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Who knew you could collect 39 National Park Passport stamps within the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area? No wonder they call it the Secret Coast!


How to Collect 39 National Park Passport Stamps in Coastal Mississippi 1

I was a guest of Coastal Mississippi, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to our our Disclosure/Disclaimer page for more information.


National Park Passport Stamps


If you are obsessed with collecting National Parks Passport stamps like I am, then this post is for you.

If not, then keep reading, and you will discover what all the fuss is about . . . .

For years, I have chased passport cancellation stations at national parks, national monuments, national battlefields, and many other NPS sites, blissfully unaware that I was passing up multiple NPS passport stamps, even when they were right under my nose.

Early last year, I traveled to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to explore the region’s culture and history. Following that trip I published two feature stories: Discover Coastal Mississippi’s African American Heritage and Meet Three Unconventional Coastal Mississippi Artists.

I knew the region was part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (MGCNHA), but it wasn’t until I toured the Charnley-Norwood House near the end of my itinerary that I learned it had an official NPS passport stamp.

Even though the historical home was not a National Parks unit, its affiliation with the MGCNHA qualified it for official designation.

It didn’t take long to discover that there were actually 39 designated sites within the MGCNHA, each with its own official NPS passport stamp.

Imagine my dismay when I realized I had already toured several of those sites, all the while clueless that they had passport stamps.


What is a National Heritage Area?


According to the National Park Service website, NHAs are regions across the country “where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes.”

Currently, there are 55 National Heritage Areas designated by Congress in 34 states. Mississippi has two additional NHAs: the Mississippi Hills NHA and the Mississippi Delta NHA.

Although NHAs receive federal funding, they are not official NPS units. They are “lived-in” regions, and the National Park Service does not own nor manage all of the land within the boundaries of the heritage areas.

Most NHAs maintain independent websites that provide information about passport stamp locations within their areas. When planning regional US travel, be sure to consult the National Park Service’s comprehensive listing of all NHAs with links to their websites.


Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area


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On December 8, 2004, the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area was established, encompassing Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties.

The MGCNHA’s mission is to preserve and promote the unique culture of Coastal Mississippi through historic, innovative, natural, and flavorful themes.


Coastal Mississippi NPS Passport Stamp Locations


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There are countless historic and cultural attractions in Coastal Mississippi, but let’s take a look at some of the official Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area passport stamp locations.

Lighthouse & Visitors Center | Biloxi


You can’t miss the Biloxi Lighthouse, situated in the median on Highway 90. The 65-foot cast-iron structure, erected in 1848, has weathered many storms and hurricanes. It has become a symbol of “resolve and resilience,” not just for the city of Biloxi, but also the NHA as depicted on its logo.

Parking is available at the Lighthouse Pier and site of the Civil Rights era Biloxi Beach Wade-Ins. You can collect two passport stamps and inquire about lighthouse tours at the Biloxi Visitors Center adjacent to the lighthouse on the north side of Beach Boulevard.

Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum | Biloxi


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Relive more than 300 years of Mississippi’s interdependence with the Gulf of Mexico at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. Three floors of exhibits tell the story of regional boat building, commercial fishing, marine resource management, hurricanes, and much more.

The museum’s Biloxi Schooners, authentic replicas of historical oyster boats, dock at the nearby Schooner Pier Complex. Both vessels are available for day sailing and charters.

Collect stamps for both the museum and schooners at the front desk.

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Although not a passport stamp attraction, a Biloxi Shrimping Trip, offers the best way to experience the life of a shrimper and learn first-hand about Coastal Mississippi’s seafood industry.

Beauvoir | Biloxi


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Beauvoir is the historical estate and home of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis. He lived at this location from 1876 until his death in 1889.

Guests should understand that the site is owned and operated by the United Sons of Confederate Veterans, Mississippi Division, and that tours and interpretations present the Lost Cause narrative.

The passport stamp is located in the museum gift shop.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art | Biloxi


Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art and Frank Gehry architecture

Coastal Mississippi has been blessed with its share of unconventional artists. Perhaps the most certifiably eccentric was George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi. The artist’s life and work is celebrated at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

The first time I visited the museum I did not yet know about the MGCNHA passport stamps. I showed up the second time on a Monday, and the museum was closed. Perhaps the third time will be a charm.

In Biloxi, passport stamps are also available at:

Charnley-Norwood House | Ocean Springs


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Also known as “Bon Silene,” the Charnley-Norwood House, was designed in 1890 by architects Louis Sullivan “Father of the Skyscraper” and his young draftsman assistant Frank Lloyd Wright. The T-shaped bungalow is believed to be the first modern house in the Western world.

Free tours and passport stamps are by appointment only. Call (228) 234 7298 or email heritage@dmr.ms.gov for more information.

Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center | Ocean Springs


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The 1927 Ocean Springs Public School Building is now home to the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center. The center houses galleries, studios, a history museum, a state-of-the-art theater, and other facilities dedicated to the visual and performing arts.

