We were attracted by the art and mystique of Walter Anderson. And we discovered so much more to enjoy as my wife and I visited Ocean Springs - one of the Six Sisters of the Gulf Coast - in celebration of our anniversary.

The Six Sisters 

In times past - during our country’s antebellum period - city folk of means from New Orleans, Jackson and Mobile sought to escape pre-air-conditioned urban life to spend their summers enjoying sea breezes, “healing” spring waters, and good times along Mississippi’s Gulf coast. Small coastal towns advertised their accommodations, food and drink as Six Sisters grew to be known as Gulf Coast resort cities. Initially served by steam ship, by the 1880’s a railroad line linked New Orleans to Mobile through these towns and locked in their role as coastal resorts. From west to east the towns (now cities) are Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport, (Mississippi City,) Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula. The map below shows these Six Sisters linked by US Highway 90 (part of the Old Spanish Trail,) and they are now of course served indirectly by Interstate 10.

Six Sisters resort cities map

Here is a 360 degree drone view of the waterfront from above Ocean Springs’ Ft. Maurepas City Park. Deer Island can be seen offshore where I camped last year.

Lodging 

I intended to stay at a quaint B&B in the heart of Ocean Springs and largely succeeded, except that most of these boutique inns don’t serve meals. Turned out to not be an issue since there are so many delicious eateries within walking distance. We stayed at the Springs Hotel located on Washington Ave. in the heart of O.S. next to the Walter Anderson Museum. It was within easy walking distance to the shops, restaurants and bars along Government Street.

Arts & Culture 

The Anderson family readily admits that Walter was something of a peculiar man. He viewed the world and societal norms differently than most. Anderson passed away in 1965 before receiving any significant notoriety for his art, which took off in the mid 1970s. Anderson loved nature during a time when the hippie movement wanted people to love each other. Anderson’s art reflects this and the time he spent alone in nature - even sailing a tiny one-man boat 11 miles offshore to Horn Island and even 25 miles offshore to Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands. I’ve recently spent a night solo camping on nearby Deer Island and decades ago visited West Ship Island by tourist ferry which is fun and interesting both with sandy beaches, clearer Gulf waters, sightings of dolphins, and a tour of historic Fort Massachusetts maintained by the National Park Service.

Walter Anderson Museum 

To begin, I’ll endorse this fascinating 15-minute “Mississippi Moments Podcast” by the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Oral History & Cultural Heritage interview with Walter Anderson’s nephew John Anderson. He dislikes “museum” in the facility’s name, finding it limiting of the scope and expression of Walter’s works.

I’ll describe the gallery and exhibits following our visit.

Shearwater Pottery 

Shearwater Pottery takes its name from a mis-identified shorebird. This business was also founded by the Anderson family - Walter’s parents - who arrived from New Orleans and purchased a tract of waterfront property on Biloxi Bay. Walter and his siblings worked there, although Walter’s interests were drawn more towards the natural environment of the coast and expressing it through art. The pottery business was named after the Black Skimmer, misidentified as a Shearwater. Still, the name stuck and even the road shares the same name. Fortunately, several species of Shearwaters do roam the Gulf of Mexico, though as pelagic species they are infrequent visitors to the shore.

I’ll describe what we see at Shearwater Pottery after our visit.

The “Mary C” 

The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center occupies the historic high school building on Government Street just east of the core business and entertainment district in Ocean Springs. The center includes galleries, a history museum and performace space for regularly scheduled events. Note the O’Keefe’s are also named benefactors of the Ohr museum across the bay in Biloxi also.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art 

Across Biloxi Bay at Kuhne Street is the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. Portions of the facility were designed by Frank Gehry, while the O’Keefe family were benefactors. The museum displays works of another local potter George Ohr. Time precluded our visiting this museum on this trip, so we’ll save it for a future visit to Biloxi.

Charnley-Norwood House 

Further east beyond Shearwater Pottery is the Bon Silene cottage residence designed in 1890 by Louis Sullivan aided by his employee, a young Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a vacation residence for Chicago lumber magnates: Charnley and later Norwood. The home burned and was rebuilt in 1897 to the original design by Norwood with Sullivan’s direction. More recently, hurricane Katrina damaged the house. It was then purchased by the State and restored in 2013.

See the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area to schedule a free tour. [email protected] | 228-234-7298

Also, investigate the tile art located along the walkway at the foot of the Ocean Springs side of the new Biloxi Bay bridge.

Food 

Dinner at Maison de Lu, brunch at The Lady May, Pop Brothers Ice Pops, what else?

Outdoors 

Front Beach and paddleboarding

Davis Bayou Campground - We’ll scout out this park for possible future tent camping visits. It is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore administered by the National Park Service. Fees are just $22 per night and all sites have electric service. Gulf Coast Heritage Passport stamp booklets are available at the William M. Colmer Visitor Center within Davis Bayou park. (Maybe stop here first to get a passport booklet for stamps from other attractions we visit?)

Across the bayou from the campground and located at the end of E Beach Drive is the Gulf Coast Research Lab - part of the University of Southern Mississippi, marine sciences…