©2007Jupiter Images Corporation Gulf Islands National Seashore -- the "Crown Jewel of Mississippi."

The 160-mile stretch of barrier islands and coastal shores that make up Gulf Islands National Seashore has been described as the Crown Jewel of Mississippi, and it's easy to see why.

Visitors can enjoy miles of sparkling white sand beaches, warm gulf waters, idyllic barrier islands, and fertile salt marshes. Bayous thick with alligators, turtles, and frogs are just waiting to be explored. These areas are accessible by kayak and canoe. Trails wind through forests of magnolias, historic sites, and cozy campgrounds. Families can relax and spend their days swimming, sunning, fishing, boating, and paddling year-round.

Pristine West Ship Island is located 12 miles south of the Mississippi coastline. Tour boats carry visitors to the island, where motorized vehicles are not allowed. Day-trippers can mosey across the island on a wooden boardwalk and take in a tour of its historic Fort Massachusetts, which played a role in the Civil War. Tours are given twice daily in the summer and once a day in spring and fall. You can still see the immense 300-pound cannons that were installed in 1874 -- these weapons were capable of firing cannonballs as far as three miles.

Gulf Islands National Seashore Information

Address: 3500 Park Rd., Ocean Springs, MS

Telephone: 228/875-0823 ext. 100

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Mississippi State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Mississippi, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.