Ship Island Excursions (Pan Isles Inc.) is a family owned and operated passenger ferry and specialty boat cruise company based in Gulfport, Mississippi. As a National Park Service contractor Ship Island Excursions is the sole provider of public boat access to Ship Island and historic Fort Massachusetts, part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. We also offer dolphin watching cruises, sunset cruises and private charters.
Our company was established in 1926 by Peter Martin Skrmetta, a Croatian immigrant and fisherman who began transporting locals and tourists out to the Mississippi islands on a converted oyster schooner. Capt. Pete’s part-time island boat service evolved into the current operation. It is still owned today by the Skrmetta family, now celebrating 95 years of reliable passenger service to the barrier islands.
The unspoiled beaches and clear, green waters surrounding the four Mississippi barrier islands draws thousands of visitors each year. Hugely popular with local residents, the offshore islands offer excellent fishing, swimming, shelling and birding. Undeveloped and accessible only by boat, the islands offer visitors a very different and unique ecosystem from the brackish, shallow water beaches, bays, and salt marshes found on the mainland. In recognition of their outstanding beauty and natural value the islands and surrounding waters became part of a protected National Seashore in 1971.
Ship Island Excursions is your best option for visiting these spectacular islands. We provide daily boat service to Ship Island from mid-March through October. Passengers depart from the Gulfport Harbor in Jones Park and travel approximately 11 miles across the shallow Mississippi Sound to where the Gulf of Mexico begins.
Our vessels offer passengers plenty of open-air seating and rail space for viewing dolphins and other sea life during the cruise. Each boat is equipped with restrooms and a snack bar. Crew members are stationed on each deck level to assist and provide information along the route. The cruise to the island takes approximately one hour.
Mississippi Magazine Best Of Attraction
As a part of the National Park system Ship Island’s facilities are carefully planned for a great visitor experience. In addition to a snack bar, visitor amenities include restrooms, showers, drinking water fountains, and two large picnic pavilions. A ranger station is located next to Fort Massachusetts.
Visitors should be prepared for a moderate amount of walking. A one-third mile boardwalk is provided to reach the south side of the island where the snack bar and beach umbrella rental areas are located.
There are no trees on the island. Shade is limited, so be prepared for the sun. Visitors can expect typical South Mississippi heat and humidity mid-June through August. Sunscreen, protective clothing and eyewear are essential. Shaded seating can be found in Fort Massachusetts, and at one of two picnic pavilions located next to the fort, and near the snack bar on the south beach. Beach chair and umbrella rentals are offered on the south beach near the end of the board walk. Reasonably priced food, soft drinks, beer and beach related items are available at the island snack bar.
Ferry passengers are allowed a limited amount of carry-on items. Back packs, small coolers, and bagged folding chairs are permitted. Large items will be turned away at the boarding gate. Storage space on the ferries for luggage is limited. Please travel light. Our regular passengers carry very little for their island visits. The snack bar on the ferries and island provide the essential items needed for a day on the beach.
Fishing for Redfish, Speckled Trout and other fish, or cast netting for Mullet are also favorite island pastimes. Park rules do not allow fishing from the dock on Ship Island, but all beaches are open for fishing. A Mississippi Saltwater fishing license is required. Shell collecting is allowed, although Hermit Crabs are protected. Visitors may collect non-living shells only.
The National Park Service provides fort tour guides. For more information on Fort Massachuttes click HERE. Lifeguards are generally available in the summer season. Emergency medical assistance is available any time the island is open to visitors. Our boat crews are friendly, highly skilled and ready to provide information during the hour cruise. Our main goal is to provide you and your family a safe and enjoyable visitor experience.