“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Gulfport, MS was a location we recently called “home”. We “lived” there for the better part of two months. It was really cold for most of our stay. I mean REALLY cold for being on the Gulf of Mexico. Many days below freezing with a wind chill getting down to 0 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit)! We were also been fairly busy with the holidays, kids getting sick (that time of year), and trying to get this blog setup. As a result, we were not able to do as much as we would have liked. It was a great place to “live” for the last couple months, and we have been able to get out and enjoy some of what the area has to offer.
Cost: Gulf Haven Resort cost us $560/ month (included water, electric, sewer, garbage & taxes).
Like: We loved that we were right on the water and the beach was a short walk away.
Ate: We ate some amazing sushi from Rock and Roll Sushi (mama’s birthday). Our favorite was the Pearl Jam Roll and we highly recommend trying it. Our favorite treat while we were visiting family in Monroe, LA was their famous fresh"Cracklins." What is it? A question that is asked often by many. Cracklins is simply fried bacon with the pig skin attached. Rendered completely then seasoned, at times only with salt but often with unique blends of Cajun spices. They are highly addictive as stated in its famous name!
Memory: Our resort was right next to a hospital and a busy train track so we heard non-stop ambulances and trains all hours of the day and night. After a week of living there it just became normal, and the kids loved checking out the train (especially Milo).
Story: We learned that the RV park we stayed at used to be a mobile home park that was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. Zoning changed after Katrina, and they wouldn’t allow manufactured homes there any longer, so FEMA came in to use the space. They setup the site for use with FEMA Trailers (their RVs for temporary living). Once FEMA finally pulled out, there was all the infrastructure for an RV Park, and Gulf Haven Campground was born. It was also crazy how much of that area still has the lasting effects of Katrina even over 10 years after it hit. There were a lot of empty slabs and lots were houses or commercial buildings once stood. Apparently zoning and insurance are crazy making it difficult to build, but there were new builds coming up. We saw a lot for sale right by the RV Park, and it was only $25k with beach views. It’s just overall crazy to see the impact in that area even over a decade after the hurricane hit.
Living in Gulfport:
When we stay somewhere, there are a few things we look for. The first thing is for the kids – is there a playground park close by? This is a must. I think the kids would be happy if all we did was find cool playgrounds. We also like to have fun and relatively inexpensive things to do. Gulfport has a lot of great things to see and do within a very short distance.
We stayed at Gulf Haven Campground. Many of the RV parks we have stayed at have a playground in the park (which is great), but this site did not. However, there is one just a block up the road – West Side Community Park. It’s just across from the beach and there is a lot for all three kids – Milo always wants to do what his big sisters are doing!
We also love to a have a beach close by if possible (if we are traveling by the coast). In Gulfport, we were located just across the street from the beach. It was great for morning runs or taking the kids to build some sand castles. The sand is really nice fine quality sand. The sand is actually not native to these beaches around here. They ship it in, but it’s still really nice to enjoy. There are also a number of barrier islands about 12 miles off the coast which break the waves creating nice calm waters inland. I personally love the big crashing waves of the ocean, but it’s harder for the kids to play in big waves safely at this age. The beach waters are also very shallow which is also great for the kids. We haven’t spent much time in the water except getting our feet wet since it’s been so cold, but I could see the water being really nice in warmer weather.
We were also able to enjoy a cool Christmas light display at a local park (Jones Park). There was a fun playground at this park and it also contained the marina. The park had a maritime theme with a couple of play structures designed like boats. The girls call the boats “their houses”. During the light display, they had a little Christmas village with rides, but we didn’t get a chance to check it out until after the holidays. It’s probably better since there were no crowds, and we could just walk through and enjoy it. Jones Park is right by the marina and the seaport (hence the nautical theme). Interesting fact: The Port of Gulfport is a major hub for banana imports in the US. We saw a lot of Chiquita and Dole trucks and shipping containers on boats while we were living there.
Gulfport if a fairly decent sized city, so there are plenty of amenities around. We don’t have to have this all the time, but it’s nice when you’re staying somewhere for a longer period of time. We use Walmart Grocery pick up quite a bit and shop around other grocers as well. You can save $10 of $50 if you want to try it out – just click here and sign up. We highly recommend it. When you visit different places, you find some of the interesting differences of what grocery stores have to offer. It’s interesting how areas vary so much.
Biloxi, MS is less than 30 minutes from where we were staying. Even though the population of Biloxi is smaller than Gulfport, Biloxi seems like a bigger city. There is a lot of major casinos in Biloxi (compared with just one in Gulfport), and this helps to boost up the central economy of the city. Since we are visiting with our three kiddos, we were not planning to partake in gambling. If we really wanted to gamble, the Island View Casino in Gulfport was walking distance from the RV park we were staying at.
Our visit to Biloxi consisted of spending time at the beachfront, checking out the famous lighthouse, and exploring the Biloxi Bay Bridge. The Biloxi Lighthouse is situated between 2 lanes of traffic along highway 90 which runs along the coast of Mississippi. This historic lighthouse has survived a score of hurricanes, and the storm surge of major hurricanes are marked on the inside of the lighthouse. We were not fortunate enough to explore inside the lighthouse while we were there, but it’s still a great sight to see.
We also spent time sightseeing at the beach which is right by the lighthouse. It is very similar to the beaches in Gulfport since they are right along the same stretch of the coast, but the kids always love playing at the beach. It was a nice day for exploring when we visited.
