Mississippi’s finest beaches are located on West Ship Island. Tranquil stretches of barrier island shore invite you to picnic, explore and relax. Leave the automobiles and stress of the mainland behind. Pristine gulf waters surrounding Ship Island attract swimmers, snorkelers, and boogie boarders. Ship island is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and one of five Mississippi barrier islands located approximately 11 miles south of Gulfport and Biloxi.
West Ship Island is home to Fort Massachusetts, a beautifully preserved brick fortification completed in 1868. The National Park Service offers fort tours during the season the ferries operate. The excursion boats arrive at the end of a 400-foot pier near the fort on the Mississippi Sound side or north shore of West Ship Island. In addition to history, the unspoiled island provides visitors excellent birding, shelling, and hiking opportunities.
Be prepared for intense heat and humidity mid June thru August. There are few trees on Ship Island and shade is limited. Sunscreen, protective clothing and eyewear are essential. In summer, the sand and board walk may be extremely hot. Shoes are required. Shaded seating can be found in Fort Massachusetts, and at the picnic shelter located near the snack bar. Beach chair and umbrella rentals are offered on the gulf beach near the end of the board walk. Affordable food service and beach items are available at the island snack bar.
Ferry passengers are allowed a limited amount of carry-on items such as back packs, beach bags and small coolers. However, don’t over load yourself. Too much gear is an unnecessary burden on everyone. You’ll be on the island for only a short time. So travel light for a more enjoyable visitor experience and easier hiking, especially in the heat of mid-summer. Our regular passengers carry very little during their island visits for good reason.
Fishing for flounder, red drum, speckled trout and sheepshead, or cast netting for mullet are also favorite island pastimes. However, the NPS will not let you fish from the dock on Ship Island. Mississippi Saltwater fishing license is required. Visitors commonly view pods of dolphin feeding on mullet or schools of menhaden, usually around the boat dock and near the island beaches. But, the most popular activity on the island is swimming. Island visitors are bestowed with miles of high quality sand beaches and pristine gulf water for swimming and surf bathing. In summer, water temperatures can reach as high as 85 degrees!
The National Park Service provides a boardwalk that begins in front of the fort and extends one third of a mile across the island to the preferred south beach and Gulf of Mexico swim area. Life Guards are generally available in summer. Restrooms, fresh water showers, drinking water, covered picnic areas, and a snack bar located along the boardwalk.