Mississippi : Safety by City
- Holly Springs
- New Albany
- Pass Christian
Gulfport, Mississippi, lies on a stretch of beach known as “The Secret Coast” since it isn’t as well known as other Gulf of Mexico destinations.
However, it appears the secret is out because more than 6 million people visited this area in 2019.
The Secret Coast covers the entire Mississippi coastline, but we’re going to focus just on Gulfport, Mississippi here.
From ships to the sandy beaches to seafood to shopping to slot machines—you might need an extra day or two in Gulfport.
There’s a military presence here, as the home of the Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport where the Atlantic Fleet Seabees are headquartered.
Seabees are the builders of the military world and can build anything anywhere, like the Navy research center at the South Pole.
The city is split by the I-10 corridor and many of the tourist activities are south of I-10.
This area has a dynamic Mardi Gras celebration that easily rivals New Orleans.
The Gulf waters are calmer than other places thanks to a string of barrier islands that slows down the flow.
There’s just a little bit of something for everyone in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Warnings & Dangers in Gulfport
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Gulfport. Gulfport has a poverty rate above 26%. Beyond the glitz of the casino lights and the fresh seafood, there's an underbelly to this town that tourists need to be aware of when traveling. Property crime is very high compared to national averages and theft is higher too.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There are taxis waiting at the casinos and airport. Rideshares are available any time of day. All of the forms of transportation are regulated. There's low risk when taking a ride, but having a car is a good idea since some of the activities along The Secret Coast are spread out over the 62 miles of shoreline.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a 1 in 30 chance of being a victim of theft, but diving deeper into the crime data from Gulfport Police, there were just six pickpocketing or purse-snatching incidents in 2020. We're still saying there's a medium risk just because the chance of theft is so high.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Gulfport can get the nasty side or a direct hit from a hurricane between June and November, so there's a medium risk just so you'll keep your guard up. This area can get severe thunderstorms and tornadoes as well. Allow me liberty here as a writer—I spent a sunny day in Biloxi outlet shopping, as outlet malls are my mothership. As I packed up my newly purchased items, I saw a small storm brewing just on the other side of the mall. As I looked closer, I noticed a funnel cloud. Someone asked me what I was looking at and I was a little scared to say, "Oh nothing, just the beginning of a tornado." It was short-lived and never touched the ground, but it shows just how quickly these storms can toughen up.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rates were about the same as the national average in 2020. Looking at the previous non-pandemic years, the robbery rates were a third or twice as high. We're going to put a medium risk on this just because of the overall crime rates, the casino areas where people carry a lot of money, and the general tourist vulnerability of this area.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, as there is with any location that has a military presence. The port in Gulfport is also a major shipping channel with a 16-mile distance to international shipping lanes, which could be another terrorist target.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of scams here with rental scams being the biggest concern. Make sure any rental company has a license from the city to rent their location out. Don't ever wire money ahead of time. Most other scams reported in the area target locals via phone or email. There were about 40 fraud and scam complaints in 2021 in Gulfport.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
We'll give it a medium risk because of those crime rates. I have been a single female traveler to Gulfport and while I never felt in danger, there were some parts that kind of creeped me out. Stay in well-lit areas, because the dark areas are very dark. Also, stay near the shoreline. Aside from the outlet mall, there's not much of a reason to go too far inland. Go with a friend if you can.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
According to the Harrison County Utility Authority in the latest tap water annual report, "We’re proud that your drinking water meets or exceeds all Federal and State requirements. We have learned through our monitoring and testing that some contaminants have been detected however the EPA has determined that your water IS SAFE at these levels." This means there's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Gulfport
You want to stay near the tourist attractions while visiting Gulfport, and there are plenty.
The Island View Casino Resort is the only casino in the Gulfport stretch of The Secret Coast, but there are more in Biloxi.
This casino is just like any Las Vegas casino with slot machines and table games.
There is also the Beach View Casino section, which is 100% smoke-free.
Check out The District on the Alley for dining options and walls of street art.
You can also hop aboard a Ship Island Excursion for a two-hour round trip visit to Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts.
Sunset and dolphin viewing cruises are also available.
If you want to explore the Gulf indoors, the Mississippi Aquarium is the place to be with lessons from the salt water of the gulf to the Mississippi River waters.
There’s also the Ocean Adventures Marine Park, where you can see sharks, stingrays, dolphins, and sea lions up close.
Places to Avoid in Gulfport
It’s good advice to just stay out of the neighborhoods in the Gulfport area if you don’t have a reason to be there.