We also explored the Biloxi Bay Bridge. It was seriously damaged in Katrina and rebuilt with a nice pedestrian walkway. We decided it would be fun to walk across. The path is very wide which is great when traveling with the kiddos so you don’t block the entire path. There are also benches you can stop at and take a break along the way. This was the last this we did in the afternoon and the kids were getting fairly tired. As a result, we didn’t make it all the way across, but we did make it to the high point on the bridge. It’s a great fun activity to do in Biloxi, and it’s our favorite price (free).
Visiting New Orleans:
We have always wanted to visit New Orleans. It is only about an hour and 20 minutes away from Gulfport, so we had to make at least one trip over while staying close by. We could likely enjoy much more of the food and culture without 3 young kids, but we were still able to explore quite a bit during our visit. They are just still too young for us to have an enjoyable sit down lunch at one of the cafes or listening to some of the great music the city has to offer.
We started off our trip by visiting the French Quarter. That is after all what comes to mind when you think of New Orleans, right? Parking is kind of tough down there – especially if you’re driving “the Beast”. The streets just aren’t that wide! We did get down there early enough on a Sunday in order to find a spot and there was a bonus – free parking on Sunday!
We walked around the streets and discovered the wonderful unique qualities of this area. There are a plethora of shops you can stop in for what you could buy what seemed to be anything. We just window shopped – no need to go shopping when you already tight for space and working on being minimalist. I’m sure there would be some really unique things you could add to the tiny home if you have the time to go through all the shops. There are a lot of interesting and energetic street performers all along the streets, and some that are much less interesting. The girls got balloon animals from an awesome clown down by Café Du Monde. We were going to stop in and try their coffee and beignets, but the line was ridiculous – not with 3 young kids!
We really enjoyed exploring around Jackson Square. It’s a beautiful area in heart of the French Quarter, and all around the parameter are artists selling their own work. The girls loved looking at all the amazing artwork and wanted to purchase quite a few pieces. I love being in that kind of environment. We also enjoyed a breakdancing show across the street from Jackson Square.
Since it just a few blocks away on the border of the French Quarter, we had to explore the Louis Armstrong and the Jazz National Historic parks. One our way to the park, we saw some awesome parades of street musicians. Just more of the awesome artistic culture. The park a very peaceful place to explore with lots of cool sculptures – including one of Satchmo himself, of course! There are a number of festivals and concerts that are held here, but nothing was going on while we were visiting.
The kiddos enjoyed it, but to them, it’s not a park unless there is a playground. So we had to trek onto our next destination – City Park. City Park in New Orleans is awesome! We spent most of our time at Stanley Ray Playground, but we also drove around exploring much of what there was to offer. The playground was a huge hit with the kiddos. There were so many other kids their ages to play with. Coco found a ton of friends to play with, Nika was having a blast on all the slides, and Milo was getting shut down by the young ladies. There were also all sorts of trees that were perfect for climbing. There is also plenty of parking in the area (even for The Beast). Before we left the park, we did get our coffee and Beignets at Morning Call Café right there in the park next to the playground. We had a picnic and the kids enjoyed an ice cream treat.
On our way out of New Orleans, we decided to trek across the longest bridge over water in the world – the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It is approximately 24 miles long and connects the north and south sides of Lake Pontchartrain which borders the north side of New Orleans. It was not all the exciting, but it’s kind of cool when you are out in the middle and can’t really see any land on the horizon. It is kind of neat to say we drove on the longest bridge, and if you are headed north, there is toll – so it was free (our favorite).
Visiting Monroe, LA:
On our way to our next destination, we stopped by my sister’s place in West Monroe, LA and parked in her driveway. We did this for a week over Christmas as well. Monroe was about 5 hours away from Gulfport, but I think it’s worth mentioning in this post. On our stop-over between MS and TX, we were able to get out to see some of what the area has to offer (besides being Duck Dynasty country).
First off, we were able to have a date night – awesome! This doesn’t happen much now that we are on the road. It didn’t happen that often even before hitting the road, but now it’s even worse. We literally hadn’t had a real date night in over 5 months. We do try and have “stay in” dates, but you know… kids. Anyway, we were able to check out an awesome brewery – Flying Tiger Brewery in Monroe, LA. It was almost like stepping back into Portlandia. They had a beard competition going on, there was t-shirt making on site, and they had great live music playing. They don’t serve food due to the local liquor laws, but there were great food trucks right outside and you could bring the food inside. Again, sounds like Portland, doesn’t it? To top it off, the beer was stupendous – especially the IPA! For a brewery that is not on the west coast, their IPA was right up there with the best. It was the perfect spot for a long deserved date night out!
While in town, we also checked out the Back Bayou Wildlife Refuge. It was really cold, but there is still a lot of see inside. The visitor’s center has a lot of great educational information for the kids, and it’s all interactive. There was even a place they could touch real skulls, turtle shells and all sorts of other items from animals. In a separate building, there were live alligators, turtles, fish and snakes. The kids had a blast checking it all out, and the best part – it was all free (our favorite)! We also braved the cold and explored some of the outdoor locations such as the pier and the observation deck. There weren’t any animals at these spots, but the cypress trees and bayou environment are really cool to experience. We weren’t totally skunked on animals though, we did a herd of deer on our way in. If you ever find yourself around Monroe, LA, I’d highly recommend you check out Black Bayou. You can’t beat the price!
Gulfport was a great place to “live” for a couple months. Although we wish we would have seen more (one of the difficult parts of traveling full time), I’m sure we’ll make it back in the future with time to explore even more of what the area has to offer. Next on our journey is to travel around in Texas. We are currently in Galveston (which is where I’m writing this from). It’s so nice to be along the sea! All we want to do is hang out at the beach, but what’s wrong with that? Stay tuned for more adventures!