With clear waters and white sand beaches, the town of Gulfport on the Mississippi Gulf Coast draws in many visitors, especially families, each year.

Theme and water parks as well as watersports equipment rentals offer high-thrill activities for the brave, while others can relax on the smooth waters of the gulf on a private sailing charter. The town has a choice of museums, including a children's museum, model train and retro car museums, and even tours of the famous Stennis Space Center.

1. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
© The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is an organization devoted to research, conservation, and education in the sphere of marine mammal biology and ecology along the Gulf Coast. Behind the scenes, the institute conducts important research on animals from this region and cares for and rehabilitates sick and injured animals.

The group also runs the Center for Marine Education and Research, which creates educational displays based on the animals with which the institute works. The center is very hands on, featuring touch pools and a fossil dig. Guests can also participate in encounters with dolphins and other marine mammals and view related presentations.

10801 Dolphin Lane, Gulfport, MS 39503, Phone: 228-896-9182

2. Lynn Meadows Discovery Center

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
© Lynn Meadows Discovery Center

The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Mississippi's first children's museum, promotes learning and development through fun, interactive exhibits. The center has 15,000 square feet of indoor displays, plus six outdoor spaces where kids and parents can laugh, play, and explore together. The areas of the museum each have a cohesive theme such as art, animals, cooking, the nearby port, history, and science.

The facility also includes a tiny outdoor library booth from which children can borrow books. In addition to regular visits to Lynn Meadows, families can participate in cooking and performance classes as well as camps with various areas of focus. More info

246 Dolan Avenue, Gulfport, MS 39507, Phone: 228-897-6039

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3. Gulf Islands Water Park

Gulf Islands Water Park
© Gulf Islands Water Park

Gulf Islands Water Park, a seasonal waterpark and recreation center, has miles of water slides and an exciting program of shows to keep the whole family having fun out in the sun. Thrill seekers can get an adrenaline rush on rides with towering drops and lightning speeds, while the littlest of little ones can splash around in the Ship Island Wreck and Spray St. Louis play areas.

Gulf Islands also has a lazy river and a wave pool that parents and kids can take advantage of together. Performances often feature famous characters from Disney and Nickelodeon programs. The park has several different eating establishments on the premises, and cabanas, pavilions, and lockers are available for rent.

13100 16th St., Gulfport, MS 39503, Phone: 228-328-1266

4. North Star Sailing Charters

North Star Sailing Charters
© North Star Sailing Charters

North Star Sailing Charters is a private charter sailing company situated at the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor. Its two sailboats, the 40-foot Kashmir and the 31-foot Polaris, take guests out on private charter trips along the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

Each charter can take up to six passengers, and many packages are offered, including daytime, sunset, and moonlight cruises, trips for dolphin and pelican watching, and private dinner cruises catered by a local Gulfport restaurant. North Star allows for flexible start times, and they let clients customize their charter to their needs. The company also offers sailing lessons.

Phone: 228-617-8057

More ideas: Best Beaches in Mississippi

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5. Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum

Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum
© Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum

The Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum, which is supported by the region's model railroad club, keeps an honored tradition alive in its railroad track and car displays and exhibits. The club has three HO, O, and N table layouts for model railroads and trains as well as five raised G trains for kids.

There is even a LEGO train set complete with its own model town. Patrons can come for regular museum visits or utilize the space for birthday parties. At these events, both the young and the young at heart can ride the museum's electric carnival riding train or one of its six Thomas the Tank Engine riding trains.

522 Pass Rd, Gulfport, MS 39507, Phone: 228-284-5731

6. Set Sail Away-Day Cruises

Set Sail Away-Day Cruises
© Set Sail Away-Day Cruises

Set Sail Away takes the charter experience up a notch with its luxury yachts and cruise packages. The company operates three yachts, two of which are large enough to include space for private cabins and room to roam around and enjoy onboard amenities such as couches and television entertainment systems.

Set Sail Away cruises can accommodate up to six passengers, and trips can last from a short two hours to the entire day. The boats are equipped with a full crew who make the experience especially high end and comfortable. Different dining options are available, depending on the length of the cruise and the time of day.

1133 20th Ave, Gulfport, MS 39501, Phone: 228-596-1670

7. Ship Island Excursions, Gulfport, MS

Ship Island Excursions, Gulfport, MS
© Ship Island Excursions

According to Ship Island Excursions, the best beaches in Mississippi are found on West Ship Island, which is located 11 miles south of Gulfport and is one of five barrier islands in the state. In addition to clear waters and clean sands, West Ship Island is home to Fort Massachusetts, a historic brick fortification from the nineteenth century.

Ship Island Excursions runs a convenient ferry service that takes visitors to the island so they can enjoy its tranquil natural splendor. The ride lasts 50 minutes, and riders can often see Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins swimming in the transparent waters of the gulf along the way. In addition, for those seeking a more luxurious experience, Ship Island Excursion also has a range of private charter packages for large groups.

1040 23rd Ave, Gulfport, MS 39501, Phone: 228-864-1014

More ideas: Best Lakes in Mississippi

8. Chandeleur Brewing Company

Chandeleur Brewing Company
© Chandeleur Brewing Company

The Chandeleur Brewing Company was founded by Cammack and Cain Roberds, two Gulfport, Mississippi natives who discovered their passion for fine craft beer in the 1990s. When the pair decided to turn this passion into a business in 2013, they looked no further than their hometown, where they bought the historic building that now holds the Chandeleur Brewing Company.

The brewery is located in the downtown area very close to the coast, and it produces a unique selection of beers (including ales, stouts, and porters) using only carefully selected ingredients. Visitors can tour the lively facility to learn about how these unique Mississsippi concoctions are created.

2711 14th Street, Gulfport, MS 39501, Phone: 228-701-9985

9. Stennis Space Center, Gulfport, MS

Stennis Space Center, Gulfport, MS
© Stennis Space Center

Stennis Space Center is an official NASA facility where flight certification and rocket propulsion systems testing are carried out. The complex was initially built in the 1960s in preparation for the major Apollo space project, and since then, Stennis has served as a key testing center in the United States' vast space program.

Stennis Space Center has a dedicated visitors area known as the INFINITY Science Center. Here, guests can dive into interactive exhibits that focus on the history of space exploration, STEM topics, and other interesting themes. From INFINITY, guests can take a bus tour of the part of Stennis Space Center that is open to visitors.

One Discovery Circle, Pearlington, MS 39572, Phone: 228-533-9025

10. Things to do in Gulfport: The Crosby Arboretum

Things to do in Gulfport: The Crosby Arboretum
© The Crosby Arboretum

Affiliated with Mississippi State University, The Crosby Arboretum is an important educational center that works to preserve and educate the public about many of the plants native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin.

In addition to its research efforts, the arboretum has a pavilion, seven natural areas, and three main curated ecological displays: the Savanna, Aquatic, and Woodland exhibits. Each of these exhibits incorporates flora from the region and provides background information about the habitat. Visitors can walk through the center on their own using the trail signs to create a self-guided tour, or they can sign up for a staff-led tour of the grounds.

370 Ridge Road, Picayune, MS 39466, Phone: 601-799-2311

11. Jones Park

Jones Park
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This massive 60-acre park is the perfect place for families to enjoy an afternoon out. Known as the “Front Yard for the State of Mississippi ' because of its location by the state port, Jones Park has several attractions within its borders as well as nearby. The park holds a walking track, a functioning amphitheater, a huge replica lighthouse, as well as a playground and tropical themed splash pad. There are also two pavilions available for anyone looking to enjoy a picnic. Close by, visitors can also find several other attractions and dining options. The park is well loved by the community, being rebuilt from the ground up after Hurricane Katrina. The rebuild took an effortful seven years and finally reopened in 2012.

2250 Jones Park Drive, Gulfport, Mississippi 39501

12. Making Memories Sailing

Making Memories Sailing
© Making Memories Sailing

A trip to Gulfport is incomplete without time spent out on the smooth waters of the Mississippi Sound, and the Making Memories Sailing charter company provides a number of ways to do just that. Making Memories Sailing operates its own yacht, the Kahlua, a 33-foot classic sailboat that has been recently restored.

