The arrival of these occasional days of clear, crisp weather are an invitation to spend some time lazily bicycling through the coastal Mississippi towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. These two adjoining small beach towns fronting Mississippi Sound can be easily explored using self-propelled, two-wheel transportation. Almost all attractions; eateries, specialty shopping and museums in the two towns are within a few miles of each other and can be accessed using narrow but quiet residential streets or by riding a 4.5 mile paved path along the beach. Bicycling to the county's two casinos requires some cycling on two lane roads with moderate traffic.
But it's BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) if you want to bicycle tour in Hancock Co. Fall is off-season so it will be hard to find a business renting bicycles there. Heck, its hard to find a bicycle to rent there in the middle of the popular summer season.
If you are comfortable riding with car traffic on a narrow two lane with no shoulders, check out Beach Blvd. From one end of the road at the mouth of the Jourdan River it's 12 miles to the Silver Slipper Casino overlooking the Sound. All along the way are a variety of marine vistas from the dunes tufted with sea oats swaying in the breezes to the wetlands alive with shore birds near the mouth of the river. This main road also fronts Buccaneer State Park with its popular wave pool. This is a great early Sunday morning trek.
The Bay-Waveland Beach Trail is a 4.5 mile paved path that parallels S. Beach Blvd. One end begins at the Washington St. Pier in Bay St. Louis. At 2.7 miles it passes the Waveland Pier and runs almost two miles past it west to a dead end. Join S. Beach Blvd. to continue riding west.
Take some time to get off the trail and ride up Coleman Ave. into "downtown" Waveland. Bay St. Louis and Waveland were ground-zero for the fury of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A storm surge nearly three stories high came in from the Gulf of Mexico and smacked into the two towns. Buildings and homes were reduced to rubble and splinters-- many well inland from the shore--especially in Waveland. Note the large parcels of open land fronting S. Beach Blvd. Before August 29, 2005, there were homes on those lots.
An historic brick schoolhouse, the only building left standing on Coleman Ave. after the storm, has been restored and serves as a museum that tells the story of the storm and of the heroic effort of those living through it to rebuild the town. www.wavelandgroundzero.com/
Back in Bay St. Louis, make your way from from the Washington St. pier (boat launch, bathhouse and parking) to Depot Row on Blaize Ave. using Beach Blvd. and Union St. Across the street from the row of restaurants and shops is the historic L & N Railroad Depot. Built in 1928, the two story mission style depot was a busy place years ago when "The Bay" was a vacation destination for summer fun seekers from New Orleans, 60 miles to the west. Recently restored, the white depot with the hot pink trim, is now the home to the Depot Visitor Center and the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau. Phone 228-463-9222 or 800-466-9848.
At the Depot you can find the Old Town Bay St. Louis Historic Walking and Biking Tour brochure, valuable for locating other attractions in Bay St. Louis.
Much of "This Property is Condemned," a 1966 movie based on a one-act play by Tennessee Williams, was filmed in Bay St. Louis. (A little of the movie was also filmed in New Orleans.) It featured a young Robert Redford and Natalie Wood in starring roles. Ask about the many buildings seen in the film that still exist. The Star Boarding House, featured in the film, has been restored and is now the home of the Bay St. Louis Little Theatre.
If your ride is on a Sunday check out the Jazz Brunch at LuLu Eats, 126 Main St., 228-466-6620. The live music packs the place on Sunday so call early to let them know you are coming.