Nestled along the Mississippi Gulf Coast shores, Bay St. Louis is a small town with a big heart. This picturesque community is known for its charming boutiques, art galleries, and many famous seafood restaurants.
When the crowds of JazzFest entered the streets of The Big Easy, we escaped the congestion and headed east. The urban sprawl dissipated. The intermittent rain and the warming sun compete fiercely for a position on my vacation day.
Sunshine won the battle.
The wetlands of Louisiana moved to the rearview mirror. The air warms, carrying faint scents of the pine forest and the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Local farmers sell their home-grown produce along the sidelines of US Highway 90. At the same time, fishermen promote the early morning catch of the day. I’m on my way to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and here’s what you need to know about this hidden gem on the Gulf Coast.
Bay St Louis History
Only an hour’s drive and the time spent in New Orleans tucks into my memory. Bay St Louis takes shape with each passing streetlight. This small town is known for antique shopping and casual living.
Don’t be fooled, though.
Underneath the calm and hospitable exterior is a city that has seen hardships of hurricanes and rallied to overcome every obstacle with Southern grace.
Bay St. Louis was founded in 1699 by French explorers Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville and his brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville. Bienville explored the bay waters and named it for Louis IX, the King of France, who was canonized as a Saint in 1297. Bienville established the first colony at Bay Saint Louis, consisting of a sergeant and fifteen soldiers.
Fast forward by a couple of centuries, on August 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille hit Bay Saint Louis in Mississippi. Camille’s gusts were so powerful that all wind-recording instruments were knocked out. Therefore, the meteorology experts estimated the wind speed at more than 200 miles per hour. Unfortunately, much of the Bay St Louis town was destroyed.
Again, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded much of New Orleans, and the world watched in horror. However, the storm’s center didn’t hit New Orleans; it struck Bay St. Louis instead with wind, flooding, and storm devastation.
But, once again, Bay St. Louis bounced back, and today it is once again a thriving community with a rich history and culture.
Things to Do
The stunning scenery is the first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Bay St. Louis. The town is situated on a stretch of sandy beach just begging to be explored. Take a stroll down the beach or simply sit back and relax with a good book. There’s no wrong way to enjoy the beach here!
Many options are available if you want something to do beyond soaking up the sun.
Check out the many shops lining Main Street or tour the historic homes and museums in the area. And, of course, no visit to Bay St. Louis would be complete without sampling the local cuisines. From seafood gumbo to Mississippi Mud Pie, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here!
Old Town Bay St Louis: Historic Walking & Biking Tour (start at 102 S. Beach Blvd)
Whether walking or biking, the Old Town tour is a must. You’ll soon be acclimated to the town and know your way around. Bay St Louis is advertised as “A Place Apart,” and you’ll see why. Tour the colorful streets and admire the architecture that has endured the historically significant weather challenges that have battered the area through many decades. You’ll also notice a friendly community spirit as you settle in for an easygoing vacation.
The Louisville & Nashville Depot and The Mardi Gras Museum (1928 Depot Way)
Renovated after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 1928 Spanish Colonial-style building has another surprise in store. At the depot entrance, the Mardi Gras Museum vibrantly colors the senses. Textile artistry comes alive in these stunning pairs of costumes representing the musical journey of the Mardi Gras parade season. The handwork on the sequins is so intricate, and the color details change ordinary images into works of fine art.
Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antiques Museum (1928 Depot Way)
I found an unexpected and delightful travel discovery at the Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antiques Museum. This artist brings folk art to a very human level. Miss Alice began her acrylic painting craft at age 60, recycling readily available wood and conveying simple messages on each canvas.
The paintings dominate with the brightest colors and draw me to the center of a visual experience. The docents pointed out the artist’s home nearby, a bright blue cottage. The museum also displays a modest selection of southern antiques.
A visit to this museum will challenge your mind while lifting your spirits. The Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antiques Museum is on the second floor of the Historic Louisville & Nashville Train Depot.
Movie Connection “This Property is Condemned” (1928 Depot Way and 398 Blaize Avenue)
The depot building was part of the set for the 1965 movie “This Property is Condemned,” directed by Sydney Pollack, and starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, and Charles Bronson. However, the film’s primary setting was the Queen Anne-style building at 398 Blaize Avenue. The movie is based on a 1946 play by Tennessee Williams.
