From marshes and bayous to rivers and barrier islands, the South has much to offer when it comes to waterfront appeal. Group travelers can board boats for wildlife-watching cruises or take guided kayaking adventures along some of the marshes and water features that pepper the area. 

These five Southern waterfront destinations also feature some world-class attractions, including aquariums, botanical gardens and museums.

Coastal Mississippi

Biloxi, Gulfport and 10 other small towns along the Mississippi coast are fantastic getaways for fans of the water. The beaches in the area are protected by a chain of barrier islands that stretch 160 miles from Mississippi to Florida. The waters are calm and perfect for swimming, sunbathing and paddle sports. Coastal Mississippi also has 62 miles of scenic shoreline with pine forests, swamps, bayous, beaches and the Pascagoula River.

Gulf Islands National Seashore offers fishing, biking, hiking and bird-watching. Ship Island is the only island accessible by public ferry. It takes about an hour to reach the island by boat, and passengers are sure to spot dolphins and other wildlife during the crossing. The island is home to Fort Massachusetts, a brick fort used during the Civil War that is open for tours. The other five nearby barrier islands can be reached by charter boat.

Gulf Coast Gator Ranch and Airboat Tours allows visitors to feed alligators, hold baby gators and take an airboat tour through the swamps.

Top attractions include a ride on the Betsy Ann Riverboat out of Biloxi, as well as the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art and the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport, which features wildlife from the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, wetlands and marshes.

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