When venturing along the Gulf Coast this year, consider a stop at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Moss Point, Mississippi, just before Alabama’s coastal byway begins.

The Grand Bay Reserve offers a variety of experiences for those looking to enjoy nature and a little adventure. From paddling to birding to fishing, there’s much to do here.

Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to explore Grand Bay. The relatively calm waters of the bayous and tidal creeks are well suited for recreation. More adept paddlers can head out to the bays and open water to experience greater wave action and wind exposure. Two boat launches – one public at the end of Bayou Heron Road and one private on Grand Battures Road – will give you access to some of the best paddling around.

Pack your binoculars and enjoy some birding. The diversity of habitats surrounding Grand Bay support numerous and significant bird populations and more than 250 different species! Keep an eye out for pelicans, ospreys, marsh birds, waterfowl, wading birds, shore birds and migrant land birds. Be sure to visit the Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center to pick up a bird guide and get details about current access regulations. Public roads and trails provide free access during daylight hours.

While out in nature, don’t forget to bring a camera. Grand Bay is the perfect place to capture beautiful images of pristine habitats. Be on the lookout for dragonflies, turtles, the occasional American alligator and several species of carnivorous plants.

Up for a little fishing or boating? Head to the free public boat launch and fishing pier at the end of Bayou Heron Road, about three miles south of the Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center. Fish and crab off the pier, or hit the shallow waters of Bayou Heron. And don’t forget your State of Mississippi Fishing License!

National Estuarine Research Reserves like the one at Grand Bay are rare. Only 29 exist in the United States! We’re fortunate to have not one, but two in our region! Stay tuned for our upcoming post on Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Fairhope, Alabama.

There are so many ways to get out there and experience all the coastal byway has to offer. Just choose a starting spot and let your interests guide you.