The New Midwest Vacation
Beach getaways close to home: Michigan
Midwesterners rank a beach getaway as their top vacation choice, but many find themselves with less time and money to travel to the coasts. Fortunately, "beach" doesn't have to mean "far-off ocean." The southwest Michigan shore claims miles of blue water and white sand within a half-day's drive of Chicago and Detroit.
Sand spreads north from the Indiana line, interrupted only by harbors crowded with pleasure boats, lively towns that make summer their business and piers perfect for walking into legendary sunsets. Inland, the lake-tempered climate nurtures vineyards and fruit farms.
Just across the Indiana line, New Buffalo, Michigan, qualifies as a straight-out-of-a-painting beach town with a main street that stretches almost right onto a sun-toasted beach.
Tree-shaded Ludington, 175 miles north, anchors the north end of the most accessible coast. Here, a carefully tended beach unfolds beside a miniature-golf course, a new skateboard park and a shady, Frisbee-friendly boulevard of picnic spots, with hotel options such as the comfy, value-priced Four Seasons.
Saugatuck, South Haven, Holland and Grand Haven each has its own unique graces, such as Saugatuck's legendary Oval Beach (left). The towns also share a new energy infused by chefs cooking in unlikely places and entrepreneurs remaking the resort scene. Saugatuck's Bella Vita Spa and Suites, for example, offers romantic, contemporary suites appointed in Scandinavian style.