Several online discussion forums suggest avoiding the gas stations near downtown.
In the 2020 Annual Crime Report presentation, the police addressed the crime rates in the community.
“Our violent crime is proportionate to a small subculture within our city and we have found ways to address those subcultures, which in turn has helped us to reduce crime,” said Gulfport Deputy Chief of Police Chris Ryle.
There are underserved and poverty-stricken parts of this community outside of the tourist corridor.
Stay in your tourist lane, and you should not have to worry about imminent crimes.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Gulfport
- You can buy an Attraction Pass for a variety of options along the coast. There are 1, 2, and 3-day options. More information is at gulfcoast.org. This is a great way to avoid having to take your wallet out repeatedly to pay for things.
- Any angler from ages 16 – 64 needs to get a fishing license if they are going to fish while in Gulfport. You can get either a freshwater or saltwater license (or both). The saltwater license is only applicable to locations south of U.S. Highway 90. The freshwater license is only good for locations between I-10 and U.S. 90. If you are over the age of 64, you’ll need a photo ID to prove your age.
- Never go on a pier that is roped off or under construction. Hurricanes can do a number on the piers in the area, and several have been rebuilt numerous times. Remember, this area took a strong hit from Katrina, and Hurricanes Ida and Zeta did damage too.
- This is the south and people tend to be a little too trusting. Don’t fall for it. Lock those car doors when you arrive at a destination and leave nothing in plain sight.
- Mississippi has a little bit of its language. If you want to order a soda, you will ask for a Coke. Then they’ll ask what kind of Coke and you might say Pepsi. “Coke” is just the generic name for soda (or pop, if that’s what you call it.) Also, if someone says to you “Jeat yet?”, they are asking “Have you eaten yet?” Oh, and a Po’Boy isn’t a poor person, it’s a sandwich (and a darn good one at that!)
- In the entertainment district, near the waterfront between 18th Avenue and 36th Avenue, you could be offered a “to go” cup when you leave a bar or restaurant. It is legal to carry alcoholic beverages outside only in the entertainment district. You cannot take this drink into another bar and you can’t walk outside the area with it.
- Watch your mouth in the South. It’s illegal to use profanity in public. Besides, people here say “Bless her heart” instead of bad words. You are also okay with saying “Dagnabbit” or “Dadgummit”, two popular alternatives to cursing.
- If you take the popular trip to Ship Island, a barrier island off the coast of Gulfport, it’s important to know there is very little shade there. You will need to bring sunscreen, a hat, and more sunscreen. As the visitor’s website warns, ” Ship Island sunburn is legendary.”
- If you are looking for a safe, family-friendly attraction, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is the place to be. It’s a place “dedicated to inspiring children, families, and communities through the arts, interactive educational experiences, and exploration.”
- If at any time during your trip to Gulfport, you see something that needs to be reported but isn’t an emergency, you can call 311.
So... How Safe Is Gulfport Really?
Gulfport is one of those cities where you are safe in tourist corridors, but shouldn’t venture off the beaten path.
The poverty level is high in this town and the median wage is lower than the national average.
Plan your daily activities before you leave the hotel so you don’t get lost or have to ask a lot of questions.
There’s a one in 30 chance of being a theft victim, so keep your belongings close to you and only bring what you need.
Keep the rest in a locked safe in the hotel room.
The weather here can cause safety concerns, from flooding on the main roads to water quality impacts when flooding happens.
In a worst-case scenario, a hurricane could cripple utilities in the community and shut down major roads.
If a hurricane is approaching, go further inland for the rest of your trip.
How Does Gulfport Compare?
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- Visas - All Visa requirements are taken care of at your preferred airport or port of entry. There are no additional requirements for Gulfport aside from having a valid driver's license if you rent a car.
- Currency - The currency of Gulfport and Mississippi is the U.S. Dollar. You might need some cash for trinkets and such, but don't carry around a large amount. Opt to use credit cards whenever you can or book attractions ahead of time on your mobile device.
- Weather - Mississippi gulf weather is hot and humid most of the year, with a special brand of oppressive heat and humidity in the summer. It rains more than 60" a year here, so always have rain gear with you and check out your favorite weather app before heading out each day. Fishing and charter cruises can easily get canceled or delayed due to approaching weather.
- Airports - The Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is the closest location right in the center of the Gulfport community. The Mobile Airport is 34 miles east, while the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is 103 miles west.
- Travel Insurance - Too many weather variables exist in Gulfport, so you'll want to have travel insurance for your trip.
Gulfport Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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