The Best Kept Secret on the U. S. Gulf Coast (paft 2)

When I move to an area, it has become my quest to know a little about the area’s history.  I used to go to local historical society meetings, visit the library, etc. as free time was available.  Now, with the internet, research is so much easier.  I still, however, get out for meetings and visits with longtime locals for the real scoop.  We moved to The Coast in May, 2017.  We have learned much and find that much is yet to be learned.  It is a great place to visit and live.  The Best Kept Secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

mississippi gulf coast map large

Growing up in Mississippi I did travel to The Coast from time to time and was aware that each town had its own flavor.  Gulfport is no exception.  If you live on The Coast, Gulfport is where you shop, it is where you find your doctor and it is where you find the largest hospital.  It is the Gateway to The Coast.

Downtown Gulfport is going through the revitalization many small town, downtowns all over the U.S. are going through, with great success.  A drive through the residential areas just adjacent to the old downtown, on the Beach Highway, is a most pleasant experience.  Gulfport is rebuilding beautifully even after the record strength of two major hurricanes just in my lifetime.  Life will find a way…the resilience of Mississippi people is almost unmatched.

One GIANT shining spot in downtown Gulfport was discovered early on by my Sweet Husband: 

13th Street Jazz Bistro.



Mississippi is famous for her music, all types and her many musical stars.  Jazz Bistro Manager, Renata LeFleau Flot has put her years of musical experience and connections in to booking the very best in Jazz (and sometimes Blues) entertainment.  This is a must visit spot on your next trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  And if you live on the coast, you must become one of her many regulars.

NOW FOR THE STATISTICAL AND HISTORICAL STUFF:  Gulfport is the second largest city (square miles, not population) in Mississippi after the state capital, Jackson. It is the larger of the two principal cities of Gulfport-Biloxi metro area.  It is co-county seat with Biloxi of Harrison County, Mississippi.

This area was occupied by indigenous cultures for thousands of years, culminating in the historic Choctaw encountered by European explorers. Along the Gulf Coast, French colonists founded nearby Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama before the area was acquired by the United States in 1803.

An early settlement near this location, known as Mississippi City, appeared on a map of Mississippi from 1855. Mississippi City was the county seat of Harrison County from 1841 to 1902, but is now a suburb in east Gulfport.

Gulfport was incorporated on July 28, 1898. Gulfport was founded by William H. Hardy (a Yankee after the war) who was president of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad (G&SIRR) that connected inland lumber mills to the coast. He was joined by Joseph T. Jones, who later took over the G&SIRR, dredged the harbor in Gulfport, and opened the shipping channel to the sea. In 1902, the harbor was completed and the Port of Gulfport became a working seaport. It now accounts for millions of dollars in annual sales and tax revenue for the state of Mississippi.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is surrounded by barrier islands.  The largest natural port is off the south side of Ship Island, directly out from Gulfport.  There is a smaller natural port further west, down the beach in Pass Christian.  We will cover this port in my next post.  Mississippi was once a large lumber producer for our nation.  It still is in a much smaller way today.  Lumber was taken by rail to Ship Island and then loaded on ships for transport to the northern states for the building boom after the Civil War.

On August 17, 1969 Gulfport and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were hit by Hurricane Camille. Measured by central pressure, Camille was the second-strongest hurricane to make U.S. land fall in recorded history. An unnamed storm was believed to be stronger in 1935.  Camille directly killed 143 people in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

On August 29, 2005, Gulfport was hit by the strong eastern side of Hurricane Katrina. Although Katrina’s damage was far more widespread, because of her size, it was not the fiercest hurricane to hit Gulfport. Katrina, a category 3 storm was dwarfed in strength by hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm, which hit Gulfport and neighboring communities in 1969 with 190 mph sustained winds compared to Katrina’s 130 mph sustained winds.


Home Away From Homeless (part 1)


So we had this great, yet small, condo (1,000 sq. ft. +/-) situated at the front door of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our long desired retirement location. 

After much prayer and angst we decided to sell it to find something with a bit more room and a lot more autonomy (a unhappy association with our many investor neighbors was also a huge consideration).  In this decision, we failed to take into account the recent fire in Gatlinburg, which resulted in the shortage of available homes to purchase at our price point…DUH!

SIDE NOTE OF ADVICE:  If you buy a condo in a resort area, make sure that there are a large number of owner-residents onsite. We had a poor experience living in a condo community owned mostly by investors. Investors and homeowners are two different creatures…one treats it like home the other treats it like monthly income.

