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Next stop is Gulfport, which has six times the population of leisurely Bay St. Louis. Like many gulf cities, Gulfport was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but is steadily being rebuilt and restored.
The very highly rated children’s museum, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center (246 Dolan Ave., 228-897-6039), occupies a renovated 1915 elementary school. Kids of all ages enjoy the diverse interactive exhibits on the six-acre grounds. Lovers of classic vehicles should drop by the Busted Wrench Garage Museum (2311 29th St., 228-617-6660), where vintage cars, motorcycles, boats, posters and other memorabilia fill a 6,000 - square-foot space. One of the top local restaurants is the Flyin’ Jalapeno (1101 Broad Ave., 228-222-3216), where the crowds devour fresh, flavorful burritos, nachos and salads.
Gulfport marks the beginning of Gulf Islands National Seashore, which stretches 160 miles to Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Most of the nearly 140,000 acres of park are under water. There are five wildlife-packed barrier islands that define the Mississippi portion, and many spots on them are accessible to boaters. Tie up at Gulfport Yacht Club(228-863-6796, gulfportyachtclub.org) for a relaxing stay.
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