Wanderful Guide to Mississippi: Notes on a Coastal Getaway

This post is shared in partnership with Visit Mississippi

Upon reaching the 6-month anniversary of the release of Wanderful it was fully decided: it’s time to celebrate! What better way to do so, of course, than to get out there and get back on the road! Honestly, even after experiencing 9 road trips around America while writing my book there’s still soooo many places remaining to be seen!

Truly, I hadn’t yet been on a proper American road trip since the beginning of the year, so we got our planning underway. We’d take off for a weekend adventure, somewhere with forests, blooming flora and fauna - where we’d feel a sense of our Southern roots (i.e. Music! Good food!). The trip would be someplace beautiful while staying within a writer’s budget.

MS Runs Deep | Oui We

Despite being a Southerner for all of my life there’s so many Southern states I’ve not fully explored - we’d be going to the coast of Mississippi, and this would be one of those places that would be fully new to me!

We booked our stay, did a little advanced inspiration work (my usual approach: music, books or movies) and prepared for our travels.

What to know before you go:

We stayed in Ocean Springs. The 26 miles of the coastal highway is one of the only highways along the Gulf Coast that doesn't have condos hiding the views of the Gulf. The drive is stunning. If you’re driving in, be sure to travel along this road once you’ve made it to the coast. The back bays and winding side roads are worth traveling along too… make extra time to simply get out and wander.

Where to stay:

WHITE HOUSE BILOXI | Oui We

I’ll give you two options that are markedly different here. If you’re a luxury lover choose option 1. Want to spend time in nature? Choose option 2.

Turtle House Ocean Springs | Oui We

The White House Biloxi: In the 1890’s this was the home of Cora White - today it’s my dream hotel. I could have spent the whole weekend cruising along the coast during the day and then coming back to the hotel, dressing up in my best party dresses and sipping champagne at Cora’s Bar by night.

WHITE HOUSE BILOXI | Oui We

The Turtle House in Ocean Springs: This little gem is a Caroll B. Ishee designed home.Ishee, a Mississippi local, designed unabashedly modern homes on hidden-away plots of land along the Gulf. We'd have been seriously good friends - he had a love affair with nature and felt we should coexist with it, not merely experience it from afar. The whole place has a sort of jungle vibe... be prepared however to have wildlife encounters. In our case, we met a raccoon and quite a few flying creatures, but hey, it’s in the woods, it’s part of the charm.

Turtle House  | Oui We

What do to:

Visit the adorable little town of Pass Christian: This town took quite a hit during Hurricane Katrina, so it was so lovely to visit and see the beauty re-emerging. We stopped at Cat Island Coffee shop. I spotted a book titled A Guide to Living the Good Life in the window, that’s what drew us in - and then sat down for a cortado and a matcha latte, and truly that’s how the good life starts.

Cat Island Coffee Oui We

Make time to explore the marina and the stretch of beautiful homes as you get closer to the downtown area.

Explore the Museums: There are many good museum options along the coast. Our pick was the Walter Anderson museum. This mural, never seen by anyone until after his death, is an ode to his island escape — painted directly on his cottage walls.

WA Museum | Oui We

It’s unequivocally magical! There were paintings of butterflies (my spirit animal) and an entire exhibit devoted to cats (Ben’s spirit animal) and we were completely enamoured.

Downtown Ocean Springs | Oui We

Visit the delightful downtown Ocean Springs: Speaking of the Walter Anderson Museum, it’s situated in downtown Ocean Springs which is a serious delight in itself. We stopped for artisan ice pops from Pop Brothers in downtown Ocean Springs, Mississippi, while a local musician could be heard singing in a bar around the corner. We shopped along Washington Ave. and Government St., stopped for happy hour at Government St. Grocery and finished with a delicious dinner at Phoenicia Gourmet Restaurant.

Pop Brothers Ice Cream | Oui We
Gulf Island Seashore | Oui We

Play outside: Head over to the Gulf Island National Seashore (free to visit!) to see candy-colored cabins and Park Rangers riding around on beach cruisers. Stay for a hike, or just take a slow drive through to see the wildlife.

Sunset at Weeks Bayou | Oui We

Sunset on the Bayou: When we checked into the Turtle House the proprietor insisted we take a bottle of wine and head straight out to the bayou to catch the sunset. We’d been traveling for quite a few hours and I can tell you, it was truly the perfect way to end the day.

If you go, of course, I'd love to hear about your experience! If you feel inspired to plan a trip to Mississippi, here’s one place to start! Tag me on instagram to share your stories!

Wanderfully yours,

Andi


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Set Out on a Spirit-Filled Alternative to the Standard Bachelorette Party

By Oui We contributor Sam Spahr

Whether you’re the bride boheme or her free-spirited maids, a rollicking fête is clearly in order. As the women who love her deeply and know her truest self, it’s time to honor the bride and the friendships you’ve shared thus far.

Trade in traditional bachelorette party ideas for one that serves up a bit of substance as well. Try turning your attention to the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. Allow them to guide your bachelorette party expedition as you celebrate the greatest and fifth element, your very spirits and life itself!

Bachelorette Party by Sam Spahr

Air

independent, creative, thoughtful, traveler

Take a cue from Princess Belle: find adventure in the great wide somewhere. Trade the bright lights and crowded streets of a typical bach' party destination for somewhere more . . . freeing. This trip is all about your tribe, so give yourselves the space to focus on each other, but most importantly the woman of the hour. The reality is that as time moves on, the opportunities to be with each other this way will only be more difficult to manifest. So get selfish with this precious time, get secluded from necessary distractions, and get creative with your celebration.

