Photo: Enjoying some playtime at the beach near Buccaneer State Park.

From New Orleans, we started to make our way east, first for two nights at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Mississippi, near Bay St. Louis. This park is right on the waterfront, and has an attached small waterpark. Sites are decent, bathrooms are decent, and there is a large playground. You can pay a bit extra to be in the loop that has an ocean view, but the sites there aren’t as nice, I’m not sure it’s worth it. There’s not much beach to speak of right here, but a short five-minute drive will take you to some gorgeous sugar sand, that apparently folks in the south don’t visit much, because it was dead on the 80-degree weekend we were there. This was the first time our boys were able to swim in the ocean, and they had a blast. As the ocean water is mixed with the river waters in this part of the Gulf, the water is a bit darker than it is further East and less salty.

Continuing along, we opted for the coastal Highway 90, a stunning scenic drive. It’s much slower than taking I-10 across, but well worth it. We visited Gulfport, where Abby lived for a couple years as a child, taking a nostalgic drive through her old neighborhood and past her old home. Biloxi follows, a bigger town with beaches, resort casinos, and some historic sites, like the Jefferson Davis “Presidential” Home and Library.

Abby’s childhood home in Gulfport, MS

Our major Mississippi destination was the Davis Bayou portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the city of Ocean Springs. The National Seashore protects underwater coastal marine life, bayous, and barrier islands along the coast. Here we saw another alligator, many turtles, and lots of pelicans dive-bombing the water for their next meal. We spent five days at the Davis Bayou campground, a nice, small facility that serves as an excellent basecamp for everything between Gulfport and Ocean Springs.

Abby was incredibly happy to learn our campground was but a short mile and a half from a Starbucks. It had been awhile since we’d been in such close proximity and she made good use of the short distance.

While at Davis Bayou a friend recommended we check out The TatoNut Donut Shop, a local donut destination that did not disappoint. Get there early. When we arrived at 9 a.m. the line was already out the door. Kudos to all the donut options — you really can’t go wrong — but make sure you try “The Katrina” and definitely opt for a cup of chickory coffee.

Our haul from The TatoNut Shop. They didn’t last long.

You can take a ferry from downtown Biloxi to Ship Island, a part of the National Seashore, which is home to historic Fort Massachusettes. As the ferry would have cost us nearly $60 for the family, we waited to visit one of these 1800s forts at our next destination…Fort Pickens, just off of Pensacola Beach, Florida, coming up in part 3.