Gulf Islands National Seashore (Mississippi) | PARK AT A GLANCE

Visitors arrive at Gulf Islands National Seashore's Ship Island in Mississippi

Visitors arrive at Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Ship Island in Mississippi


Gulf Islands National Seashore has units located in both Florida and Mississippi. While it is not the only National Park spanning multiple states, it is one of the rare parks where the units are not connected together. The two parks are over 100 miles apart by vehicle and 70 miles by boat. The state of Alabama sits between them. Because of this, they are essentially two separate parks and are visited by two different sets of vacationers. This portion of National Park Planner covers the Mississippi unit. Complete information on the Florida unit is also available.


PARK OVERVIEW

The Mississippi unit of the Gulf Islands National Seashore consists of five barrier islands and one mainland section at Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The islands range anywhere from 8 to 12 miles offshore, and only Ship Island has public ferry service. You must have your own boat to reach the rest of the islands. Because of this, Ship Island is where the majority of people end up when visiting the park.

Ship Island is a wonderful day trip. The sand on the beach is some of the softest you will ever come across, plus there is a covered picnic pavilion, restrooms with showers, and a snack bar. It’s like getting all of the conveniences of a crowded beach lined with high rise hotels, but on a beach that remains as pristine as it was a thousand years ago. For history buffs, Fort Massachusetts, a mid-1800s military fort, is open for exploration. Ferry service runs from March through October. During the spring and fall, trips are on Wednesdays through Sundays, but come summer the ferry runs daily.

On the mainland is the William M. Colmer Visitor Center and a few miles of trails that run through the bayous. Be on the lookout for alligators, turtles, crabs, snakes, and exotic birds. There are also quite a few picnic areas, most large enough to accommodate events such as a family reunion or a corporate picnic. Unlike the Florida Unit of Gulf Islands National Seashore, there are no beaches at the mainland unit of the park in Mississippi. All beaches are on the islands.


OPERATING HOURS

The William M. Colmer Visitor Center and Fishing Pier is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Trails and park grounds are open daily from 8 AM to sunset.

The Davis Bayou Boat Ramp is open daily from 6 AM to sunset.

The Davis Bayou Campground is open year-round.

Ship Island is the only island in the park that can be reached via public ferry service. Depending on the season, passengers can spend anywhere from 10 AM to 5 PM on the island. Private boaters have access from sunrise to sunset year-round. Ship Island facilities, which include Fort Massachusetts, restrooms, and snack bar, are open from 10 AM to 3:30 PM on the days the ferry operates.

All other islands are open 24 hours a day year-round for those with their own boat. However, sections of each island may be closed during bird nesting season (typically March through late summer). Signs mark the closed areas. Also, the area within 500 feet of the Chimney Site on Horn Island is closed to the public.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to visit the official Gulf Islands National Seashore Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the latest schedule, as well as the park’s Temporary Road and Facility Closures web page.


ENTRANCE FEES

There is no fee to enter the William M. Colmer Visitor Center, hike the trails in the Davis Bayou area, or use the individual picnic tables and boat ramp.

Fees apply for camping at the Davis Bayou Campground.

Ship Island Excursions, the authorized concessionaire that runs a public ferry to Ship Island, charges a fee for its service. The ferry runs from March through October.


SCHEDULING YOUR VISIT

Visitor Center
allow 1-2 hours

Hiking Trails
allow up to 2 hours

Day trip to Ship Island
allow at least 6 hours


The following is a one-hour documentary on Gulf Islands National Seashore. It covers both the Mississippi and Florida units of the park.


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Last updated on April 29, 2022
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