Savor the sweet abundance of beaches, markets and wineries in and around this inviting town on Lake Michigan’s southern shore.

At the mouth of the St. Joseph River, kids build sandcastles while adults soak in the sunshine of Silver Beach County Park, taking in the vistas of two lighthouses and electric-blue Lake Michigan. The picturesque scene becomes even more enticing when you consider the diverse delights within walking distance: an outdoor farmers market, street tacos, wine tastings at a vendor's mart and sushi pop-ups in a retro ice cream shop.

silver beach st. joseph michigan
Credit: Bob Stefko

St. Joseph anchors southwest Michigan's beach towns, which include South Haven, Saugatuck/Douglas, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon and Silver Lake Sand Dunes/Hart. Beyond the beach (and this town of less than 10,000 has seven of them), follow a pedestrian path to the bluffside downtown with gift shops and plenty of places to grab a bite, including Schu's Grill and Bar, a longtime favorite overlooking the lake. A few blocks away, outdoor sculptures like The Heavyweight, a reclining 800-pound hippo, surround the Krasl Art Center, which has also scattered more than 40 public sculptures throughout the community.

Love fruity wine? Or just a freshly picked apple? St. Joseph's proximity to the lake creates a desirable habitat for growing fruit, with more than 90 percent of the state's vineyards in this region. Follow the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail to 15 wineries, then come back to the beach to watch the sun dip below the pier.

10 a.m. Sip and Shop

Pop into Infusco Coffee for an Oat Chai on tap and an almond croissant. Find their stall in The Market, an indoor vendor hall that opened in 2021 and has a wine shop (with weekly wine tastings), cheese shop and more.

11 a.m. Farmers Market Stop

If you're visiting late May through early October, head to Lake Bluff Park for the Saturday farmers market. Browse locally grown produce, specialty food items and crafts—all with a view of Lake Michigan. The market stays open until 5 p.m. on certain Saturdays during the Lake Bluff Artisan Fair.

1 p.m. Taco Time

Break for lunch and a spicy Tajín-rimmed margarita at Kingfisher Cocktails and Tacos. Order the Birria King Wrap—like a Taco Bell Crunch wrap but better—and settle into a spot in the window to watch shoppers on busy State Street.

2:30 p.m. Head to the Beach

Kick back on the sand at Silver Beach County Park, located within walking distance of downtown. Rent a kayak or SUP, or fish from the pier. Take a spin (or two) on the Silver Beach Carousel, where a sea serpent and peacock chariot join a menagerie of more than 40 hand-carved animals.

6 p.m. Lighthouse Stroll

Go for a predinner walk on the pier to see St. Joe's two historic lighthouses. The red-roof Inner Lighthouse comes first, and the 35-foot Outer Lighthouse stands guard at the pier's end. 

7 p.m. Pizza and Ice Cream

A former Amtrak depot draws crowds to Silver Beach Pizza. In the spirit of rail travel, you'll signal your server via a two-sided red and green disc. After dinner, folks line up at Dairy Korner for shakes, malts and sundaes. Pro tip:A sushi/Vietnamese pop-up also operates out of the ice cream shop on certain days.

More to Try

Visit in May during Blossomtime, Michigan's oldest (since 1906) and largest multicommunity festival celebrates blooming orchards each spring with a 5k run, vintage baseball game and the royalty-filled Grand Floral Parade that draws more than 250,000 spectators.