Captain Roger takes guests out on charters of varying lengths; options include a sunset cruise (two-and-a-half hours), half-day cruises in the morning or evening (four hours), and full-day six-hour cruises. The boat has convenient places to sit both on and below deck, and passengers can soak up the sun and seawater spray and perhaps even meet some fish or dolphins on charter.

1133 20th Ave. Pier 6, Slip 4, Gulfport, MS 39501, Phone: 228-257-1776

13. Wut Sup Standup Paddleboards & Rentals

Wut Sup Standup Paddleboards & Rentals
© Wut Sup Standup Paddleboards & Rentals

Wut SUP Standup Paddleboards & Rentals gives visitors a new way to see the Gulf Coast on a standup paddleboard, or SUP. The mission of the shop is to spread the joy of paddle boarding by giving visitors everything they need to get out on the water—a board, leash, bag, fins, and paddle, plus lessons from their staff instructor.

The shop is located near both the gulf and Gulfport Lake, making either one an option for an exciting paddleboard adventure. Wut SUP also rents and sells kayaks, bicycles, and skateboards, and any equipment they offer can be delivered to local accommodation.

13247 Seaway Road, Unit E, Gulfport, MS 39503, Phone: 228-669-1802

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14. Zip'N Fun Adventure Park

Zip'N Fun Adventure Park
© Zip'N Fun Adventure Park

A trip to Zip'N Fun Adventure Park is sure to be a challenging, active, and fun experience. Unlike other coastal attractions in and around Gulfport, Zip'N Fun takes its guests up to the treetops, where they complete an obstacle course made up of fifty games.

Visitors wear harnesses and make their way to high platforms, where they then have to cross challenges like tight ropes, swinging logs, unstable rope bridges, and more in order to complete the course, which increases in difficulty as players move through it. In addition to its tough obstacles, the Zip'N Fun course also has several zip lines for bursts of adrenaline along the way.

17200 16th Street, Gulfport, MS 39501, Phone: 228-206-7056

15. Mississippi Aquarium

Mississippi Aquarium
© NDABCREATIVITY/stock.adobe.com

Families of all ages will love learning about the beautiful aquatic wildlife at the Mississippi Aquarium. This world-class facility isn’t simply filled with awe-inspiring attractions for entertainment but is seriously committed to the education of its guests by introducing them to some of the world’s most invaluable ecosystems. Through the aquarium's exhibits and daily programs, guests can learn about hundreds of aquatic species such as the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and alligator snapping turtle. They’ll also be able to view different species of sharks, alligators, and even birds. In between attractions, guests may grab a bite to eat at the Pelican Pointe Cafe where they serve several tasty snacks such as nachos, burgers, tacos, salads, and grilled cheese.

2100 E. Beach Boulevard, Gulfport, Mississippi 39501, Phone: 228-241-1300

16. Things to do in Gulfport: Island View Casino

Things to do in Gulfport: Island View Casino
© whyframeshot/stock.adobe.com

For adults visiting Gulfport without children, a visit to the Island View Casino is sure to make for an enjoyable and memorable experience. Find hundreds of slot and table games in their grand casino which promises a fun, clean, and safe gaming experience for all of its visitors. Their smoke-free dining options are also plentiful with an award-winning buffet, outdoor bar, steakhouse, beignet cafe, and sweet shop amongst others. 24-hour coffee shops are also available anytime guests need a cup of coffee. The casino’s luxurious hotel rooms are just steps away, each equipped with dreamy beddings and custom bath products.

3300 W Beach Blvd, Gulfport, Mississippi 39501, Phone: 228-314-2100

17. Altitude Trampoline Park

Altitude Trampoline Park
© Altitude Trampoline Park

Stop by the Altitude Trampoline Park for an energizing afternoon of fun. This isn’t your ordinary trampoline park— aside from the main court filled with wall-to-wall trampolines, there are loads of additional attractions and games to enjoy. Take on a challenge at Wipe Out, where players try to avoid padded arms on a spinning wheel, or combat friends at the Battle Beam as you try to knock each other into a large foam pit. There are also trampoline sports such as extreme dodgeball and trampoline basketball, as well as an obstacle course.

