pier). This five-mile paved trail runs between the peaceful beach and an old-fashioned two-lane coast road that hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years. Along the way, keep an eye out for skimmers, osprey, pelicans, and even bald eagles.
Don't have a bike? You can rent them at Bodega (just off Beach Boulevard at 111 Court Street). Feeling more adventurous? You can also ply the local waters with kayaks and paddle boards, also available for rent there. If you want to explore the Jourdan River Blueway, a few miles north of the Bay, click here for the map.
Afterward, you won’t have to dress up to enjoy dinner at Trapani’s Eatery (116 N. Beach). It’s one of Jimmy Buffet’s favorite watering holes on the Gulf Coast. Reward yourself with the fried green tomatoes with crabmeat or feast on the low-calorie raw Tuna Poke.
The family-friendly Buttercup Café (112 N. Second Street) is located in the heart of Old Town and offers dining both inside and out. The younger set will crave the fluffy pancakes that smell like birthday cake when they’re served. Adults will want to sample local favorites like the crawfish étoufée omelets.
Then pile into the car and head out to INFINITY Science Center in the western part of the county. The museum exhibits and a free bus tour of the adjacent (and restricted access) Stennis Space Center complex give a glimpse into the science behind space travel. Interactive exhibits like the Carnivorous Plants Conservatory and seasonal tram rides through the surrounding wetlands give lessons in natural habitats.
During summer months, drive to your next stop, Buccaneer State Park (1150 South Beach Boulevard, Waveland). The extraordinary wave pool and water park are open seven days a week all summer (closes after Labor Day). The Sea Dog Galley offers hamburger/hot dog basics.
During the rest of the year, grab lunch at the INFINITY Café and set out for the Louisiana/Mississippi border for a swamp tour. Cajun Encounters is only 15 minute drive from the science center. They offer two-hour boat tours - even off season – with three early afternoon tour times (see the schedule at www.cajunencounters.com). Expect to see all types of wildlife in the majestic Honey Island Swamp. Get your cameras ready during warm weather, the alligators will be basking. The tours last about two hours and everyone will be sad when it’s over.
Finish your day back in Bay St. Louis at Cuz’s Oyster Bar and Grill (108 S. Beach Blvd.). it has both patio and indoor seating. The younger set can devour fried shrimp and catfish while the adults will dig into specialties like raw and grilled oysters and boiled seasonal seafood.
Breakfast at the Mockingbird Café (110 S. Second Street) gives any day a special start. They offer some of the best biscuits in the south (homemade jams available!), specialty coffee drinks and if you’re feeling especially celebratory, order up a strawberry-lemonade mimosa or Bloody Mary to go with the pulled pork and grits or chicken with waffles.
The commercial district of Old Town BSL isn’t large at all, but it’s evolved as two sections, clustered around the first and second blocks of Main Street. Each “block” has its own distinct personality. The Mockingbird is a touchstone for the “Second Block.” It’s right next door to the vast Century Hall (112 S. Second Street), a renovated historic gem that contains more than a dozen shops.
Check out Bay Life Gifts for beachy décor and gifts and Gallery Edge for contemporary art. Also on Second Street you’ll find Smith & Lens Gallery (106 S. Second Street), Magnolia Antiques (200 Main St) and Social Chair (131 Main Street) and Antique Maison (111 N Second). A bit off the beaten track (only a few blocks), is Antique Maison Ulman (317 Ulman Ave.). This enormous building is stuffed with finds and treasures. You can rest your feet in their tearoom and garden - you may need to!
On the actual second block of Main Street, the three “must visits” are the anchors. French Potager (213 Main Street) is known for florals and exciting finds. Gallery 220 (220 Main) is one of the oldest artists co-ops in the state, while next door is California Drawstrings (216 Main Street), a boutique specializing in chic, artsy natural fiber clothing.
It’s a quick half block stroll past churches and the historic courthouse to get to the “First Block” area. The focus is on lifestyle and fashion here. The enormous building at 126 Main serves as home to several shops, brimming with art, stylish boutiques and home décor. Check out bijoubel Boutique and Joan Vaas (next door) for high-end clothing and jewelry without the sticker shock.
End the day at a restaurant that’s been featured in national publications like “Vogue.” The motto at Sycamore House Restaurant (210 Main St.) is “come casual, we supply the elegance.” The menu offers classic coast fare with inventive twists. Local favorites include the “flautas of the day,” the tenderloin and the fish of the day. Save room for divine homemade ice creams (the salted caramel will make you swoon) or one of the best crème brulees in South.