Summertime on the Great Lakes of the Midwest is perfection. Low humidity, cool breezes and an abundance of blooming flowers compliment lake views and beautiful sunsets. We grew up making day trips to Lake Michigan in the summer, and it is some of my best childhood memories. Recently, my parents found the quaint lakeside town of South Haven, Michigan and we’ve made it a summer staple ever since.
From blueberry picking, to spending a day at the beach, South Haven offers a slower pace of life. Set on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, the small beach town swells to accommodate summer vacationers for good reason.
South Haven is a 2 hour drive from Chicago, or 1 hour from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and South Bend. On your drive, there is an abundance of wineries and other small lake towns you can stop and explore. South Haven itself is completely walkable, but you will likely need a car to get there and will be useful to hop between the other coast towns along Lake Michigan.
What to Do in South Haven
The Lighthouse and Harbor Walk
Sitting at the end of the south pier is South Haven’s iconic red lighthouse. Complete a Harbor Walk by walking to the tip of the south pier, then back and across the drawbridge and down to the north end of the pier. The Black River is usually active with boats heading in and out for a day on Lake Michigan. This walk is a peaceful way to take in the sights and get acquainted with the town.
Spend Time at the Beach
Cool lake water, warm sand and a nice breeze make for a perfect summer day in the sun. South Beach and North Beach are split by the Black River and are both open to the public with parking nearby. Bring an umbrella, some beach chairs and a good book to unwind.
Visit the South Haven Farmer’s Market
The wonderful Farmer’s Market runs on Saturdays from May to mid-October and is filled with a variety of fresh and local vendors. Stop by to pick up ingredients for dinner or to indulge in some of the local vendors treats. Our family loves the homemade pies from the local vendors to enjoy after a day at the beach.
The quaint downtown in South Haven is very walkable and has a number of unique boutiques and shops to peruse. Some of my favorites are Props, Just My Bag and Waves Ocean Boutique. Be sure to stop for some ice cream in one of the many ice cream parlors downtown.
Rent a Kayak, Paddle-board or Boat
South Haven is a lake town after all, so take advantage by stopping in one of the vendors on the beach or nearby to rent a kayak or paddleboard. If you wish for more horsepower, there are places that you can rent or charter boats to take out on Lake Michigan.
Go Blueberry Picking
Michigan is renowned for their blueberries and in the summer they are ripe and bursting with flavor. Stop by a U-Pick farm to pick your own, and attempt to get more in the bucket than your mouth. These hand picked blueberries are great on everything from cereal to ice cream to homemade blueberry crisp!
Visit the Nearby Wineries and Breweries
Central Michigan is home to a number or wineries and breweries. Running from New Buffalo to Saugatuck, the Southwest Michigan Wine Trail boasts a number of wineries and tasting rooms. South Haven Brew Pub, 12 Corners Vineyard Tasting and Channel Wine Bar are all right downtown South Haven. Nearby Kalamazoo is home to Bells Brewery, and nearby Saugatuck and Holland have many craft breweries of their own.
Bike the Kal-Haven Trail
Rent a bike and enjoy 34 miles of trail connecting South Haven to Kalamazoo. Although we’ve biked around downtown, we have yet to check out this scenic trail, but it is on our list for a future summer activity.
Catch the Sunset
Since it faces west over the lake, South Haven beachfront is the perfect spot for sunset viewing. Each evening we head down to the beach at sunset to watch beautiful and ever changing streaks of pink, orange and yellow play across the horizon. I truly have seen some of the best sunsets of my life over Lake Michigan. Bring a sweatshirt as it often gets chilly once the sun goes down.
The calming sound of waves crashing, cool breezes off the lake and a slower pace of life make for a perfect summer getaway. If this sounds good to you, make sure South Haven, Michigan is in your future plans.
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