Hurricane Katrina and the Angel Tree (Beach Blvd at Montluzin Street)
The town’s vibe intensifies with the realization of the devastation it faced just a few years ago. The Angel Tree is located on the beach. It is a carving to commemorate three survivors who held onto the tree during the Hurricane Katrina landfall on August 29, 2005. Artist Dayle Lewis ventured to Bay St. Louis right after Katrina. Using his chainsaw artistry, he turned battered trees into carvings to symbolize mercy and hope for recovery.
Bay St Louis Beach
The warm sand is the color of aging magnolia blossom, the softest hint of golden.
A day in Bay St. Louis soothes my soul while enriching my mind. The quiet shoreline becomes my private beach during an early morning stroll. Walking and bike tours explore 300 years of history for the more adventurous visitors. Follow that with some southern-style sweet tea and a fried shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich on the decked porch of a towering oak tree.
Rose de Lima Catholic Church (301 S. Necaise Avenue)
For another perspective, visit St. Rose de Lima’s alter mural of a mixed-heritage Christ rising, not from a wooden cross, but in front of a living oak tree. The “Christ in the Oak” mural, designed by artist Auseklis Ozols covers the altar wall. It features the crucifixion and the resurrection. Christ is profoundly present, although the background is foggy, a beam of sunlight pierces to illuminate the scene. When I visited, I was the only person in the sanctuary. I examined the mural closely, and there are so many nuances to the messages in this one insightful artwork. I recommend that visitors plan their trip at a time that they can attend the church services and then spend time alone to comprehend the mural.
Kate Lobrano House (108 Cue Street)
This Victorian-era cottage house dates to 1896. The building houses a small gallery and is home to the Hancock County Historical Society. This organization has more than 30,000 photographs in its collection and welcomes visitors and researchers to stop by and explore history. The hours are limited, so plan your visit on weekdays between 10:00 am and noon or in the early afternoon between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. (Free admission)
Shopping in Old Town Bay St. Louis
Along Main Street, renovated Victorian houses boast rocking chairs on wrapped porches and tuck themselves neatly beneath the protection of enormous oak trees. The Old Town district explodes with eclectic fun while antique shops mingle in a comfortable mix with restaurants and artist displays.
220 Main Street (220 Main Street)
The art deco building captures my attention. This was a grocery store building for years but is now a colorful home to an artists’ cooperative.
Century Hall (112 South Second Street)
With retail shops and art galleries, Century Hall is ideal for finding the perfect gift or browsing the many artist features. The building was constructed in 1909 by the Woodmen of the World Society and is architecturally stunning. Some unique stores in this location are Bay Elements, The Porch, Gallery 313, and Mermaiding Mediums. But there are many more shops to see, and Century Hall is a fabulous shopping destination.
Bay Books (131 Main Street)
Be sure to visit Bay Books, an independent bookstore in the heart of Old Town Bay Saint Louis. This shop has new and used books and gift items like toys, cards, or stationery. Check their website for events and book signing days. This wonderful bookstore is only a few steps from the Gulf of Mexico, and I hear the coffee is superb!
Why Visit Bay St Louis?
There are many reasons to visit Bay St Louis. First and foremost, it’s a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The town has a laid-back vibe that makes you feel at home. Additionally, Bay St Louis is teeming with natural beauty.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Bay St. Louis. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll enjoy hiking or biking through Buccaneer State Park or exploring one of the many nature trails in the nearby area. For those who prefer to stay indoors, there are plenty of shopping and dining options downtown. And don’t forget the excellent art galleries and museums!
Places to Stay in Bay St Louis
If you’re looking for a bit of paradise on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, look no further than Bay St. Louis. This quaint little town is a perfect destination to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. And, if you prefer a bit of luxury, there are boutique hotels or private B&B cottages.
Bed and Breakfast (B&B) in Bay St Louis
Bay Town Inn Bed & Breakfast – (208 N. Beach Boulevard)
Plan your next beach stay at the Bay Town Inn Bed & Breakfast, just a quick walk across the street from the beach and the Bay St Louis Harbor. Enjoy off-street parking, a saltwater pool, and free high-speed Wi-Fi. The Bay Town Inn welcomes guests above the age of 15 years. Call them to request a dog-friendly room, and remember that all Hancock County beaches are pet-friendly!
