Gulf Islands National Seashore Park – Davis Bayou
Location: Ocean Springs, MS
Smashed Penny Machine: No
Gulf Islands National Seashore is actually a large string of barrier islands that stretch from the Fort Walton Beach area in Florida across to Mississippi. It includes several islands, historic forts and smaller hiking areas. Some of these locations are very primitive with little to no facilities and some of the islands are only reachable via private boat. The Davis Bayou area is just outside Ocean Springs and it offers hiking, picnicking, camping and a visitor’s center.
We arrived at opening on a Tuesday morning and had the park to ourselves. We walked the boardwalk trail around the visitor’s center which offered nice views of the bayou. This was a very easy walk and very accessible for wheelchairs or strollers. The path was also mostly shaded.
The visitor’s center has a nice museum that has several interactive elements for the kids to learn about the wildlife in the park. I really enjoyed the carved representations of the local wildlife that was on display throughout the visitor’s center. They also had a short film (about 20 minutes) about the importance of the barrier islands and the surrounding saltwater marshes. After watching the film our girls completed their Jr Ranger books and received their badges.
Although it was a warm morning, we decided to do a short hike through some of the woods on a trail that went through parts of the bayou to see if we could spot some alligators. The trail was NOT stroller friendly and honestly wasn’t well marked (either that or people have been going out and making their own trails). We didn’t get too lost thought. We didn’t see any alligators but we saw some birds, a snake, some lizards and a really big bull frog. The kids had fun keeping on the lookout for wildlife.
Overall impression: The park was very quiet (it was a Tuesday morning) we only saw maybe 5 other people total. It was a nice stop to learn more about the local eco system. Other parts of the national seashore are probably a bit more exciting as they have beaches but this is a very nice park. If you have an hour or two (you could probably spend all day if you really like hiking) it’s worth the stop.