Inquire about the passport stamp on site.

Walter Anderson Museum of Art | Ocean Springs


Walter Anderson Museum of Art

I could have explored the Walter Anderson Museum of Art for days. With some 2,000 works in various media on display, the museum’s many galleries interpret the life of this local American Master.

You can collect your passport stamp at the front desk. I managed to get mine on my second visit.

Gulf Islands National Seashore Davis Bayou | Ocean Springs


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The Gulf Islands National Seashore is unique in that it encompasses 135,458 acres of barrier islands in Florida and Mississippi. Alabama’s barrier islands are not part of the national seashore. The region offers a multitude of opportunities for camping, hiking, and water recreation.

You can collect a passport stamp at the Davis Bayou visitor center in Ocean Springs, but it is advised to check the website for hours and closures before planning your visit.

In Ocean Springs, a passport stamp is also available at the Chamber’s Main Street L&N Train Depot.

City Hall | Gulfport


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Gulfport is Mississippi’s second largest city, after the capital city of Jackson, and when I visited roses were in full bloom all over the downtown area.

Roses

Request your passport stamp at the Gulfport City Hall front desk.

Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport | Gulfport


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Nearly 800,000 passengers travel through the Gulfport- Biloxi International Airport each year. Whether flying for business or pleasure, it is the air gateway to Coastal Mississippi.

Getting a passport stamp at the airport may be tricky, but I encourage you to try. A security guard told me there used to be a self-stamp cancellation kiosk near the information desk, but it had disappeared. I made several phone calls in an attempt to locate the stamp, but ultimately left empty-handed before my 30 minutes of free parking expired.

Can anyone help us find the wayward passport stamp?

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center | Gulfport


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If you’ve got children, they will enjoy hours of educational play at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport. The museum boasts 15,000 square feet of indoor hands-on exhibits and acres of outdoor interactive activities for kids of all ages.

The passport stamp is located in the gift shop at the main entrance.

In Gulfport, a passport stamp is also available at the historic Grass Lawn Visitors Center.

Hancock County Welcome Center | Pearlington


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It may seem like an unlikely spot, but you can collect a passport stamp at the Hancock County Welcome Center inside the I-10 Mississippi Welcome Center (Exit 2). The day I got mine, I parked my Class B RV camper van with the big boys.

In Pearlington, a passport stamp is also available at the INFINITY Science Center.

Historic L&N Train Depot | Bay St. Louis


Bay St. Louis Depot Mississippi

You will find an additional passport stamp at Hancock County’s visitor center inside the Historic L&N Train Depot in Bay St. Louis.

The Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum located on the second floor of the depot is not to be missed.

Additional Mississippi Gulf Coast NHA Passport Locations


The following attractions round out the 39 Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area passport stamp locations:

The Coastal Mississippi Attractions Pass is the best way to visit ten locations at a greatly discounted price. It includes admission to the Biloxi Lighthouse, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Beauvoir, the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, plus four more Gulf Coast attractions.


Map It!


All 39 passport stamp locations within the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area are plotted on the map above. If you plan to collect them all, I suggest picking a starting point and then designing your own loop driving tour.

When planning your trip, be sure to verify each location’s hours of operation with a phone call or by consulting the linked websites.

In order to enjoy all the attractions and not feel rushed, I suggest allowing time for a 3 to 5-day itinerary.


Coastal Mississippi Dining


Favorite Mississippi Gulf Coast Restaurants featured

Backroad Planet’s guide to Mississippi Gulf Coast restaurants suggests eighteen favorite dining locations from Pascagoula to Bay St. Louis for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Coastal Mississippi Lodging


Places to Stay Mississippi Gulf Coast featured

Find lodging in Coastal Mississippi with Backroad Planet’s guide to distinctive accommodations along the 62-mile Secret Coast.

Click here for more Coastal Mississippi lodging options on TripAdvisor!


I Would Love to Hear From You


I enjoy dialogue with Backroad Planet readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Are you obsessed with collecting National Park Passport stamps like I am? If so, I would love to hear about your passion. I invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and I always respond!


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How to Collect 39 National Park Passport Stamps in Coastal Mississippi 15
Howard Blount is founder and editor of the travel website Backroad Planet. He has traveled internationally since boyhood and lived abroad in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay. Now his passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. On the stuffy side, “Mr. Blount” has been a writer, consultant, and published author with houses including Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill.

Retired from a 35-year career as a middle school teacher, Howard enjoys spending his time on anything that includes mountains, waterfalls, dachshunds, gospel choirs, books, classic movies, autumn, sandhill cranes, Florida springs, rain, gloomy days, log cabins, abandoned sites, unearthed history, genealogy, documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, castles, cathedrals, Civil Rights history, cold sheets, National Park Passports, quotes, Reba Rambo, Dionne Warwick, most things Apple, all things British, Jesus, and lists.

And on a random note, Howard is a fourth cousin once removed to Truman Capote.

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