Carroll House Bed and Breakfast (304 Carroll Avenue)
The Carroll House Bed and Breakfast has two cottage options. Choose between the Carroll House Cottage for one Queen bed and one full sofa bed or the Salty Soul Cottage for two bedrooms with Queen beds plus a loft with two twin beds. The cottages are in the heart of Old Town Bay St. Louis. It’s an easy walk to the waterfront for dining, shopping, and exploring the beach.
Pearl Hotel (104 North Beach Boulevard)
The Pearl Hotel has a beautiful setting on the coast of Mississippi. The hotel’s architecture pays homage to history and modernity, featuring 53 rooms individually decorated according to the owners’ tastes in art or furniture styles. The lush courtyard and pristine beaches are right outside your door. Enjoy fine food and drink at The Thorny Oyster in an upscale setting. This restaurant features creative seafood dishes with local ingredients to excite your senses and classic fresh meal favorites. The hotel bars include Hinge, for your signature craft cocktails, and the Hive, a luxe cocktail lounge. Pearl Hotel will surely leave guests revived, inspired, and dreaming of their next beachside escape.
Editors Note: Looking for a different overnight stay? Here are cabins, campgrounds, and RV Parks. Here are the casino hotels.
Restaurants in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
There are so many fabulous restaurants in Bay St. Louis. We’re starting with a few impressive options and still updating to include our latest additions to the favorites list. Some of these we’ve visited personally, and others are listed here on recommendations from friends, neighbors, and fellow travel writers.
Starfish Café (10408 Highway 603)
The Starfish Café’ has excellent recommendations and is a mission-based business. The restaurant owners launched an on-the-job training program to help teens gain work experience while earning an income. The training goes beyond the norm and coaches the youth on developing a culinary career. But what about the food? The menus are based on seasonal organic foods that are steroid and antibiotic-free and sourced locally whenever possible. Try the gyros or “YEEROS” as shown on the menu. You’ll receive a warm hand-stretched pita with meat, homemade yogurt and cucumber sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, hummus & chips.
Mockingbird Café (110 S. Second St. Bay St. Louis, MS. 39520)
Stop in at the Mockingbird Café. For breakfast, it’s always the fried chicken biscuit and a side order of grits. Yum! Burgers and sandwiches are available for lunch, but so is the Sunshine Quinoa Bowl, which will satisfy a hungry appetite. Look for free street parking on 2nd Street or Main Street.
Buttercup Restaurant (112 N 2nd Street)
The yellow house caught my eye immediately. This is a super cute, eclectic cafe and gift shop. We had to wait a few minutes for an indoor table, but we loved the atmosphere of this place. The Grilled Chicken Ceasar Wrap with a side order of fresh fruit was the perfect lunch selection. The Buttercup Burger is a hefty 8 oz beef patty (or choose chicken if you prefer).
Bogart’s Steakhouse (711 Hollywood Blvd)
Inside the Hollywood Casino, you’ll discover Tripadvisor’s top-ranked steakhouse in town. It’s Bogart’s Steakhouse with premium cuts of meats, of course, but also a broad menu of seafood and other meal choices served to perfection in a fine dining experience. Ask for a window seat overlooking the bay.
Getting to Bay St. Louis and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is readily accessible with flights into these airports within a two-hour drive from the town.
Gulfport, MS Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (22 miles)
The Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is the second largest airport in Mississippi. Airlines include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines.
New Orleans, LA Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (70 miles)
This is the nearest major city airport that serves most major carriers, some through alliance programs. Airlines include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines, plus at least a dozen regional and other carriers.
Mobile, AL Mobile Regional Airport (88 miles)
In nearby Alabama, you will access such airlines as United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, U.S. Airways Express, and American Eagle. It’s a pleasant drive with beach views on Hwy 90 from Mobile to Bay St. Louis.
There’s no doubt that Bay St Louis is a bit of paradise on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Its sandy beaches and turquoise waters make it the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And, if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation, plenty of water sports activities will keep you busy.
So come on down and see why this little town is such a special place. You might just find that it’s your new favorite spot!