Air by Sam Spahr

Water

regeneration, change, trust, and devotion

If there is someone out there who doesn’t find the sight, sound, or feeling of water to be totaling refreshing, please call me. A water feature in any form is a mandated staple for a bach' party, in my humble opinion. Wedding planning - in all of its forms - can take a toll on the mind, body, and spirit. On top of logistics, your bride-to-be is stepping into a world of change, both subtle and substantial. Hike to a waterfall. Spend a lazy day in a river. Rejuvenate at wellness spa. Seek out a water element to help her melt the stress away and focus again on the beautiful light and the end of all this: her loving partner and the life ahead of them.

Water by Sam Spahr
Water by Sam Spahr

Earth

grounding, loyal, nurturing, stable

Maybe the ladies of the bridal party are a patchwork of your bride’s friends. Find an activity that will challenge your group and have you come together as a unit - especially if you haven’t known each other for half your lives. Something like cliff rappelling or rock climbing is a beginner level opportunity to cheer each other on and conquer some fears (in the hands of experienced and seasoned guides!) Overcoming an adrenaline inducing and totally thrilling experience together will leave a massive imprint on the soul that no one will forget for years to come.

Earth by Sam Spahr
bachparty4_copy.jpg

Fire

energy, passion, freedom, charismatic

Who hasn’t had a long lazy and boozy campfire night? The ancient act of communing over a fire is deep within our blood. It’s where we tell our best stories, laugh our great laughs, and feel free to speak out on some of our fears, worries. A roaring fire begs us to muse on our lives until the early hours of the morning. Whether you build a fire, light some candles, or gather to paint your nails (slumber party style), invoke the energy of fire as an element. Let this time be a freeing of the mind. Wedding planning can have your bride trapped in her own thoughts and anxieties so talk, laugh, cry, squeal, and just get silly. Release it all into the void of the night.

Fire by Sam Spahr

At the end of the day, don't forget to be with one another. Nurture your bonds. Sink deep into the blissful aura that surrounds your friend as she marks this milestone in her larger and greater journey.

Cheers,

Sam

The Solo Jaunt My Soul Was Crying For

by Oui We Contributor Sam Spahr

I’m currently in the research stage of an upcoming family vacation, and as much as I love the words family and vacation, I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on the endeavor. I’m truly a lucky gal; I like my family. Which is a bigger thing than love I think sometimes. We’re together often. We’re friends. We choose to be with one another when we don’t have too, you know? As much as I genuinely enjoy these humans, I think the impending vacation(s) coupled with the extra time we’ve spent together lately has me feeling a little like the proverbial family tree is tightening its limbs around me. It’s made me bit nostalgic for a time when I was a single little leaf living far away from home and traveling alone when I needed.

St. Michaels by Sam Spahr

I’m thinking specifically of when I was in the throws of my graduate study in Baltimore, and I had the opportunity to take a long weekend out of the city, away from my studio or any library. (In the spirit of honesty, I brought my work with me - I'm adventurous, not reckless.) I did a quick search to find a interesting place to land for a few days.

I couldn't go too far, but I still wanted to feel . . . different . . . maybe even inspired, if I could ask that much.

Eastern Shore, MD by Sam Spahr

Shoring Up

An easy drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and I found myself on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. As I headed south down this craggy side of the bay’s turf, I immediately felt the comfort of two lane roads, vague sprawling fields, and antiques for sale. A switch flipped in me. I wasn't even sure of where I was headed - no tourist attraction or famous landmarks drawing me in - but I knew I could not have made a better decision.

Eastern Shore by Sam Spahr
Eastern Shore, MD by Sam Spahr

Easton, Maryland is a thumbprint of a town. It’s sweet and quiet, and where I found the coziest Airbnb to house me for a few nights. Truly, I was blown away by the simplicity and warmth of the space that had once been a corn crib. Yes, meaning it once held heaps of harvested corn and nothing else. After an astute renovation, it stands as a studio style bungalow complete with a small foyer, spa-esque bath, and a kitchenette complete with mystically delicious banana bread fresh baked by the owner waiting for you when you arrive. And no, I was not able to snag the recipe.  

I was able to lose track of time in the property’s quaint courtyard, hunker down with Chinese take-out while I read through my research articles and binged late 90s teen dramas with a bottle of wine. You cannot shame me; I am unshameable because this is what I needed to happen.

Easton, MD by Sam Spahr
St. Michaels, MD by Sam Spahr

Traveling isn’t always about doing

It’s not something I recognize easily though. I often feel the need to keep moving because I don't want to waste time, or that I ought to take advantage of being wherever I am. Yet, this time was different.

I needed to be me, just in someplace new for a little while.

With my base in Easton, I ventured into St. Michaels for fresh air and a fresher outlook on my life, at that time really. A charming waterfront town that necks out into the bay, St. Michaels brought to life many ideas I’ve held about dreamy little (east) coastal towns as a deeply southern gal. Slips stacked with boats were bordered by understated seafood eateries. Walkable shops and historic buildings popped straight out of a storybook or painting, I’m sure. They all validated a piece of my soul that always hoped places like this existed in such splendor, even outside the magic of a television screen.

St. Michaels, MD by Sam Spahr
St. Michaels, MD by Sam Spahr

It’s no wonder St. Michaels has the reputation as one the most romantic towns in the country. I distinctly remember feeling joy just floating around in the air there. Nowhere pressing to be, no one else needs to consider, I walked aimlessly around for hours in some state of pure bliss. Maybe the locals were concerned about some chick waltzing around with a dopey smile on her face, in and out of every street, shop, and sidewalk, but who cares. I was damn happy. And isn’t that worth everything?

So, I’ll get on wrapping up my family’s vacation plans, (planning does make me happy) and you consider this a personal call to action: get away and go fall in love with yourself.

Eastern Shore, MD by Sam Spahr

Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.