We are one of those families that would travel to the beach every chance that we could. We often joke that our girls don’t know that mountains truly exist. For years, we traveled to Florida and beyond to enjoy the warm weather and the white sandy beaches. My parents had traveled to Michigan and spent time along Lake Michigan and thought that we would enjoy it. Not sure if we would like it as much as other beach vacations, we decided to check it out. One time was all that it took. We were hooked. For the past two summers, our entire family has spent a week in South Haven, MI.
If you are looking for a family-friendly vacation that is a short driving distance away from Champaign-Urbana, this might just be what you are looking for. South Haven is only a three and a half hour drive from this area and has plenty to offer vacation-goers of all ages. The drive can easily be completed during naps or around mealtimes. We have been able to avoid traffic near Chicago as we plan our trip times accordingly.
We typically vacation as a family in June/July and the weather in Michigan is very comfortable at that time. The lake is refreshing and even cool, at times; however, the kids don’t seem to mind. Our ten-year-old daughter rented a paddle board in July and she enjoyed using it near the beach with my husband. Kayaks are also available for rental, as well.
South Haven offers public beach access at two different beaches – North Beach and South Beach. Public parking is available for $10.00 each day. Our advice is to pack for the day and leave a car for as long as possible or have someone from your group walk/ride a bicycle back to your rental in order to grab items that you might need. On this past trip, we took a boat tour out onto Lake Michigan and learned more about the history of the town. Fishing trips and tours are also available. Of particular interest to our group was the pirate boat tour; however there are age restrictions on the excursion and my nephew was not quite old enough. Make sure to visit the iconic South Haven Lighthouses and take a picture there. We love to walk the pier area and feel the lake air surround us.
Our family enjoys eating and trying new restaurants. Some of our favorites include Clementine’s (be sure to try their onion rings), Captain Lou’s (delicious perch basket and convenient outdoor seating near the drawbridge), and Cafe Julia (hello….Nutella latte)! We love starting our mornings out with a coffee drink from Cafe Julia. They offer other types of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well. Golden Brown Bakery is well-known by South Haven-goers for their vast selection of baked goods. Sherman’s Dairy Barn is sure to please your ice cream lovers. They offer endless ice cream and dessert options. We learned a little too late on our past trip that they offer a sampler pack in which six scoops of ice cream are served. WOW!
As we were leaving South Haven in early July 2018, a Gino’s East pizzeria was just about to open. We can’t wait to go back to enjoy that. On our way home, we drove through New Buffalo, MI in order to eat at the well-known Redamak’s. Be sure to take cash there if you want to enjoy one of their Velveeta burgers. Luckily, they offer an ATM at the front of the restaurant because they must know that there are others out there like us who don’t often carry cash.
Still not sure that there is enough to do in South Haven? Our girls love the Kids Corner which is a large wooden playground structure complete with a pavilion and a great view of the lake. We also love the Michigan Theater offering $4.00 tickets for matinee shows and $5.50 tickets for all evening movies. It’s a perfect stop for a rainy day. Our girls love the shopping that South Haven offers. We can’t leave the area without a trip to The Blueberry Store. It’s the perfect gift for those taking care of your house, pets, etc. We typically buy wine, candles, jellies, marinades, and fresh blueberries (in season).
If you happen to be vacationing on the weekend, be sure to visit the large outdoor farmer’s market located in the midst of the great shops and conveniently next to Cafe Julia. The market offers fresh produce, baked goods, jewelry, flowers, and more. We have found that some businesses and restaurants are closed on Mondays in South Haven; therefore we planned our trip towards the end of the week in order to enjoy more of what this fun town has to offer.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the time that we have spent in South Haven, MI and look forward to many more return trips. We know of some pretty fun restaurants and experiences that our girls look forward to. With age spans ranging from small children to grandparents, South Haven has something for everyone. One of our favorite memories from our recent trip was sitting on the shore watching the sunset with our entire family while the kids all splashed and played together in the lake.
Also, the Nutella latte(s)…..