Wine Country Tour
Showy as an Easter parade, spring marches along the southern Lake Michigan shore and inland across orchards and vineyards.
Apple and cherry trees bloom soon after breezes blow warm and long before crowds converge on this popular summer vacation area. Stroll Lake Michigan beaches, tour area wineries and explore still-sleepy hamlets in the perfect weather.
In late spring, white and pale-pink blooms seem to bow the branches of trees striping the hillsides around St. Joseph (60 miles southwest of Grand Rapids). From this pretty port, our 160-mile drive takes you through corridors of blossoms to friendly main streets and other spots where you'll want to linger.
Memorable vistas spread from almost every corner in downtown "St. Joe," perched on a bluff high above Lake Michigan. You'll find boutiques and coffee shops amid the stores and businesses lining the brick streets.
Ship captains and lumber barons built many of the Victorian homes in surrounding neighborhoods. Now, vacationers and second-home owners relish the bluff-top views. Steep steps descend from downtown to Silver Beach, where 10 volleyball nets stand ready. You can meander out onto parallel breakwaters that jut 1,000 feet into the lake to twin lighthouses. From there, watch legendary sunsets splash across the sky.
Drive south six miles on Business-94 West/Red Arrow Highway. Continue south 10 miles.
Warren Dunes State Park
Mountains of golden sand rise 240 feet above Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park. On weekends, kids cure a winter's worth of cabin fever crunching up Tower Hill, the tallest dune, then tumbling back down.
Windsurfers' colorful sails glide on lake breezes over waves that curl toward shore. On the park's north end, hiking trails wind through forests of budding hardwoods.
Continue south and west two miles on the Red Arrow Highway to Sawyer, then southwest 12 miles to New Buffalo.
Harbor Country: Sawyer to New Buffalo
Sawyer is the northernmost of a collection of old resort towns that string like pearls along the Red Arrow Highway to New Buffalo near the Indiana state line. Nostalgic restaurants, offbeat galleries and intriguing antiques shops line the road, named for a World War I Army division from Michigan.
Watch for signs, or you might miss the little towns hiding between the highway and the Lake Michigan shore. In Sawyer, Harbert, Lakeside and Union Pier, more antiques dealers fill converted cottages, vintage brick storefronts and cavernous warehouses. Fuel up with limpa or other freshly baked breads and cakes at Harbert Swedish Bakery. In New Buffalo, the main street slopes gently toward the lakefront and marina.
East five miles on US-12.
The hulking shell of E.K. Warren's 1800s corset factory still looms at the edge of town. The entrepreneur preserved the 311-acre Warren Woods Natural Area north of town, as well as Warren Dunes State Park. Trails within Warren Woods wind through virgin beech and maple forests.
From Warren Woods, east 12 miles on Elm Valley Road.
Rosy blossoms line the streets, as this village's renowned redbud trees usher in the season. Look for the 1853 Pear's Mill near the 1950s-era downtown. Just north of town, more trees flower at Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve.
North eight miles on Redbud Trail to Snow Road. West 4 miles to Tabor Hill Winery.
Vineyards cover the hillsides in the heart of wine country. Tour Tabor Hill Winery, then stay for lunch at the glass-walled restaurant looking out over the fields. At nearby Round Barn Winery, a 1911 round barn houses a brandy still, and an 1880s post-and-beam barn holds the tasting room.
From Tabor Hill Winery, backtrack east and north six miles on Snow Road.
Rhododendrons bloom along Ferry Street. Held back by an old brick dam, the St. Joseph River spreads wide, forming Lake Chapin, a favorite of anglers. The drive north takes you through the center of orchard country and legions of blooming apple and cherry trees.
East two-and-one-half miles on Pokagon Road to State-140. North three-and-one-half miles. Detour east one-and-one-half miles on Eureka Road to pass Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, the area's largest grower. Back to State-140. North 10 miles to Red Arrow Highway. East 20 miles.
Not far from the handsome courthouse in this quiet county seat, you can sample local wines and tour two of Michigan's largest wineries. An 1898 weathered brick water works houses Warner Vineyards. Sip champagne on the patio beside a trickling creek, and visit Warner's champagne cellar-the only one in the Midwest. St. Julian Winery, Michigan's largest, is just down the main street.
North 14 miles on County-665 to County-388. West 17 miles.
Most of the pleasure boaters and other summer vacationers who flock to this shore village won't arrive until after Memorial Day. In spring, you'll have downtown shops, the walkway along the harbor and five miles of Lake Michigan beach mostly to yourself. Snap photos of the pier lights that mark the harbor, then take a long, barefoot walk on South Beach.
South 27 miles on Blue Star Highway (which becomes State-63) to St. Joseph.
For more information about area attractions, contact: Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council (269) 925-6301) SW Michigan Travel 
Warren Woods 
Tree Mendus Farm