Lake Michigan Shore Trip Guide | Midwest Living

Lake Michigan Shore Trip Guide

Pretty small towns, sandy beaches and rolling dunes await visitors to the southeast side of Lake Michigan.

Where to start The most accessible section of this shore extends from the Indiana line 175 miles north to Ludington. 

Worth noting A yearlong state-park vehicle permit is the cheapest way to experience some of the best beaches, protected in more than 30 state parks. (517) 373-9900;

Southern shore

From New Buffalo to St. Joseph, enjoy sandy beaches and easy access to inland fruit farms and wineries. 

What to do

Hickory Creek Winery Lush flowerbeds greet visitors at this quality-over-quantity spot offering dry wines. Sample up to five for $5, then stroll through the vineyards. (269) 422-1100;

Lemon Creek Winery and Fruit Farm In Berrien Springs, visitors purchase a $5 keepsake glass and sample any five of 26 wines, including Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Also enjoy you-pick apples, berries and peaches. (269) 471-1321;

Warren Dunes State Park Dunes rise as much as 260 feet above the lake in Sawyer to provide great views and frame busy beaches (arrive early on weekends to claim a spot). The park is a popular hang gliding site. (269) 426-4013;

Where to eat 

Bentwood Tavern Dine on a pretty lakeside patio at this New Buffalo favorite. The menu features steaks and seafood (and burgers), plus seasonally inspired desserts. (269) 469-1699;

Milda’s Corner Market This Lithuanian deli and market has a cultlike following. The deli serves soups, sandwiches and kugelis—a casserole of potatoes and bacon. Imported goods stock the market. (269) 469-9880; Milda's Corner Market on Facebook

Oink's Dutch Treat Kitschy pig and ice cream decor fills the building, and 50-plus flavors (like Cotton Candy Confetti and Marion County Blackberry) fill the coolers. (269) 469-3535

Redamak’s It’s the place to go in New Buffalo for burgers. Fresh beef ground on-site and, yes, Velveeta cheese turn simple into wonderful. Expect a wait. (269) 469-4522;

Rosie’s A homey New Buffalo diner serves classic breakfast dishes, including eggs, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy. (269) 469-4382 

Where to stay

Gordon Beach Inn The historic Union Pier inn has 20 rooms with private baths, an art gallery, beach and the popular seafood spot Timothy’s Restaurant. (269) 469-0800;

Harbor Grand Hotel The 55-guest-room New Buffalo boutique hotel encourages indulgence. We love the 24-hour Ben and Jerry’s ice cream delivery, free beach towels and beachside lounge chairs, and breakfast-in-bed service. (888) 605-6800;

For information: Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce (269) 469-5409;

St. Joseph area (including Saugatuck)

St. Joseph/Benton Harbor and Saugatuck bookend this region. 

Worth noting Many visitors stay in vacation-home rentals, which range from simple and rustic to plush and beachside.

Shoppers delight in St. Joseph's boutiques and galleries.

Shoppers delight in St. Joseph's boutiques and galleries.

What to do

Blossomtime Festival Michigan’s oldest and largest multicommunity festival celebrates blooming orchards each spring with a 5k run, a vintage baseball game and a parade. (269) 982-8016;

Box Factory for the Arts A rehabbed factory on the east side of downtown St. Joseph houses three art galleries, live music, more than 40 artists’ studios and classes. (269) 983-3688;

Curious Kids’ Museum In St. Joseph, 100 hands-on exhibits invite kids to make giant bubbles, create a newscast and more. (269) 983-2543;

Krasl Art Center This surprising little gem features sculptures on the grounds and three galleries. Special exhibits updated every two months. (269) 983-0271;

Saugatuck Dune Rides Take an exciting and entertaining 40-minute ride among the dunes.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park A 2.5-mile sandy beach and dunes more than 200 feet tall draw nature enthusiasts, bird-watchers and hikers. Trails lead over steep slopes to secluded beaches. (269) 637-2788;

Thrills abound at Saugatuck Dune Rides.

Saugatuck Dune Rides

Silver Beach County Park The park includes St. Joseph’s clean, wide, family-friendly beach. Nearby, the Silver Beach Center features a fantastic indoor carousel. (269) 982-0533;

St. Joseph shopping State Street has gift shops and several clothing and shoe stores, such as Moxie’s Boutique. FuzzyButz Pet Bakery’s selection lives up to its fun name. Harbor Town Interiors sells unique home decor, such as funky lighting.

