Get a state park vehicle permit ($31.10 for an annual pass or $8.55 for a day pass) to experience some of the area’s best beaches.
Catch great views from atop the 260-foot-tall dunes at Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer (arrive early to grab a parking spot).
Just as lovely is New Buffalo’s City Beach, which has its own lighthouse.
They’re not fancy, but fresh-ground beef burgers topped with Velveeta cheese pack in crowds at Redamak’s.
At Berrien Springs’ Lemon Creek Winery and Fruit Farm, kids love the U-pick berries, peaches and apples; grown-ups sample a selection of wines.
Back in New Buffalo, steaks, seafood and burgers satisfy patrons enjoying the lakeside patio at Bentwood Tavern, and frozen desserts come in 50 flavors at Oink’s Dutch Treat.
Watch the sun set from the tranquil beach at the Harbor Grand Hotel (from $189).
Diner fare tastes great at homey Rosie’s.
Cheesy souvenir stores and upscale clothing boutiques line the streets of downtown St. Joseph; a former factory has become the Box Factory for the Arts, a collection of galleries and studios.
Silver Beach County Park is next to a spray park, and kids love the indoor carousel adjacent to a wide, clean beach. Silver Beach Pizza serves tasty pies in an old train depot.
A long, elevated boardwalk takes you into the trees—55 feet above the forest floor—at Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor.
A Big Mama Sampler at Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’ barbecue joint promises to leave your crew full and happy.
More information: (269) 925-6301; swmichigan.org
One big party
Blossomtime Festival celebrates blooming orchards with a 5K run, vintage baseball and the state’s largest parade in neighboring towns St. Joseph and Benton Harbor from April 27–May 3, 2014. (269) 982-8016; blossomtimefestival.org
Kal-Haven Trail State Park The romance of small communities, orchards and even a covered bridge draw cyclists down the 33-mile Kal-Haven Trail. The former railbed is now a crushed-limestone path from Kalamazoo to South Haven; it’s perfect for walkers, too. (269) 674-8011; michigandnr.com
Five great places to visit in South Haven
1 DeGrandchamp Farms July and August mean countless blueberries at this longtime family farm known for its market filled with all things blueberry-flavored and -scented. (888) 483-7431; degrandchamps.com
2 Friends Good Will When Lake Michigan is calm, this sailboat takes guests on a 90-minute trip from the Michigan Maritime Museum. (269) 637-8078; michiganmaritimemuseum.org
3 Sea Glass Cottage Home Decor Quilts, towels, lamps, clocks, throws and regional art capture that fresh lakeside vibe. (269) 639-1200; seaglasscottage.com
4 Golden Brown Bakery Local cherries and blueberries make the pastries shine at this cafe-bakery on the main drag. (269) 637-3418; goldenbrownbakery.com
5 Carriage House at the Harbor Guests enjoy thick duvets, whirlpool tubs, plush robes and private baths in this Victorian B&B. From $175. (269) 639-2161; carriagehouseharbor.com