Southwest Michigan – A haven for fun

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Having never traveled to Michigan much, we jumped at the chance to wander around the southwest area of the state, particularly in and around South Haven, Michigan.

What a time we had. This area is spectacular for so many reasons, from the climate to Lake Michigan and all that goes along with being near a large body of water, to the rolling hills dotted with grapes and blueberries. Southwest Michigan is a nature lover’s dream.

south haven, Michigan

This visit to southwest Michigan was spent mostly in and around South Haven, which is a wonderful coastal town that has really embraced its attractiveness to tourists.  There is so much to do in this area that there was no way for us to do it all in the four days we spent here.

This area has it all; shopping, an array of eateries for about any taste, beaches, sand dunes, marina, chartered fishing, fresh markets, wineries, and lots and lots of great lodging to choose from if you plan to stay. There is so much more to this area that you really have to make a visit to appreciate the variety of things to do and the beauty of the area.

For the remainder of this post, I’m just going to share some of my favorite photos we took during our visit. I would normally take more photos of the places we visited, however, this trip I just didn’t do that because we were so busy taking in the beauty and uniqueness of the area, I just forgot.

So, below are some of my favorite shots – mostly of the coast at sunset. I am kind of a nut for sunset photos, so I apologize for the focus on mostly that. I think you’ll appreciate them though. Hard to believe you can get all this beauty right here in the Midwest. I’ll share some suggestions near the end of this post of some of the restaurants we visited with a few comments and thoughts on each. Enjoy.

market mural
Outdoor market mural

lake michigan coast

This photo was taken at Hagar Park Beach, near Coloma, Michigan. Fog comes in and out regularly along the coast and changes the temperature quite a bit. Something us central Illinoisians are not used to.

We didn’t have a completely clear evening during our visit, but that was ok because we still saw some amazing sunsets. The moisture in the air around the lake makes for some amazing photos. These photos were also taken at Hagar Park beach.

warren dunes
Warren Dunes State Park

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One of the reasons you should really visit this area is to see the Dunes. There is so much to learn about the dunes that there is no way I could possibly do that justice, so HERE is a nice link that gives a brief explanation of the dunes and how they formed. Depending on where you visit along the coast, you’ll likely find very different types of dunes and sands. This southwest area has more coarse sand mixed with some black sand, which has its own unique story.

The pictures above were taken at Warren Dunes State Park, about half way up the 260-foot tall dune in the park. There was just no way to do the size justice in photos. Yes, we did hike up to the top and it was quite a workout. Tip – as you can see in the photo above, there is debris from the environment in the sand. Wear a light sandle or shoe to protect your feet.

On one of the days of our trip, we spent some time at Van Buren State Park, just south of South Haven. There is a wonderful paved trail that my friend Jim and I used to get a short run in while we were gone – You know, fitness is always important.

The pictures above were of the sand at this beach. The black sand is actually magnetite, a mineral formed as glaciers crushed and pushed larger rock as they formed Lake Michigan. Incredibly fascinating. My phone couldn’t quite capture the changing color as water came in and out, but it was really beautiful.

If you love a good sunset, this area is great for that. Each night we were near the water we saw something completely different. The sunset photos above I took within several minutes of each other, and as you can see, no two are really all that similar. Fog contributed to the variety of changing light and conditions.

There were numerous people taking photos – as you can see in a couple of these photos, there was a guy just in front me staking his claim on the beach to get the perfect shot.

crane's winery
Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery

Once we left the nearby coastal area, we quickly found ourselves in the midst of rolling hills of beautiful trees dotted with orchards of grapes and blueberries. This photo above was taken at Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery located in Fennville, Michigan – about 30 minutes north of South Haven. They serve flights of pie and wine. Definitely worth the drive.

photo of author
Friends at Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery

We did so much more in the short four days of our visit, however, I didn’t capture it all in photos. Below is a list of some of the other things we did during our visit worth mentioning, but this is only scratching the surface of what there is to do in this magnificent area.

  • Black River Tavern – Great location for a casual meal with friendly service. Live entertainment. Overlooks the South Haven Marina with some spectacular views.
  • Admiral Jacks – An open-air bar/grill with one of the best views of boat traffic in and out of the marina. Food was very good and the atmosphere was unbeatable.
  • Captain Lou’s – Another great open-air bar and grill. Fun atmosphere located right on the Black River next to an operating drawbridge. Great food and a fun atmosphere.
  • Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery – A must try if you love home cooking in a nostalgic atmosphere. The restaurant is known for its flight of pie and wine. A little bit of a drive from South Haven but you’ll love the drive and the food is worth it.
  • Beaches – Make sure to visit the beaches. South Haven has North Beach and South Beach. South Beach has access to the walkway out to the Lighthouse. As I mentioned earlier, you can and should visit different beaches along the coast for a variety of scenery.
  • Michigan Maritime Museum – An nice museum of the maritime history of Lake Michigan. Not a lot at the museum, however, it does have some incredibly nice people more than willing to show you around and explain anything at the location. The one thing they did have that was very cool is the Coastguard boat used in the movie The Finest Hours. If you like maritime history, this museum is for you.
  • South Haven Farm Market – Operating from early May through the end of October, the Farm Market is a great place to sample some of the best of the region. Of course, depending on when you go, what is in season will vary. Great outdoor market.

Well, that’s about it folks. Our visit was only four days, which was not near enough and we have already said we will be back. We pulled our travel trailers and stayed at a nearby KOA campground this trip, which was very nice. I think the next time I might enjoy sampling some of the lodging in the area.

Until next time readers. Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Jai
Windish

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12 comments

    1. That’s awesome – we loved it in Michigan and can’t wait to go back. Thanks for stopping by 🙏🏻

    1. You must try to pie flights – I just went for the Blackberry pie with a generous scoop of ice cream – so good. My wife and our friend tried the pie flight and they couldn’t finish it 😂. It’s a wonderful rustic place – I haven’t seen anything quite like it – Cranes Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery. Thanks for stopping by 🙏🏻

  1. Just viewing your photos makes me want to visit but you description of this location has sold me! It’s now definitely on my bucket list of places to see. Thanks for the info.

    1. That’s awesome. It is a remarkable destination in the Midwest. I’ll be making future trips to that area to explore other things Michigan has to offer. Thanks for stopping by 🙏🏻

    1. Thank you Tracy – I’m trying to up my game on photography a little. Thanks for the feedback and for stopping by 🙏🏻

    1. On the beaches you can pretty much walk barefoot but on the Dunes there was a lot of natural debris that was quite painful if you stepped on it. Fun though – thanks for stopping by 🙏🏻

  2. I love Michigan – it’s one of my favorite states. We’re hoping to do a Lake Michigan loop next August/September. I’m hoping to take in the stunning fall colors in MI next Sept. Fingers crossed that trip won’t get derail!

    1. For sure – I’ll look for those photos come fall. I think Michigan is my new Midwest favorite. Thanks for stopping by 🙏🏻

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