Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island – Gulfport, Mississippi - Atlas Obscura

Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island

Built following the War of 1812, this fort has withstood hurricanes for centuries. 


Fort Massachusetts is a fort on Ship Island along the Mississippi Coast. Built after the War of 1812, the fort was still under construction when Mississippi seceded from the union.

Union troops managed to occupy the island and used it as a staging ground to capture New Orleans. More than 230 soldiers died from the harsh environment on the island and were buried here. The remains were subsequently reburied at Chalmette National Cemetery, in New Orleans.

The fort has withstood the ravages of hurricanes for centuries and is now part of the attraction here. Ship Island, located 11 miles south of Gulfport, Mississippi, covers 85 acres and was split into two by Hurricane Camille in September 1969. However, it recently was restored into one Island by the NPS. Its circumference is easily walkable and quite enjoyable. You can see dolphins, stingrays, pelicans, crabs, and more wildlife dotting the island.  

The best time to visit is fall and spring as the water is clear and the temperatures are perfect. Summers are hot with unrelenting sun, high humidity and temps, and the ever-present thunderstorm. In winter, with the island being just a large beach, winds whip across miles of open water, numbing you to the bone. 

Know Before You Go

Accessible by a ferry that runs two sails in the morning and two in the evening. Be sure to check the schedule before planning your trip. See the ferry schedule for sailing times. Travel light and prepare for sunshine.

Make sure you bring sunscreen, and if it's summer, plenty of iced water as the environment is hot and humid.

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