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.

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  • 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.

St. Joseph area

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

Click ahead for the Holland area.

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