South Haven, Michigan
Looking for a relaxing trip filled with magical sunsets and soft sandy beaches? We have traveled up and down the southwest Michigan coastline and South Haven is our favorite beach town. Somehow, even though we are only two hours from home, it feels like we are a world away.
Situated on Lake Michigan, this tiny community packs a punch with various recreational activities on and off the beach. It’s a picture-perfect small town with beautiful landscaping, specialty shops, and nautical-themed bars and restaurants.
We spent a few days truck camping and relaxing in South Haven last week and had a blast. We swam, rode bikes, and ate and drank like piggies.
Top Reasons to Visit South Haven, Michigan
Nothing says vacation like fine crushed sand between your toes! The water is clear, the sand is soft, and by the middle of summer the water is warm… well warmish.
Park your car in the beginning of the trip and walk the rest of the time. The entire town, beach included, is within walking distance.
Proximity to Major Cities
2 hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Detroit and Toledo, 3 ½ hours from Indianapolis, and 5 hours from Columbus.
The sunsets over the lake are breathtaking. They are like snowflakes, each one unique.
Delightful Small Town
Shops, restaurants, and a farmers market are all highlights of the area.
South Haven Tips
- Avoid weekends – If at all possible, visit during the week. The beach and town are less congested plus you will save on lodging costs.
- Free Downtown Public Parking and Bathrooms – If you do decide to drive into town, there is a free public parking lot with bathrooms on Kalamazoo & Huron. It is only a block and a half away from the Farmers Market and two blocks from Phoenix Street (downtown main street).
- Free Beach parking – There is free beach parking and access to South Beach up on the hill on Monroe Boulevard, but you definitely need to get there early in the day to get a spot.
- Free Coffee – Stop in the Blueberry Store for a free sample of their blueberry coffee.
- Free Samples – Many of the stores and vendors offer free samples.
- Pack a lunch – If you are heading to the beach all day, make sure to pack a lunch or at least some snacks. If you stop by the Farmers Market before heading to the beach, pick up some fresh fruit to snack on. There are concession stands on both beaches, but we like to save some money on lunch so we can splurge on a nice dinner with a few drinks.
South Haven Recommendations
If you are looking for something quick, Golden Brown Bakery has pastries, donuts, and bagels. Captain Nemo’s has big portions at a good price. They definitely aren’t fast-moving so if you aren’t in a rush (which you shouldn’t be because you’re in relax mode, remember?) grab a table.
Dinner & Drinks
Clementine’s is housed in a historical landmark, the Citizen’s Bank Building, built in 1897. The food is reasonable, bar is cool, and the staff super friendly. Both Captain Lou’s and Idler Riverboat are on the river, have a fun atmosphere, and offer great drinks!
Things to Do
Go blueberry picking at DeGrandchamp Farms, visit the Maritime Museum and/or ride the pirate ship (tickets can be bought at the museum), rent an ATV at KJC ATV Rentals, or let the kids play at the Kids’ Corner Playground.
Farmers Market: If you’re in South Haven on a Wednesday or Saturday, stop by the market for fresh veggies or fruit, made-to-order crepes, jewelry, or to peruse local art.
We almost did not write about the secret campground we stay at because it’s not the easiest to find online and not many tent campers know about it. The Kal-Haven RV Park and Campground is right on the Kal-Haven bike trail. From the campground we can ride about a mile right into town or head out on the trail first thing in the morning to get a nice bike ride in before our day officially starts. It is near a highway so if you are tent camping versus truck camping, be aware that the traffic noise may bother you. For us tramps, it’s not an issue.
It’s only $25 for tent campers and $35 for RV or trailer spots. The campground is a little on the unique side. The tent camping area is in a completely separate section, almost on it’s own and you have to walk up a little grass slope to get to the bathroom and shower. On the positive side, the bathroom is in a house on the property, so it’s not a typical shower stall like in most campgrounds. On the negative side, they only have the one near the tent camping area. There are two more bathrooms in the RV area a little further up the hill.
South Haven has a few quaint bed and breakfast accommodations such as Victoria Resort and Yelton Manor, but ever since our unfortunate incident (read about our awkward stay), we shy away from B&B’s. Just remember to open the chute if you are going to have a romantic fire!
What is your favorite Michigan beach town?
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