Ocean Springs, Mississippi is a community located in the heart of Jackson County, just two miles east from Biloxi and Gautier to the west. The city has just over 17,600 residents with a population increase of 20.3% that indicates this coastal town is still a growing community. The median age is 41.8, which indicates a moderate range of younger individuals, middle-aged families, and senior residents. The city has become widely known for its thriving art community and Coastal Living magazine recently named Ocean Springs one of its “Top 10 Happiest Seaside Towns“.
A Rich History and a Diverse Population
This seaside town has seen a long history, having first been settled as Fort Maurepas (a.k.a. Old Biloxi) in 1699, when the Louisiana territory was still owned by France. As such, it was the first outpost established in the defense of Louisiana against Spanish incursions. Fort Maurepas was maintained throughout the 18th century.
In 1854, the name of the area was changed to its present day calling, because Dr. William Glover Austin believed the natural water springs in the area had restorative powers. While the name may have changed, the town has never lost its appreciation for history and annual reenactments retell the founding of the area. The performance features the first landing of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, acting under the command of King Louis XIV.
Over time, the city has developed to embrace art and culture, as well as a passion for seafood. As is the case with most coastal towns, this Mississippi city has long thrived on providing quality seafood in both restaurants and in the markets that feature freshly caught offerings. This abundance of seafood helped to keep French settlers nourished through the winters and during times of battle. As a main staple of the diet in the early 17th and 18th centuries, the seafood industry flourished, so it’s not surprising that it has remained a major industry in the area to this day.
Over time the French settlement gave way to a more diverse influx of visitors. Today, a strong representation of the French and Anglo-Saxon races has melded with African, Asian, Native American, and Spanish cultures to give the city a unique face of its own. There is also a strong commitment to family in the area, as the 51.14% of married couples can attest. While divorce isn’t uncommon anywhere, the 16.78% rate for this coastal city indicates couples tend to be happier here and stay together longer. There is a slightly larger female population here with 52.55% over a male population of 47.46% as of the most recent census.
The Economy of Small Town Living
The cost of living here is lower than the national average, which benefits residents in a number of ways. While groceries have been found to be just a little more expensive, housing, utilities, and transportation are all lower than the national average. Factoring everything together, the cost of living for this coastal city comes in at 97 versus the 100 average for the rest of the country. As mentioned previously, the area is seeing growth, both in population and in job growth. Prospected job growth for the city is expected to meet or exceed 35.83%, indicating that migration patterns and economic changes will work in favor of the city.
The average income per family ranges between $55,000 and $77,000, suggesting a steady supply of well paying jobs and a higher percentage of educated individuals is to credit for the town’s strong economy. Healthcare, education, food services, retail, and manufacturing offer the most opportunities for jobs in the area. This isn’t surprising, considering the city’s location on the coast and its position as a stop for travelers and ocean lovers.
Ocean Springs is for Art Lovers
Another industry that thrives in this coastal Mississippi city is art in its various forms and genres. In fact, the city encourages the arts with museums, festivals, and live performances throughout the year. Every year, The Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts festival draws artists, art lovers, and vendors from all over the country for a two-day exhibition. Taking over the city’s downtown area for those two days in November, this is the state’s largest art festival and a popular attraction for visitors, as well as for local families.
Another annual event catering to the area’s art lovers is the Spring Arts Festival: Herb, Garden & Art. Through the last weekend of March, plant growers and hobbyists join artists and crafters in offering their wares for sale. Typically, there are over 100 booths and vendors to browse, all assembled in the downtown area of the city.
Of course, the people of this seaside town also celebrate holidays like Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and New Year’s Eve with parades and celebrations as well. Other events in the city include the Red, White, & Blueberry Festival in June; the Cruisin’ the Coast classic car festival in October; the annual tree lighting and open house in December; and Battle on the Bayou in March.
Things to do Any Night of the Year
Other points of interest in the city include the Fresh Market, which is open most days and offers a wide assortment of fresh and organic produce. As the market is also located in the heart of the downtown area, it does close for special events. The marketplace is small, but contains much in the way of products. Some locals recommend getting there early in the day for the freshest offerings.
From restaurants to bars and nightclubs, this seaside city has a thriving nightlife. One of the biggest attractions in this regard is the Crooked Letter Brewing Company, located at 1805 Government Street. This is one of the first stops for the annual Fear Fete Pub Crawl and offers locally brewed selections. Tourists can be guided through the brewery to see the process and sample some of the products. This is just one of more than 10 bars and pubs populating the downtown area of the city.
For more family oriented fun, Front Beach is popular stop for swimming and sunbathing. Additionally, locals and tourists can take area cruises or enjoy some of the popular water sports in the area. Stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks are just some of the items that can be rented and taken out on the water. Away from the shore, the town offers a selection of parks, nature trails, and hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Whether you’re thinking of visiting or relocating, this small Mississippi city has great adventures in store for you. There’s always something new and interesting to do, when you have the time to spend with family and friends. What makes this city seem even more alluring is that it’s close to Biloxi and Gulfport, two of the state’s greatest bigger cities. Residents can enjoy the ease and comfort of small town living, while being conveniently close to big city life. Throughout the year, residents enjoy an appreciation for art and culture that may be unmatched elsewhere. Many who come to visit end up making this coastal hamlet their home, finding it the perfect place to raise a family.