Pictured below are two examples of the devastating fire that swept through our beautiful park and the upper neighborhoods of Gatlinburg.

We had made plans, prior to selling, for a visit family and friends, out of state, and to go on a cruise out of New Orleans with close friends. Therefore, not being successful in finding a home to buy, in a timely manner, we packed everything and put it all into storage in time to head to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

First stop, Orange Beach for Mardi Gras with friends. Sweet husband’s 70th birthday fell on Mardi Gras this year and his youngest daughter gave birth to her first child that very day.

Did you know that south Alabama has a replica of the Stonehenge, called “Bama-Henge”?

Above Bama-Henge


Second stop, Biloxi, MS for a Yellowstone Employee Reunion. Wonderful friends we had made in 2015 who lived and worked with us at Grant Village.  Two fun-filled days of catching up.

YS Reunion

Prior to this trip and because housing prices were on the rise daily in Pigeon Forge, we decided to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast (for many reasons, much too long and an unnecessary rabbit trail for this post).  WE placed an offer on a house and started the painful mortgage process…UGH! So while on the coast, we went to tour the house in Long Beach, MS we were purchasing…yep, made the offer sight unseen.  (This purchase has another chapter to it to follow in Part 3).

From there we drove to my youngest daughter’s home south of Baton Rouge for a long needed visit with a cruise sandwiched in the middle of our visit there.

Cruise blog and pictures to follow in Part 2


We have several family birthdays in February and since all are located in Mississippi and Louisiana we decided to take a trip down south to celebrate with them and get away from yet another snow event here in East Tennessee.  Sweet husband has a birthday tomorrow, but we will celebrate alone together.

STOP ONE: Wilmington, NC to see new friends, Mike and Karen. They live two blocks from the Atlantic, so even with the cold ocean winds, we had to walk down.


Wilmington is home to Arlie Gardens. 67 acres of paths, lakes, formal gardens, live oaks (one is 500+ years old), 5,000 varieties of camellias, birding trails, thousands of azaleas along with historic, contemporary and primitive garden sculpture. Beautiful even in February.

STOP TWO & THREE: We visited Sweet Husband’s sister and brother-in-law, Martha & Del, in Orlando on our way to stop four and spent a couple of fun days catching up. We also met Del’s sister and husband (Eileen & Stu) in Lakeland for lunch. They are now official Snowbirds from Maine.

Also in Lakeland we toured Florida Southern College designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We count his architecture art work and tour each structure when possible.

STOP FOUR: We had met and developed close friendships with several people in Yellowstone with promises to visit; we keep our promises. Couple number one: Rose and Robert live in Cape Coral, Florida. They crammed in island visits, lunch on a fabulous pier and dinner with Robert’s sister and her husband.

STOP FIVE: Navarre Beach, FL to spend two nights with dear friends, Jim & Sharynn Singleton, from Mississippi, now in Florida.


STOP SIX: Another Yellowstone couple Jerry and Mel. They live in Texas, but were visiting their son in Ocean Springs, MS. We stopped for a great lunch and sweet reunion.


STOP SEVEN: Super Bowl Sunday in Baton Rouge with my daughter, Trish, and her family. We had two birthdays to celebrate: Nicholas #6 and Aubrey #16, sweet 16. Aubrey and I exchange flamingos from time to time and have since she was about three, so I had a special cake made for her. Our friend from The Rose Parade and co-conspirator, Teegie (who lives in Baton Rouge) joined us for dinner and the celebration the night after the super bowl.


IMG_3791NicholasNicholas 6Aubrey 16

STOP SEVEN: Jackson, MS. We visited several close friends, John, Curt & Sherry, Kay and her Mom, Gay, my Brother (Bubba) and my sweet son Tony.

Due to circumstances beyond our control we didn’t get to see Leonard’s daughters or precious Grand-Wonder, Liam, for his 3rd birthday, but we left gifts on the porch.

Liam 3

STOP EIGHT: Didn’t happen. We hoped to spend time with my son, Joe and daughter Lorie and their precious families (no birthdays), but they were all fighting a virus and/or the crud.

FINAL STOP: An evening with Rogers and Hammerstein at the Knoxville Symphony Pops for our valentine gift to each other.


All this in only two weeks. We are getting good at this.