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Make sure you save time to get some shopping done

Sure, vacation is synonymous with rest and relaxation. But for some, vacation is just another word for shopping — not just any shopping, but “shop-until-you-drop-better-bring-some-nourishment, plenty-of-liquids-and-WEAR-GOOD-SHOES” shopping.

This time, focus on another facet of the Coast’s uniqueness: its boutiques and cottage shops.

Make a purchase at one of our homegrown stores, and you’ll be happy you walked away with more than a seashell and cheapish postcard.

Here, like our sandy white beaches, the specialty shops stretch from one end of the Coast to the other.

There are plenty of shops to suit your taste, from the standard to the eclectic. While there is a multitude of buying experiences to choose from, you’ll find particularly great shopping in these areas.

Day 1: Bay St. Louis (four to five hours of shopping time, with time to stop for a snack and take a leisurely drive along the Bay)

On the west end of U.S. 90, after crossing the newly opened four-lane bridge across the Bay of St. Louis, you’ll find an area rising from the rubble that was left after Katrina’s unwelcome visit. The downtown area houses several shops, including art galleries and antique stores. Make sure you stroll through the galleries that have come to symbolize the Mississippi “can-do” spirit. Walk away with something from here, and you’ll definitely capture the special sense of place that is the Coast.

Day 2: Ocean Springs (six to eight hours of shopping time)

Head east, and you’ll cross the Biloxi Bay bridge into Ocean Springs, an area many here consider the crown jewel of off-the-beaten-path shopping. Stores like Salmagundi Shop, and Miner’s Doll and Toy Store anchor the shopping area of Washington Avenue. Shops offer interesting gifts, from jewelry created by local artisans to unique Mississippi creations and seasonal specials.

The downtown area is filled with antique shops, clothing boutiques and cafes, even a shop aimed at items for you and your four-legged best friend.

You can easily spend a full day strolling around the downtown area, which also winds down Government Street, enjoying the people and the beauty of downtown Ocean Springs.

Day 3: East Gulfport (two to three hours shopping time)

Drive north on Courthouse Road from U.S. 90 past the railroad tracks and you’ll find a couple of really cute shopping areas on the east side of the street, aimed to satisfy both resident and tourist shoppers alike.

Stop in and pick up a gourmet coffee or an espresso drink to get buzzed for the day ahead. If you’re hungry, pick up a fresh breakfast croissant or pastry — maybe even lunch.

Stores offer women’s apparel, fine jewelry and quality home furnishings.

If you need a little downtime to relax, take in a relaxing salon with a full selection of spa package.

Take a hike (or quick drive) just a little-ways north on Courthouse, and you’ll come to the next “cubby” of shops, a clothing boutique aimed at all members of your family.

After you’ve made your purchases, head over to a cafe to pick up a made-to-order sandwich or salad to calm that afternoon hunger. And bring that laptop with you to e-mail those beach photos back home; WiFi is available.

Day 4: Downtown Pascagoula (two to three hours shopping time)

Main Street encompasses the entire Central Business District from U.S. 90 to Market Street, south to Lafayette, north to Ingalls Avenue and west to the river. Shopping is downtown along Delmas Avenue and Krebs Avenue. Among the store selections include children’s clothing, an open-air artisan area, an old-time soda shop with menu and other full-service restaurants.

Shops range from brand new to family owned for more than 60 years. Main Street director Rebecca Davis says, “Everyone here honestly wants to thelp the customer.”