Natchez, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Nina Alizada /

8 Breathtaking Towns To Visit In Mississippi

Although it is known for deep, dark marshes, Mississippi has a multifaceted environment. The northwest has the Delta, the northeast has the Appalachians, the center has the Petrified Forest, the southwest has the Trace, and the southeast has the Gulf of Mexico. Enmeshed in those diverse ecoregions are small communities with marvelous humanmade attractions, ranging from art museums to Antebellum mansions to juke joints. Combine natural beauty with cultural charm in these eight Mississippi towns.


Natchez, Mississippi
Prayer Garden of the St. Mary Basilica in Natchez, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Nina Alizada /

The Natchez Trace is a historic forest trail that runs for roughly 440 miles through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Modern adventurers explore the trail via the Natchez Trace Parkway, which begins in Nashville, Tennessee, and ends in the titular city of Natchez, Mississippi. Many are in no rush to leave Natchez, though, since it is one of the prettiest communities in America.

Much of its beauty revolves around the Mississippi River, on whose breathtaking bluffs sit Antebellum abodes like the Rosalie Mansion and Gardens and The Briars Bed & Breakfast. As the state's oldest continuous settlement, Natchez contains not just striking European-style buildings but the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, which preserves a prehistoric Indigenous village. Moreover, the community centers several wilderness sanctuaries, such as the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Homochitto National Forest, Clark Creek Natural Area, and the Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi.

Ocean Springs

Gulf coast beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Gulf coast beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Although it is easy to forget, Mississippi is a seaside state. Arguably, the best community on those 60-some miles of coastline is Ocean Springs, which boasts about 18,000 people, 200 bustling businesses, and multiple miles of sandy beachland. After dining at Murky Waters BBQ and touring the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, visitors can swim, fish, kayak, paddleboard, or simply relax at Front Beach. Additionally, they can explore natural scenery at the nearby Davis Bayou Area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore or painted scenery at the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival. It takes place in November and is billed as the "largest arts festival in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast."


Tishomingo is a tiny town flanked by two of the most impressive sites in Mississippi. To the southeast is Tishomingo State Park, which occupies the Appalachian foothills. Its giant rock formations, towering trees, and swinging bridge over the Bear Creek Canyon make it look like nowhere else in the state. To the north is Woodall Mountain, which stands 806 feet above sea level and is Mississippi's highest natural point. In between are roughly 400 residents and myriad travelers who stop for breath-stabilizing bites at The Shack and the Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant.

Holly Springs

Wall Doxey State Park. Holly Springs, Mississippi
Wall Doxey State Park in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Like Tishomingo, Holly Springs is the gateway to a namesake nature preserve. The Holly Springs National Forest spans hundreds of thousands of acres of public and private land and is considered one of the most breathtaking places in the state. However, unlike Tishomingo, Holly Springs is scenic regardless of its nature. The 7,000ish-person "city" prospered during the Antebellum era and has Greek and Gothic Revival buildings as evidence. These include Montrose, Airliewood, the Hugh Craft House, Boling-Gatewood House, and Davis House, the last of which sits four miles north of town and serves as the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center. Holly Springs contains Graceland Too, the quirky and unofficial second Graceland that closed in 2014 but still draws attention for its Antebellum architecture.

Bay St. Louis

Archway for Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Archway for Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Editorial credit: clayton harrison /

Another coastal Mississipality, Bay St. Louis, has fewer residents than Ocean Springs but arguably more attractions. Bay St. Louis Beach has been voted the best beach in the state, and the Bay of St. Louis, after which the community and beach were named, is a hub of oceanic activity. After beachcombing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, boating, fishing, or just general sightseeing, you can dry off at quaint, walkable haunts like the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum and Bay St. Louis Historic L&N Train Depot or get wetter at The Ugly Pirate Cafe and Bar. That is about the only "ugly" thing in beautiful Bay St. Louis.


Downtown Flora, Mississippi.
Downtown Flora, Mississippi. Image credit: Jimmy Smith via

With a name like Flora, how can you not be pretty? Sure enough, Flora, Mississippi, is scenic, but not because of flowers. Rather, it is because of a much different kind of plant matter. This truly small town adjoins the Mississippi Petrified Forest, a 40-acre preserve of petrified logs believed to be 36 million years old. In addition to fossilized fir and maple set along a nature trail, the preserve has a museum, pavilion, gift shop, campground, and gem mining flume. Moreover, as one of only two known petrified forests in the eastern United States, the Mississippi Petrified Forest is a National Natural Landmark.

Back in Flora, tourists can have fun at Blue Rooster, Railroad Pizza Company, and Bill's Creole and Steak Depot. The ancient and modern mix for a multi-epoch, multi-sensory spectacle.


A scene from Clarksdale, Mississippi
A scene from Clarksdale, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Pierre Jean Durieu /

As the historic, cotton-growing floodplain between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, the Mississippi Delta is a natural and cultural enclave containing vibrant African American communities. One of these is Clarksdale, which has around 15,000 residents (roughly 80 percent black) and many musical and culinary attractions. The Mississippi Blues Trail passes through town and marks several locations that helped develop the genre, such as the Muddy Waters Cabin Site, Riverside Hotel, and Delta Blues Museum. Neighboring the museum is the Ground Zero Blues Club, an old-style juke joint with delicious Southern food that is co-owned by Morgan Freeman. Other belly- and ear-splitting joints in Clarksdale include Levon's, the Bluesberry CAFE, and the Delta Blues Alley Cafe.

Pass Christian

Pass Christian Harbor with docked boats in the Mississippi River
Pass Christian Harbor with docked boats in the Mississippi River. Image credit: Jennifer Smits via Wikimedia Commons.

Do not pass up a trip to Pass Christian, a quaint city on the other side of the bay from Bay St. Louis. Beyond obligatory beaches and seafood restaurants, PC has a gourmet food store called Pass Christian Olive Oils and Vinegars, a commemorative recreation area called War Memorial Park, and a luxuriant loop called the Enchanted Nature Trail. Lastly, PC is just a short sail from Mississippi's scenic Barrier Islands, which comprise Cat Island, Ship Island, Horn Island, and Petit Bois Island. They are largely uninhabited and protected as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Mississippi can take your breath away for so many different reasons. After walking Natchez's Trace, combing Ocean Springs' beach, hiking Tishomingo's parks, touring Holly Springs' mansions, paddling Bay St. Louis' bay, wandering Flora's forest, hearing Clarksdale's blues, and sailing Pass Christian's islands, you will likely be gasping - but in a good way. Feel full and free in small-town Mississippi.

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