Island Hopping: These spots off the Gulf Coast are worth exploring

Dauphin Island. Stock photo

The allure of a remote island has sent many an adventurer off in search of treasure, but there’s no need to sail the high seas to find your own sliver of pristine sand. The barrier islands just off the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida are steeped in history and brimming with wildlife.

Yet they are also perpetually reshaped by erosion and harsh winds: the 25-mile-long Isle Dernière, for example, was a bustling resort southwest of New Orleans until an 1856 hurricane sliced it in two and destroyed every structure on the island. Not far away in Grand Isle, rebuilding efforts after last year’s Hurricane Ida are still ongoing.

It may feel like these locales are coins slipping through our fingers, but that’s all the more reason to take advantage of all they offer while we can. Here are a few of the most unique:

Chandeleur Islands

Keep an eye out for the redhead duck and the western sandpiper on this crescent-shaped archipelago, part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. While the islands provide a sanctuary for 23 species of seabirds and shorebirds, the waters surrounding it are also a haven for fishing enthusiasts, and charter boats regularly make the trip in pursuit of speckled trout, redfish and flounder.

Ship Island

An hourlong ferry ride from Biloxi nets visitors access to this 7-mile-long island’s unspoiled beaches—complete with beach umbrella and chair rentals—plus tours of the 1850s-built Fort Massachusetts. Watch for the bottlenose dolphins that like to swim alongside the boat.

Horn Island

Acclaimed artist Walter Anderson often rowed to this island from his home in Ocean Springs, spending days living in the wild environment and painting the birds and animals that surrounded him. Follow in his footsteps without the arm workout by booking a trip with Island Hopper Charters.

Dauphin Island

No boat needed—just take the 3-mile bridge from Mobile County to this island first occupied by Native Americans over a thousand years ago. Once you’re here, check out the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, or Fort Gaines, which saw fighting during the Civil War.


Find more fantastic getaway ideas in the travel-themed cover section of inRegister’s June issue.