Most tourists gravitate towards the Florida Panhandle when it comes to Gulf of Mexico vacation destinations, but for those seeking an idyllic natural getaway, the Mississippi coast is hard to beat. There are gorgeous beaches, a variety of charming restaurants and bars, and a host of fascinating flora and fauna that can be discovered on a trip across Jackson County, which has been dubbed the “Secret Coast.”
With no shortage of fantastic birdwatching destinations open to explore, Ocean Springs is the perfect place to explore the Magnolia State’s most iconic native wildlife, just east of the Biloxi Bay Bridge. It offers a glimpse of the serene beauty of the Magnolia State shore just south of town, with ruddy turnstones, killdeer, and a wide variety of shorebirds gracing its shoreline.
Further east, destinations like GCRL Marine Education Center provide ample opportunity to discover the inner workings of coastal Mississippi’s waterways, but for a deep dive into the many passerines that flock further inland, a trip to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center is an absolute necessity. perched on the banks of the Escatawpa River Marsh Coastal Preserve, this prestigious institution showcases the many native species that thrive across the surrounding watershed, offering an opportunity to stroll along property grounds and even rent a kayak in search of waders and raptors.
One of the South’s most fascinating ecosystems, the wet pine savanna, is located on the Secret Coast, which is home to pristine beaches and charming cities. Over the years, this iconic biome has seen major fragmentation, with vast swathes of forest cleared for agriculture and real estate development, once stretching from Louisiana to Virginia.
As a result of Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1975, Magnolia State native flora can still be found in a haven. It is possible to spot gopher frogs, black racers, raccoons, among other creatures during a trek through the area, but visitors are also likely to spot sandhill cranes, a species that was nearly extinct in the mid-20th century due to habitat destruction.
A kayaking journey with Eco-Tours of South Mississippi is the perfect way to spend the day, with plenty of insight into the splendor of the Pascagoula River. During a voyage, visitors can discover the rich biodiversity of this 80-mile long waterway, with a massive array of turtles, wading birds, and marsh insects all calling the area home. Tierney offers an excellent description of aquatic wildlife found in the Pascagoula. It’s a veritable paradise for sunfish, largemouth bass, gar, and other creatures mingling below the surf.
After basking in the beauty of Mississippi’s native birds, fish, and mammals, it’s time to get up close and personal with one of North America’s most iconic reptile species. While American alligators can be spotted lounging along the water all along Magnolia State rivers, Gulf Coast Gator Ranch provides guaranteed sightings of the creatures, equipped with pint-sized juveniles and fearsome adults housed across the property. Guests are welcome to swing by the venue for a walking tour, while the swamp boat expedition combines natural beauty with high-speed thrills, showcasing the wildlife of theWhile American alligators can be spotted lounging along the water all along Magnolia State rivers, Gulf Coast Gator Ranch provides guaranteed sightings of the creatures, equipped with pint-sized juveniles and fearsome adults housed across the property. Guests are welcome to swing by for a walking tour or take part in one of their unique attractions like a swamp boat expedition that showcases both natural beauty and high speed thrills.
While Jackson County isn’t quite as populous as some of Mississippi’s other subdivisions, this coastal county more than makes up for it with sprawling nature preserves and abundant flora and fauna. From the sparkling shores of Ocean Springs to the Alabama border, this remote region is a surprisingly enticing destination for an immersion into the tranquil beauty of the Magnolia State. As you plan your next vacation along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, don’t miss out on an opportunity to unlock the hidden wonders of the Secret Coast.