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Bed down in bed-and-breakfast inns

Visitors to the Coast looking for a home away from home may want to consider a bed-and-breakfast inn. And, despite Hurricane Katrina, there are still plenty of B&Bs available.

Every B&B has a unique personality.

"Our rooms are very romantic," says Alice Jenkins owner of the Lofty Oaks in on Mississippi 67 in Biloxi. She says her B&B often has honeymooners as guests.

Rooms available at the Lofty Oaks include the Egyptian Room, the Oriental room and the Caribbean room in the main building and a separate "African Safari" cottage.

One of the Coast’s newest is the Red Rooster Bed and Breakfast, located near the beach on Waveland Avenue in Hancock County. Owner Jim Mitchell says the property is usually leased by the week.

"It's very private. We have fruit trees, places to sit and relax and read," he says. It also has a fireplace, swimming pool and hot tub.

At the Red Creek Inn in Long Beach, people can expect to escape from the hectic lifestyle they may have left behind, says owner Karl Mertz.

While the B&B is techno-friendly (95 to 98 percent of his business is over the Internet with people visiting from all over the world), the Internet is of little concern once visitors arrive.

"Some want Internet access," Mertz says. But, he adds, "We're more proud of the porch swings at each end of our 64-foot porch and our rockers and fireplaces. In the parlor, we have a 1930s Philco radio that works and pick up international channels."

Visitors who stay at the B&Bs can expect to find others of the same mindset, Mertz says. Mertz describes bed-and-breakfast clientele as "usually a little more genteel." He says they are typically cordial and polite and interested in learning about the area and visiting with innkeepers and fellow travelers.

"Most people who seek out B&Bs can't be pigeonholed by income or education," Mertz says. "They come from all walks of life but most are folks that have an appreciation for the historic and a need for nostalgia."

Mertz who has been operating a B&B on the Coast since 1986, says word-of-mouth referrals are important to people who frequent B&Bs. "They are more concerned about something unique than something flashy and we get paid in kindness and relationships more than money," Mertz says.

Another new B&B on the Coast Oak Crest Mansion Inn. It features five bedrooms, private baths, fireplaces and Jacuzzis.

Erin Moseley, who owns the house with her husband Chase, said the house was built in 1920 and has been completely redone with Internet access and flat-screen TVs in every room.

Each room, she says, is named after someone "who has played a significant role in Mississippi." And, don't forget the pool, which Erin says is the oldest in-ground pool in the state.

With a B&B, "the lodging becomes part of the vacation. It is a very special market that is growing," says Beth Carriere, executive director of Mississippi’s West Coast Visitor's Bureau.

Historic properties that survived Katrina are being turned into B&Bs, says Janice Jones, media relations director for Harrison County Tourism. "Some people just aren’t hotel people."

Those who are eco-friendly, may appreciate the Moss Point Oaks Bed and Breakfast, which has achieved ecocertification. Dan Brooks, owner, says the certification attracts people. Brooks says he hasn't tracked the numbers so far this year but that he initially found that, in 2005, 20 percent of his business was coming from people attracted by the ecocertification. By 2007, the number had increased to 35 percent.

The grounds of Moss Point Oaks are maintained as wildlife habitat with indigenous plants. Brooks says this also cuts down the cost of irrigation and maintenance on gardens. He said the inn has been "reducing, reusing and recycling" since the business opened.

Brooks says the Oaks promotes ecology-friendly living and that he has seen a big increase in the number of visitors and repeat visitors coming to the Coast for nature tours.

Visitors to B&Bs can expect a little more of the niceties, Mertz says, such as "inviting chocolates sitting on a coffee table, the offer of a glass of wine or being invited to store leftovers in the fridge or make themselves a cup of coffee."

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