9444 Highway 49, Gulfport, Mississippi, Phone: 228-314-3316

18. Windance Golf

Windance Golf
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The 18-hole championship golf course at Windance Golf is a golfer’s dream with 6,600 yards of playing space surrounded by stunning landscapes. Originally designed by Mark McCumber, the course has gone through recent upgrades including a new lake, new landscaped native areas, and the installation of state-of-the-art irrigation systems. It’s no surprise that it has become one of Mississippi’s best resort golf courses and is annually included in Golfweek magazine’s “Best Places You Can Play”. Aside from the beautiful course, players may also warm up and perfect their swing at the club’s driving range as well as shop for all their golfing needs at the Pro Shop. The View at 19 Bar and Grill is the perfect spot for a break as it offers an excellent dining experience together with great overlooking views.

19385 Champion Cir, Gulfport, Mississippi 39503, Phone: 228-832-4871

19. Things to do in Gulfport: Bananas Mini-Golf & Arcade

Things to do in Gulfport: Bananas Mini-Golf & Arcade
© Bananas Mini-Golf & Arcade

Escape with the whole family to Bananas Mini-Golf & Arcade for some tropical-themed fun. Established in 2016, this relatively new establishment offers an entertaining (and challenging) outdoor mini-golf course. Foster some friendly competition amongst family and friends as you make your way through the 18-hole course and see who emerges victorious. During the day, players can stay cool with the help of multiple mister stations and available umbrellas. In the evening, on the other hand, players will enjoy a fully lit course with colorful waterfall displays. The course is completely handicap accessible, even offering handicap putters. Be sure to stop by their state-of-the-art arcade as well as the country style mini mart while visiting!

2251 East Pass Road, Gulfport, Mississippi 39507, Phone: 228-206-3015

More ideas: Mississippi Waterparks

20. Half Shell Oyster House of Gulfport

Half Shell Oyster House of Gulfport
© Half Shell Oyster House of Gulfport

Get a taste of New Orleans inspired cuisine at the Half Shell Oyster House of Gulfport. Here you’ll find traditional staples like seafood gumbo, crab cakes, fried shrimp, and of course— delicious oysters. Other menu highlights include hand-cut steaks, Redfish Orleans, and seafood stuffed portabellas. Half Shell Oyster House also offers a number of specialty drinks including a variety of martinis, wine by the glass, as well as draft and bottled beer. If you like martinis, be sure to give their Pink Pearl Martini a try! Complete the experience with the restaurant’s laid-back yet classic ambiance, very similar to that of the French Quarter, with its moody interior and jazz playing in the background.

2500 13th St #1, Gulfport, MS 39501, Phone: 228-867-7001

21. Shaggy’s Gulfport Beach

Shaggy’s Gulfport Beach
© Shaggy’s Gulfport Beach

Step into your next vacation every time you visit Shaggy’s Gulfport Beach. Whether you’re visiting with family or friends, you can expect to enjoy some great food paired together with an easygoing island ambiance. Frequently visited by locals and vacationers alike, Shaggy’s is known for its delicious seafood, refreshing margaritas, and some of the best views of the Gulf of Mexico. Their menu offers a wide selection of dishes such as wraps, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, seafood platter, flatbreads, oysters, and many more. Some of their specialties and must-try items include their yellowfin tuna bowl and American Wagyu baseball cut sirloin. Shaggy’s Gulfport Beach is ready to welcome customers every day of the week.

1724 E. Beach Blvd, Gulfport, Mississippi 39501, Phone: 228-241-1007

22. Gulfport Dragway

Gulfport Dragway
© Gulfport Dragway

Gulfport Dragway brings a little something different to this shore community with its long, straight drag racing track, which supports 1/4- and 1/8-mile races. The dragway, surrounded by trees and greenery, is located a little bit inland.

It hosts various kinds of high-speed drag races, including street and footbrake car races and fast-paced motorcycle and diesel truck competitions as well. Spectators root for their favorites out in the open air along the side of the track in an exhilarating, yet family-appropriate atmosphere. While Gulfport Dragway does have concessions for sale, fans are permitted to tailgate at the venue as well.

17085 Racetrack Rd., Gulfport, MS 39503, Phone: 228-863-4408

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