White Beaches and a Cotton Estate – Biloxi and Natchez, Mississippi

Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi was our final stop along the eastern gulf coast.  Other than wanting to hang around the beach a little longer, I was also happy to meet up with my friend Emma.  During our first visit here in 2013, she was our personal guide through historic Biloxi (my post is here).  Over a bucket of snow crabs, we reminisced about our long bygone days in the Philippines.

Thank you Emma for the sumptuous dinner!  Till next time…

With two days left to revisit Biloxi, Steve and I walked around town, seeing Beach Boulevard and checking out the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum.

While walking around at the Biloxi Town Greene we noticed a sculpted tree called Marlin’s Marlin.  This was one of the many sculptures created from dead trees that have been victims of multiple saltwater storm surges over the decades.  A sculptor from Florida, Marlin Miller donated his time and talent, finishing a total of 15 works in the area which can be seen mostly on the center median along Highway 90:

Just a few steps east of the sculpture is the Katrina Memorial:

The Katrina Memorial consists of a mosaic wave, a granite wall, and glass-encased personal keepsakes donated by Katrina victims
The granite wall titled “Katrina” is dated Aug 29, 2005.  It stands 12′ tall, the height of the hurricane’s immense tidal surge.  Names of the victims from several cities are etched on the wall

At the Maritime Museum and Seafood Museum, we were presented with lots of information to read and digest about the maritime history and heritage of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  We went through an array of exhibits on shrimping, oystering, recreational fishing, boat building and a section detailing hurricanes from the distant past to Katrina.  We initially hesitated to go, but we’re glad we did for we learned a lot from the excellent presentations.  The 3-story building’s nine exhibits showcase 300 years of the area’s history, heritage and culture.

Biloxi is kind of the “Las Vegas of the South”

Just steps from the casinos are the white sand beaches that are easily accessible from Beach Blvd. (U.S. Hwy 90).  It’s one of the city’s biggest draws, along with the casinos and golfing.  The soft, white sands on Mississippi Sound have been extensively repaired since Katrina in 2005, and they are well-maintained.

The Biloxi Lighthouse, erected in 1848, has withstood many storms over the years, including Katrina
The Great Blue Heron’s feet are almost as big as mine!

We relished our final walk on the beach, it’ll be a while before we see one again 😦

Natchez National Historical Park, Mississippi

We continued to Baton Rouge, going out of our way to avoid I-10 leading to New Orleans.  From our home base there we drove to the small town of Natchez next to the Mississippi River.  With the limited time available, we followed the advice of the helpful visitor center folks and took tours at Natchez National Historical Park.

The displays at the visitor center provided insights into the region’s social, political and agricultural history, especially as related to the Mississippi River, slavery, and the cotton industry

Of the three National Park Service-owned properties, we opted to take a guided tour at Melrose Mansion, built by wealthy cotton planter John T. Mcmurran.  The tour gave us a glimpse into a Southern planter family’s lifestyle in pre-civil-war times.  We also learned about the role that enslaved people played while living and working in an opulent estate setting.

Melrose was considered to be the finest antebellum home in all of the Natchez region

The antebellum estate, including the main house and its surrounding landscape remain largely unchanged.  Many of the furnishings are original.

We found the dining room to be the most interesting.  A mahogany fan, called a punkah, hung over the dining table and was operated by a young slave boy called a punkahwallah.  He stood in the corner and pulled gently on a rope during mealtime to move the punkah back and forth, cooling the room.  Doing this without blowing out the candles on the table required great skill.

Another historical landmark we visited was called “The Forks of the Road.”  This site marks the area where enslaved people were brought to be sold from 1830 until 1863.  We learned that Natchez was at the center of slavery, the second-busiest slave trading post in the nation after New Orleans.  Reading the plaques there was thought-provoking but also depressing.

We continued to take in a few more sights around Natchez before heading back home:

Overflowing Mississippi River continued to flood a park near Magnolia Casino
We followed the Natchez Trail under the bluff, reading several plaques along the way
The Mississippi River is the biggest natural attraction in Natchez

In about half a day we experienced Natchez, at one time the wealthiest city in America.  There are several well-preserved and architecturally stunning antebellum homes here, but we also saw many abandoned and dilapidated structures within the city – quite a contrast.

From the white sandy beaches of Biloxi to the grand homes of the cotton barons, we also experienced a lot of warm southern hospitality.  And that hospitality continued on into Louisiana!




  1. Always love your photos, but that photo of your feet following the Great Blue Heron’s footprints in the sand is an especially wonderful photo 🙂

  2. We’ve stayed many times at Gulf National Seashore, and last time I said to Eric, “We should go to Biloxi!”. After reading your post and seeing your photos, we’ll go for sure next time we’re there. And Natchez, too. The historical park looks interesting—I thought that wallpaper was a lace curtain!

  3. The Marlin carving is impressive, we are in awe of the talent of some of those chainsaw carvers. We stopped by that area once but our only stop was The Shed BBQ restaurant.

  4. A nice tour! I loved your feet comparison on the beach and that beautiful mahogany punkah. I can’t imagine calmly eating dinner, enjoying the light breeze provided by a slave child……sigh.

    We were through that area twice, once pre Katrina and once post Katrina….the difference was unbelievable.

  5. We have yet to explore Mississippi so this is a very helpful intro. I’m sure the historical sites are as exhausting as they are interesting. So much incredible beauty all stained by the conduct that built it. The trees-turned-artwork remind me of Galveston. I loved the creativity there and I love it here too. It’s sad to see so much destruction, but awesome to know something good came from it all.

  6. Love how the dead trees have been turned into beautiful statues…Galveston also has done this. And the comparison of sandy foot prints is so cool! We sure love those white sandy beaches along the Gulf as well!

  7. Your post brought back some great memories of our time in Biloxi back in 2013 … Natchez is still on our list. We’ve enjoyed carvings made from dead trees in quite a few places … always nice to see something beautiful come out of something wrecked by Mother Nature.

  8. Thanks so much for the lovely tour of this area. I don’t see us ever getting back to this area with the MH. I must say that you two really do justice to every area you stop. Glad you are sharing it with us. I am always glad to see sculpture carvings of the devastated trees. Turning a bad memory into something beautiful. I’ve never seen a punkah! Very clever but too bad there wasn’t a better way to create the movement! Love the white sand beaches all along that gulf area.

  9. Biloxi sure has changed since I lived there for Air Force tech school way back in the mid 80’s, obviously due mostly to hurricane devastation. I remember an endless lineup of mini golf courses, go karts, and drive-thru liquor barns. Of course I also recall playing volleyball on the beautiful Gulf beach in November, but I like your experiences there much better!

    • Well, how about that – I went to tech school at Keesler in ’78 for my computer tech training! Those were simpler times, weren’t they?

  10. A fellow USAF vet! My tech school was for Avionic Electronics and later more training at Dyess for Electronic Warfare systems on the B1 (stationed at Grand Forks ND where I worked on the flight line instead of in the shop, which means I remember little of my finer training and froze my butt off, ha!) Yes, those were simpler times, indeed 🙂

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