Lake Michigan Shore Trip Guide | Midwest Living
More
Close

Lake Michigan Shore Trip Guide

Pretty small towns, sandy beaches and rolling dunes await visitors to the southeast side of Lake Michigan.
+ enlarge
«
1 of 10
Pause »
  • 1
    Thrills abound at Saugatuck Dune Rides.
    Thrills abound at Saugatuck Dune Rides.
  • 2
    Shoppers delight in St. Joseph's boutiques and galleries.
    Shoppers delight in St. Joseph's boutiques and galleries.
  • 3
    Blueberry pavlova at Bentwood Tavern in New Buffalo
    Blueberry pavlova at Bentwood Tavern in New Buffalo
  • 4
    Oink's Dutch Treat in New Buffalo
    Oink's Dutch Treat in New Buffalo
  • 5
    Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor
    Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor
  • 6
    Old Boys' Brewhouse in Spring Lake
    Old Boys' Brewhouse in Spring Lake
  • 7
    Holland's Window on the Waterfront Park bursts with color during its spring tulip display.
    Holland's Window on the Waterfront Park bursts with color during its spring tulip display.
  • 8
    Take the Lake Express ferry to Muskegon.
    Take the Lake Express ferry to Muskegon.
  • 9
    The lakeside Captain Lou's serves pub food and cold beer in a laid-back setting.
    The lakeside Captain Lou's serves pub food and cold beer in a laid-back setting.
  • 10
    The coal-fired S.S. Badger ferries between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
    The coal-fired S.S. Badger ferries between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

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 ($30.50 online or at any park entrance) is the cheapest way to experience some of the best beaches, protected in more than 30 state parks. (517) 373-9900; michigan.gov/dnr

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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 422-1100; hickorycreekwinery.com

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; lemoncreekwinery.com

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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 426-4013; michigan.gov/dnr

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; bentwoodtavern.com

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.us 

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. See reviews and ratings. (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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 469-4522; redamaks.com

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

Soe Cafe This chic Sawyer restaurant serves simply prepared, from-scratch dishes. (269) 426-4878; soe-cafe.com

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. From $110. (269) 469-0800; gordonbeachinn.com

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. From $179. See reviews and ratings. (888) 605-6800; harborgrand.com

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

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.

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; blossomtimefestival.org

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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 983-3688; boxfactoryforthearts.org

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

Jean Klock Park Dune grass, wide beaches and recently installed sculptures draw visitors to this scenic Benton Harbor park. See reviews and ratings. swmichigan.org

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

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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 637-2788; michigan.gov/dnr

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; berriencounty.org/parks

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. stjoetoday.com

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; waterstreetgallery.com

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; bridgman.org

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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 637-3418; goldenbrownbakery.com

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; liverybrew.com

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; piggin-n-grinnin.com

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; schus.com

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.” See reviews and ratings. (269) 637-8251; shermanicecream.com 

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. See reviews and ratings. (269) 983-4743; silverbeachpizza.com

South Haven Trading Company Cheesecake, chocolates and ice cream are among the treats at this South Haven cafe. (269) 637-1700 

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

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. From $159. (269) 857-8482; bellavitaspaandsuites.com

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. From $194. (800) 875-6600; theboulevardinn.com

Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites The family-friendly St. Joseph hotel has a pool. From $129. (269) 982-0004; hiexpress.com/stjosephmi

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

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

Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council (269) 925-6301; swmichigan.org

 

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. See reviews and ratings. (616) 847-1309; michigan.gov/dnr 

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; silversidesmuseum.org

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; downtownholland.com

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. See reviews and ratings. (616) 399-9390; michigan.gov/dnr

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. See reviews and ratings. (231) 843-2423; michigan.gov/dnr

Michigan Rag Company T-shirts, cozy sweatshirts and flannel pajamas are handprinted in Michigan. Kitschy designs include log cabins, cats and moose. (616) 846-1451; michiganrag.com 

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; veldheer.com 

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. See reviews and ratings. (888) 535-5792; windmillisland.org 

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; alpenroserestaurant.com

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; boatwerksrestaurant.com

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

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. See reviews and ratings. (616) 396-2253; deboerbakery.com

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

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; oldboysbrewhouse.com

Where to stay

Crimson Cottage Inn the Woods It’s worth the search for this hard-to-find B&B. Charming guest rooms have king beds, Wi-Fi and small fridges with ice water. Guests can borrow bikes to explore nearby trails and choose to have breakfast delivered. (616) 994-0922; crimsoncottageinn.com 

Haworth Inn Cherrywood and burgundy accents deck tasteful guest rooms. Walk to downtown Holland or stroll the campus of nearby Hope College. From $150. (616) 395-7200; haworthinn.com

Serendipity Resort Visitors craving privacy enjoy this Grand Haven cottage resort, which includes six vacation homes. From $165. (888) 205-7677; serendipityresorts.com

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

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

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

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

Add Your Comment