“After a hurricane, comes a rainbow” (Katy Perry)
Many people consider Biloxi, Mississippi to be a “snake bitten area of doom. Due to its vulnerable, Gulf Coast location, Biloxi has fallen in the direct path of at least six, destructive hurricanes since the 1900s. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s Category 5 winds, destroyed over 90% of the existing structures in the Biloxi area. Our visit to this weather-ravaged city in early March would thus reveal widespread proof of this hurricane’s catastrophic wrath there. Sadly, we observed that wide swaths of new open space had been created along the beachfront leaving only scattered remnants of past site structures to the visible eye. Furthermore, a series of historic markers would eerily show where stately mansions along the shoreway had been blown away in the storm.
Yet battered Biloxi would retain its appeal to us as a convenient tourist stopover on this road trip with its enticing combination of resort lodging options, affordable dining spots and pedestrian friendly shorelines. Arriving from Interstate 10 in mid-afternoon, Sunday, we would book a two night stay at Harrahs Hotel/Casino. We noted then that this hotel had been rebuilt since the Katrina devastation into a smaller, more intimate version of the original hotel on the same site. Self parking our vehicle within 100 yards of the hotel lobby entrance, we soon felt fortunate that our hotel room would spectacularly overlook the Gulf of Mexico. Crossing an elevated boardwalk from the hotel to the beach, finding outdoor, dinner seating at the “Blind Tiger Cafe” would enable us to experience Biloxi’s spectacular, sunset views. For added appeal, the weather had remained cool/clear and would continue for the duration of our visit.
Crossing to the mainland the next morning, we discovered a local breakfast spot, Buzzy’s Cafe in nearby Ocean Springs, where we engaged in extended conversations with the friendly manager about cultural/historical tidbits of the surrounding area. Interestingly, we learned from him that this tiny village was among the five, oldest communities remaining in the U.S.today. In late morning, we then ventured to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Preserve, for a curious attempt at local birdwatching on a flat, savanna wooded trail. Although we sighted no cranes today, experiencing serenity from such nature’s silence would be truly appreciated. Our second day would conclude with a late afternoon, scenic drive through Biloxi proper. As we then observed that many homes remained standing or had been rebuilt,it became clear that Biloxi would rise again as a thriving community.
If you decide to visit Biloxi by car, I recommend you take the more scenic, State Road 90 for arrival along the coastline. Watch out for high protruding curbs around street corners and deep potholes on beach access turnoffs. If you are staying in New Orleans, Biloxi lies less than one hour east. It’s definitely worth a side trip visit.