It’s May in southern Michigan, you know what that means; no more freak blizzards to endure and the warmer weather is here to stay – if we’re lucky. Sometimes – and by that, I mean all the time – I wonder why I live here. But then the warmer spring weather swoops in to remind me how wonderful this place is during the warmer months. One of my favorite weekend getaways in the spring and summer consists of driving out to Lake Michigan to a cute beach town to relax and explore. To those who have never seen Lake Michigan, I feel sorry for you and you should change that. It’s like the ocean, but different. The sand is still soft and you can’t see the other side, but the water is calmer and not salty. My whole life, my family and friends have gone and enjoyed the cute beach towns on Michigan’s side of Lake Michigan and all that they offer. I’ve been to so many, but these three towns I’m going to talk about are my favorites for various reasons. Disclaimer: I’m excluding Traverse City because, well, that’ll get its own post – or five. So. If you’re looking for a great weekend getaway, here are my favorite Lake Michigan towns that I recommend you check out.
Grand Haven – Located west of Grand Rapids, the adorable Coast Guard City USA is full of restaurants and shops in its downtown as well as stretches of beach along its state park. Grand Haven is somewhere that I’ve gone in all seasons – walking on frozen sand is quite fun, highly recommend – but for the full experience, definitely go in the summer. The state park has camping right on the lake, close to Grand Haven’s pier and lighthouses. You can also enjoy boating, fishing, biking, and hiking through the expanse of outdoor trails. The Rosy Mound Natural Area in Grand Haven is a gorgeous dune that offers beautiful views of the woods and beach on Lake Michigan. For those looking to relax, the Grand Haven State Park is a lovely beach right near the Grand Haven South Pierhead Lighthouse. My favorite part of Grand Haven, however, is the downtown. It has several local restaurants and cafes to enjoy as well as some great shopping. The shops range from cute beachy souvenir shops to high-end clothing stores. Make sure to check out The Kirby House for some live music or Dee-Lite Bar and Grill for a fun modern diner atmosphere.
Holland – Holland is another adorable town that borders Lake Macatawa which is off of Lake Michigan. It was first founded by Dutch settlers escaping religious persecution and the heritage is a huge part of the town. Every Spring, they have their local Tulip Time Festival which attracts one million people every year. During Tulip Time, the entire city is adorned in tulips. They have the Windmill Island Gardens, where you can tour a working windmill and view the gorgeous tulips in the spring. The best public beach, in my opinion, is the Holland State Park, you can take a trip there for the day or you can camp there as well. From the Holland State Park beach, you can see the Holland Harbor and Holland Harbor Lighthouse – or Big Red – across the harbor to the south. On the drive to and from the beach, I highly recommend the Ottawa Beach Inn. It’s such a cute nautical themed restaurant that specializes in American food and seafood. For more restaurants and shopping, along 8th Street is the city’s downtown. My personal favorite is New Holland Brewing. They have great food for sure, but their beer is some of my absolute favorite – Dragon’s Milk anyone?
Related: The Best Caribbean Destinations
Saugatuck – I saved my favorite for last and that would be the beach town of Saugatuck. Saugatuck has a pretty large downtown area that borders the Kalamazoo River near the edge of Lake Michigan. It’s the most lively and bustling town of the three, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have that small beach town feel. Downtown Saugatuck is filled with Art Galleries and unique shops that attract tourists from all over. There are several restaurants; nice and fancy options such as Coral Gables or more relaxed bar and grill options such as Wally’s – each two of my favorites. You can take a river boat ride down the Kalamazoo River or walk along the dock and watch the yachts pull right up to downtown. To relax on the beach, Oval Beach is the best for relaxing along beautiful coastline of white sand beach. A little farther north, Saugatuck Dunes State Park is one of my favorites. To get to the dunes, you have to hike a little through marked trails through the woods. It is totally worth it though and not super grueling – although just be aware that you do have to walk a bit, we were completely ill-prepared the first time we went and did not realize how far it was. There are several different trails that you can take through the State Park and many different options based on what you want to do. Once you get to the beach, you can climb down the dunes to a stretch of a beautiful 2.5 mile beach. The dunes are gorgeous and tower behind you as you stare out over Lake Michigan. It’s also one of my favorite places to watch the sunset.
So if you’re planning a day trip or a weekend getaway, you really can’t go wrong with Lake Michigan’s beach towns. There are so many options to choose from and I had a hard time narrowing it down to my top three. Lake Michigan is so gorgeous and is comparable to the ocean. If you live in the midwest, and need a beach vacation that is slightly closer to home than the ocean, Lake Michigan is the place for you. I am so lucky to have it so close to me and can’t recommend it enough. What do you think? If you’ve been to any of the towns on Michigan’s side of Lake Michigan, let me know where you went in the comments below!
See also: My US Travel Bucket List