Water Street Gallery You’ll find paintings, sculptures and glass on Center Street in Douglas. Watch the website for events like the annual glass show. (269) 857-8485;

Weko Beach In Bridgman, a campground with six log cabins and a summer concert series (performances are held some Sunday evenings at 7 p.m.) make this a better-than-average beach. (269) 465-3406;

Where to eat

Golden Brown Bakery A small-town bakery and cafe on South Haven’s main drag offers both delicious baked goods (many with local cherries and blueberries) and full breakfast options. (269) 637-3418;

The Livery In a 100-plus-year-old former stable in Benton Harbor’s Arts District, this microbrewery-cafe keeps handcrafted beers on tap, and live music entertains. (269) 925-8760;

Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’ Here’s Benton Harbor’s best barbecue. A Big Mama Sampler gives you a taste of just about everything you’d want. (269) 934-7675;

Schu’s Grill and Bar The St. Joe dining institution, with some outdoor lakeview tables, is known for great burgers and potato soup. (269) 983-7248;

Sherman’s Dairy Bar What you get isn’t fancy, but it’s delicious and wallet-friendly. A single-scoop cone looks more like a double, so if you don’t want to overindulge, ask for a “baby scoop.” (269) 637-8251; 

Silver Beach Pizza Good pizza. Fun atmosphere (it’s inside an old train depot). Friendly waitstaff. What else can you ask for? When you sit down, you get a disc that’s green on one side and red on the other to signal servers. (269) 983-4743;

Tello Italian Bistro In South Haven, local ingredients flavor dishes such as pan-seared scallops and butternut squash ravioli. (269) 639-9898;

Thornton’s Home Town Cafe The standby breakfast joint serves Bob’s Big Bomb. Eat the giant omelet filled with corned beef hash, bacon, sausage, ham, mushrooms, onions, peppers and cheese, and you get your name on the wall of fame. (269) 983-0932

Where to stay

Bella Vita Spa and Suites In Saugatuck, six modern suites overlook downtown and have flat-screen TVs. (269) 857-8482;

The Boulevard Inn and Bistro A French-influenced bistro in St. Joseph offers a spectacular wine list. Try the duck confit and the risotto of the day. Some of the guest suites have lake views. (800) 875-6600;

Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites The family-friendly St. Joseph hotel has a pool. (269) 982-0004;

For information: Saugatuck/Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau (269) 857-1701;

South Haven/ Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 764-2836; 

Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council (269) 925-6301;

Holland area

The shore towns west of Grand Rapids have Dutch heritage and pretty boardwalks. 

What to do

Grand Haven State Park A 48-acre recreation area has a popular beach and views of the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. (616) 847-1309; 

USS Silversides Submarine Museum Tour a World War II submarine and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter permanently moored along Muskegon’s waterfront. (231) 755-1230;

Holland shopping Boutiques, galleries, gift shops and cafes line 8th Street downtown. Tikal displays handmade jewelry and funky fashion; Reader’s World stocks best sellers and magazines (and sells hardcover best sellers at a discount). (800) 506-1299;

Holland State Park Eight miles west of Holland, this Lake Michigan park has an expansive beach and great views of nearby Big Red, a much-photographed lighthouse. A boardwalk and stairs access Mount Pisgah’s towering sand dune.  (616) 399-9390;

Ludington State Park Walk from the shady campground through the dunes to the Lake Michigan beach and Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Rent a canoe and trace the shore of inland Hamlin Lake. (231) 843-2423;

Veldheer Tulip Gardens The largest tulip farm in the Holland area also has a delftware factory on-site. Admission charged to the gardens. (616) 399-1900; 

Windmill Island Gardens In Holland, a 250-year-old working windmill, with the only female Dutch-certified miller in North America, towers above a 36-acre island. (888) 535-5792; 

Where to eat

Alpenrose Restaurant and Cafe Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France influence the dinner menu. Diners select entrees such as pretzel-crusted walleye. (616) 393-2111;

Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant Overlook the lake while you dine on seafood and other specialties at this Holland restaurant. The family-friendly place serves breakfast on Sundays. (616) 396-0600;

Butch’s Restaurant Relax at downtown Holland’s restaurant-slash-wine shop. Dinner options include grilled Alaskan halibut with sticky rice. (616) 396-8227;

DeBoer’s Dutch Brothers Bakery Visitors stop into the bakery-restaurant combo in Holland to pick up fresh breads and buttery kraklingen cookies or to nosh on pigs-in-a-blanket and pea soup. (616) 396-2253;

Morning Star Cafe This Southwestern-style breakfast and lunch spot in Grand Haven bakes its own foccacia, biscuits and pastries. (616) 844-1131

Old Boys' Brewhouse An exceptional budget meal awaits at this Spring Lake stop. Artisanal beers and specialty sodas accompany build-your-own pizzas on brewer's malt crusts. (616) 850-9950;

Where to stay

Haworth Inn Cherrywood and burgundy accents deck tasteful guest rooms. Walk to downtown Holland or stroll the campus of nearby Hope College. (616) 395-7200;

Serendipity Resort Visitors craving privacy enjoy this Grand Haven cottage resort, which includes six vacation homes. (888) 205-7677;

For information: Grand Haven Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 303-4092;

Holland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 506-1299;

Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (877) 420-6618;

Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 250-9283;

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