Friends who have a summer house in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, had urged us not to miss this pretty and friendly seaside town of 18,000 inhabitants, which lies roughly midway between Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans. The region was originally surveyed by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville in 1699 and later settled by a mixture of European immigrants before Mississippi became a state in 1817. Tourism took off in 1853 when Dr. William G. Austin of New Orleans built a hotel specializing in hydrotherapy cures in the mineral springs at Fort Bayou. And a steamboat line soon began transporting passengers to Ocean Springs from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
Where to Stay
We had chosen to stay at the Beatnik, a recently opened property with four modern guest cabins that border a plunge pool and a garden with a fire pit. These lodgings are the latest venture from local hoteliers Ted and Roxy Condrey, who also own the two-room Inn at Ocean Springs and The Roost, a 19-room hotel distributed across several renovated houses. Though the Beatnik is not a luxury property — there is no bar, restaurant, spa or fitness center — our quiet, spacious and immaculate room, with its midcentury décor, cathedral ceiling, parquet floors, white walls and globe-shaped suspension lights, provided a convenient base from which to explore. We especially liked the spacious bath with a red marble vanity, the private outdoor shower and our deck with two rocking chairs.
Things to See & Do
As well as a thriving food scene, which includes Vestige, an outstanding modern-American restaurant on par with leading tables in major U.S. cities, Ocean Springs can boast one of the best artisanal ceramics studios in the United States, Shearwater Pottery, founded in 1928 and still family owned and run today, as well as a thriving live music scene. Today’s visitors also come to relax and stroll Washington and Government streets downtown, which is where many of the most interesting shops and galleries are located. The delightful Walter Anderson Museum of Art displays the life’s work of the great Southern artist Walter Anderson (1903–1965) and highlights his drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, carvings, murals and decorative arts.