Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is a lazy coastal town that’s an easy drive from New Orleans. It has a friendly vibe, and there are lots of things to do there. Sit back and take in our top nine ways to spend some time in the southwestern corner of Mississippi.
About Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
The small city gets its name from an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico called the Bay of St. Louis. The city and the bay are both named for France’s King Louis XIV. He sent explorers to the region back in 1699 to search for the mouth of the Mississippi River. As a result, these French visitors founded a few settlements that live on today, including New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile.
Incorporated in 1818, Bay St. Louis’ population now is about 15,000. It’s the county seat of Hancock County. It’s just one of a handful of tourist-friendly communities strung along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi.
What Is Bay St. Louis Known For?
Just outside of town, there’s a massive NASA facility called the Stennis Space Center. It has played a huge role in space exploration for decades. In fact, this is where they built the rocket engines that propelled the space shuttles used for Apollo missions.
This aerospace connection has certainly brought some notoriety to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, over the years. But it’s mostly known as a laid-back seaside spot where you can while away the hours under the radar. These qualities, as well as its strong sense of community, have long made it popular as a quick getaway for New Orleanians.
Does Bay St. Louis Have a Beach?
The white sand beach is one of the big reasons that tourists love the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The artificial beach stretches for 28 miles. You’ll find bigger beaches in the cities of Biloxi, Gulfport, and Long Beach, but Bay St. Louis has one, too. It feels a little more private and isolated, with fewer beachgoers and much less traffic. You’ll find it near the downtown area just off Beach Boulevard, appropriately enough.
9 Great Reasons to Visit Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
There are many great reasons to visit Bay St. Louis, but here are nine of our favorites.
1. Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum
Alice Moseley was a remarkable woman with a vibrant approach to life and art. A native of Alabama, Moseley was 65 years old when she took up painting, and she quickly left her mark. Her colorful acrylic folk art depicts the rural Southern life she observed and experienced. Her son opened her home as a museum after she passed away in 2004. The blue house is just across the street from Bay St. Louis’ train depot, where you can see her paintings today. A small museum devoted to her and her works is on the second floor, and admission is free. You can see more than 80 paintings as well as antiques and vintage collectibles.
2. L&N Historic Train Depot
The depot building itself is worth exploring, too. The stately mission-style structure was built in 1928. It has survived not only the demise of a once-bustling railroad business but also blows from numerous powerful storms. Bay St. Louis suffered major damage from Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005. Besides being home to the Alice Moseley art museum, it also exhibits Bay St. Louis’ Mardi Gras heritage.
3. Fishing Charters Abound in Bay St. Louis
In Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, you’ll find the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi Sound, and some barrier islands. The Jourdan River offers freshwater fishing opportunities, and the namesake Bay of St. Louis is another popular place to fish. Chartering a boat is the best way to catch them, but you’re likely to see some folks dropping a line directly from the bay bridge.
4. Mystic Ghost Ride Tours
Another reason to get on the water is to look for lost souls. At the very least, you can hear some spooky tales about them. A 24-foot pontoon boat leaves Bordages Marina and explores the ghost stories of Bayou Caddy. The adventures include hand-me-down tales of notorious Jean Lafitte, who once floated these same waters.
5. Bay St. Louis Little Theatre
Local stage productions go back almost 75 years in Bay St. Louis, and you can thank John and Mary Bell for that. The couple had relocated from Connecticut and decided the town needed community theater. They also helped to launch the yacht club and a golf course. The Little Theatre’s first location was in a converted military building. Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed the building, and the theatre had to relocate.
6. Visit the INFINITY Science Center Nearby
Most of the NASA Stennis Space Center has restricted access, but the INFINITY Science Center is open to the public. This unique facility is all about discovery. It seeks to inspire a love of science in future generations. But it’s not all kid stuff. There’s plenty here to enlighten and entertain people of all ages. The educational exhibits draw from real scientific and technological experiments. You can see the Apollo 4 command module up close, as well as a Saturn V rocket booster.
7. The Shops of Old Town Bay St. Louis
The words “charming” and “quaint” can be overused at times, but they definitely describe Bay St. Louis’ downtown area. The Old Town area is just a few blocks, but it’s crammed with shops, galleries, and restaurants with a lively local flair. It’s a great setting for a quick walkabout. An active merchants association sponsors special events to draw residents as well as visitors. These include festivals as well as a regular Second Saturday art walk event.
8. Try Your Luck at the Casinos
Legalized gambling came to the Mississippi coast almost 30 years ago, and Bay St. Louis has a piece of the action. Nearby Biloxi may be better known as a gambling destination, but Bay St. Louis claims two casinos of its own. They are the Silver Slipper Casino and the Hollywood Casino & Resort. Even if you don’t gamble, they provide some additional dining and entertainment options.
9. The 100 Men Hall
In the late 1800s, there were various fraternal organizations, the Hundred Members Debating Benevolent Association among them. The founders, who were African-American, built a hall for themselves that had space for live bands. The hall later transitioned into a venue on the so-called “chitlin circuit,” and many blues and jazz greats performed there. The building is one of more than 250 stops on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
The 100 Men Club is still active and still hosts music events. It also continues to carry out one of its original missions – to raise money for burial for its members.
As you can see, there’s a lot to see and do in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It’s a small community with a welcoming attitude and a slower pace. Shift into a lower gear and discover the lifestyle that’s attracted visitors for decades. What would you do in Bay St. Louis?