The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (MGCNHA) recently awarded the Gulf Coast Outpost (GCO) recognition to local nature-based business owners and operators. Businesses such as eco tours, locally owned outfitters, charter boat operators, tour guides, eco-lodges and agritourism entities are encouraged to participate.
The checklist for recognition focuses on training, sustainability and stewardship. Proper maintenance of equipment and vehicles is a must, ensuring safety, low emission and fuel efficiency. Owners and operators must be knowledgeable about the Coast’s natural environment and tell an accurate story of our resources. It is important to bring awareness to all that we offer here in the way of outdoor activities and learning experiences.
The National Heritage Area partners with stakeholders in the industry, including the regional tourism organization, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plains, a nonprofit that acquires land to preserve it in perpetuity for conservation, and the USM Marine Education Center. Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast acknowledges that the GCO program gives a layer of security to tourists who can rest assure they will receive an authentic experience that follows mindful practices of conservation and preservation.
This is the first group of nature-based tourism businesses to receive the designation of a Gulf Coast Outpost. Recipients were honored to be recognized. This is a big step for the Mississippi Gulf Coast in promoting protection of resources and values.
Among other tours, the Betsy Ann Riverboat offers a two-hour historical and ecological cruise between Deer Island and into Biloxi with a focus on our local history, the seafood industry, the Barrier Islands and wildlife that flourish in the Mississippi Sound Estuary.
The Biloxi Shrimping Trip offers tours where visitors are educated on the history and culture of the shrimping and seafood industry of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The captive audience experiences first-hand the marine life, birds and vegetation in and around the Mississippi Sound.
Fisher-man Guide Service out of Pass Christian offers guests nearshore fishing, night floundering trips and sunset cruises. Fisher-man Guide Service has a business plan to reflect environmental management and natural resource stewardship.
North Star Sailing offers sailing lessons, as well as private sailing and dinner charters. An affiliate of the American Sailing Association, North Star Sailing Charters out of Gulfport and is proud to share the beauty, heritage and ecology of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Eco-Tours of South Mississippi offers a variety of tours, including motorboat swamp tours, kayak trips, photography trips and custom tours. The owners work tirelessly to promote our natural resources and to educate their guests about the ecosystems, wildlife, history, heritage and conservation of the Pascagoula River and the Mississippi Sound.
Harbor Garden House is an eco-lodge surrounded with native vegetation, wooded walking paths, and excellent bird watching, and is designed to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated.
Shore Thing Fishing Charters, established in 2003, has seven licensed captains that fish in MS and LA. They also offer eco-lodging on Cat Island and birding trips for nature enthusiasts. The captains are involved in conservation activities and are knowledgeable about our history and culture.
Rounding out this year’s Gulf Coast Outpost designation recipients is Coastal Ridge Farm, a true gem in the agritourism of South Mississippi. Coastal Ridge Farm is a fresh-cut flower farm in the northern part of Hancock County. They offer u-pick on certain weekends in the spring and fall where locals and visitors spend family time picking their very own big beautiful sunflowers and taking pictures.
These designations were given on a voluntary basis. The MGCNHA encourages all nature-based tourism to consider making strides to incorporate some best practices, conservation and trainings to better help preserve out natural heritage and plentiful resources. Let’s work together with our communities to ensure that locals and visitors are well informed, educated, and connected to a sense of ownership and pride for the efforts here to preserve our Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage.
Learn more about Gulf Coast Outpost under the Natural tab at msgulfcoastheritage.ms.gov and gulfcoastoutpost.com.
Cover photo contributed by Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast