When we moved our family to west Michigan five summers ago, we quickly heard that a Silver Lake dune ride was a summer must-do. We've since learned about many other activities in the Silver Lake/Mears/Hart area and now kick off each summer with something new. Here are 10 of our favorites:
1. Mac Wood’s Dune Rides A local tradition since 1930, open-air rides zip among the dunes and past Silver Lake while guides chat about the area’s history and environment. The roller-coaster-like 7-mile ride lasts about 40 minutes. You can also rent your own dune buggies from Parrots Landing or Silver Lake Buddy and take advantage of 400 acres of public ORV area in Silver Lake State Park.
Mac Wood's Dune Rides. Photo: Janelle Darnell
2. Sandboarding This blend of surfing and snowboarding involves riding down a sand dune while standing on a board with either both feet strapped in or free-standing. Sliding down on your back or belly are also options for the more reserved crowd! Rent a board—or a sled for younger ones—from a local outfitter such as The Sand Box.
Sandboarding. Photo: Janelle Darnell
3. Camping Two we especially like: the Silver Lake State Park Campground on the banks of Silver Lake, with panoramic views of the dunes; and farther inland, Jellystone Park Camp Resort, with activities including wagon rides with Yogi Bear and an in-ground pool.
Silver Lake State Park campground. Photo: Janelle Darnell
4. Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo The 700-acre farm in New Era, 15 miles from Silver Lake, appeals to families with its array of animals—such as goats, llamas, rabbits, camels, wallabies and lemurs—as well as 46-plus activities like a barrel train, carousel, giant jumping pillows, pedal carts, gem mining and observation bee hive. New this year, cuddle farm babies on Baby Animal Days June 29-30.
Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo. Photo: Janelle Darnell
5. Silver Lake State Park Bring your own boat, jet ski, kayak or paddleboard or rent one from a local outfitter such as Wave Club to enjoy water sports fun. Or stay beachside and make lunch or dinner at one of the public grills while your kids play at the park, build a sandcastle or swim.
Silver Lake water sports. Photo: Janelle Darnell
6. The Fox Barn Marketplace & Winery This restored antique barn offers wine tastings and seasonal “barn bites” such as smoked fish dip. Their specialty Asparagus Wine debuts the second weekend of June during the county’s annual asparagus festival.
The Fox Barn Marketplace & Winery. Photo: Janelle Darnell
7. Little Sable Point Lighthouse Built in 1874, the brick lighthouse stands 107 feet tall and is easily accessible by a new paved pathway. Tours, offered from late May to September, lead to 360-degree views of forests, dunes and Lake Michigan.
Little Sable Point Lighthouse. Photo: Janelle Darnell
8. Golden Sands Golf & Bucket Bar The nine-hole course, open year-round, aims to challenge all levels with its tight greens and those famous Michigan sand traps. Also available: a junior golf program for kids; a 5-bedroom cottage for overnight stays; and the Bucket Bar with cocktails, pizza, salads, wraps and appetizers. Special events include a family super slide over the July 4th weekend and a car show in August.
Golden Sands Golf. Photo: Janelle Darnell
9. Cherry Point Farm & Market One of the oldest operating farms in Oceana County, Cherry Point has evolved from a fruit market to a destination that also features a lavender labyrinth, fish boils, Sunday morning breakfast, Tuesday afternoon tea and more. The lavender, one of the most popular attractions, blooms in mid-July and is harvested after Labor Day.
Cherry Point Farm & Market. Photo: Janelle Darnell
10. Fly Fishing Head inland from Silver Lake about 15 miles to reach the banks of the Pentwater river, and cast a line in to catch that brown or rainbow trout. If you and your family are looking for a river float trip on the Muskegon, Grand or Pere Marquette rivers, local guides such as Jeff Bacon of West Michigan Fly Fishing will help get you out on the water.
Fly fishing. Photo: Janelle Darnell
More information: thinkdunes.com