21 Best Things to Do in South Haven, Michigan

Nestled along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan in lower Michigan lies a lovely beach town called South Haven. South Haven is everything you imagine a picturesque lakeside town to be. Its history, culture, and tourism industry are fully shaped by its proximity to the lake, and maritime influences permeate every aspect of life here. 

South Haven is a place that thrives on tourism, and there plenty of things for visitors to do here. It can be hard to choose what’s worth your time and money. These 21 highlights of South Haven are all well-worth your consideration and will not disappoint. 

Naturally, most of South Haven’s best attractions are related to Lake Michigan. You’ll find a variety of ways to experience the lake and its shores, from beaches to boats and even a lighthouse.

Other outdoor activities, such as parks, preserves, and trails, allow you to explore the wetland area formed where the Black River meets Lake Michigan. Whether you travel by foot or by bike, you’ll find the area rich in wildlife and scenic beauty.

Lake Michigan

Agriculture is also important in this area, and South Haven offers many opportunities to sample the fruit of the earth. Blueberries are so important to this area that the town hosts the National Blueberry Festival each year. You’ll find a variety of U-Pick farms, and orchards, as well as vineyards offering wine tastings and selling locally-produced fruit wines. 

History buffs will find several museums dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of South Haven and the Lake Michigan coastal area. From ships to tractors to botany, there are plenty of chances to learn more and experience more of South Haven, beyond its beautiful beaches.

Whether you’re looking to spend your vacation relaxing on the beach, being active on outdoor adventures, eating something delicious, learning something new, or a mix of all these things, South Haven is the perfect getaway!

Experience Lake Michigan

1. North Beach

North Beach

When to go: Summer season. Beach is open from daylight until 11:00PM.
Where: 45 Lakeshore Drive, South Haven (map)
Cost: Parking fee applies between May 15 and Sept. 15 between the hours of 9AM and 6PM. Fees are $1 per hour, $10 per day, or $30 per week.
Website: https://www.southhavenmi.gov/parks_and_recreation/beaches.php 

North Beach is one of the largest and most popular beach areas in South Haven. Conveniences such as public restrooms, a concession stand, a playground, and beach volleyball areas are all reasons that this is one of South Haven’s top attractions.

Expect a clean, beautiful beach with soft “sugar” sand and a shallow swimming area perfect for kids and families. Don’t miss the chance to get some delicious ice cream, dig your toes in the sand, listen to the waves, and watch the boats go by.

2 South Beach

south beach michigan

When to go: Summer season. Beach is open from daylight until 11:00PM.
Where: 60 Water Street, South Haven (map)
Cost: Parking fee applies between May 15 and Sept. 15 between the hours of 9AM and 6PM. Fees are $1 per hour, $10 per day, or $30 per week.
Website: https://www.southhavenmi.gov/parks_and_recreation/beaches.php 

South Beach gets its name from being South Haven’s only public beach on the south side of the river. Together with North Beach, it is the other largest and most popular beach area in South Haven. At South Beach, you’ll find concessions, a playground, and public restrooms.

This is also the location of the striking South Haven Lighthouse. If you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing day at the beach, South Beach is often less crowded than North Beach.

3. South Haven Lighthouse

South Haven Lighthouse

When to go: During nice weather
Where: Accessed from South Beach (map)
Cost: Free
Website: https://southhavenlight.org/ 

This bright red beacon was owned and used by the U.S. Coast Guard until it was given to the Historical Association of South Haven in 2010 to be preserved. Walk out to the lighthouse along the pier that extends from South Beach near the mouth of the Black River.

The walk along the pier is lovely during the day or even after sunset, when the pier is beautifully lit. Avoid the exposed, wet walk during high winds. The lighthouse is only open to tour the inside (for a fee) on special occasions, such as the annual Blueberry Festival.

4. Charter a Boat with Jensen Charters

Jensen Charters Michigan Boat

When to go: Charters by appointment, best between Memorial Day and Labor Day
Where: 394 Dyckman Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: Tours starting at $35 per person
Website: https://www.jensencharters.com/ 

Plan a private tour, or join a regularly scheduled daytime or sunset cruise. Bring your own refreshments and explore Lake Michigan aboard the Elsie J., a renovated fishing tug.

Tuesdays through Saturdays, the crew at Jensen teams up with the Friends Good Will tall-ship from the Michigan Maritime Museum to take passengers on reenacted pirate treasure raids. Don’t miss this unique and memorable experience!

Outdoor Adventures in Pure Michigan

Kal Haven Trail

5. Kal Haven Trail

When to go: Year-round! Bring walking shoes or a bike in the warmer months, or take cross-country skis or a snowmobile in the winter
Where: The trail connects South Haven to Kalamazoo; The trailhead is off of Bailey Road (map)
Cost: Free
Website: https://www2.dnr.state.mi.us/ParksandTrails/Details.aspx?id=353&type=SPTR 

The Kal Haven Trail links the cities of Kalamazoo and South Haven, and gets its name from these two places. The trail is 33 miles long and offers a well-maintained, crushed limestone surface that is perfect for walking or biking.

Since this path used to be a railroad line, the trail is relatively flat and straight. Stop along the way to enjoy historical points of interest. You’ll cross lovely bridges and pass through picturesque small towns. Whether you traverse the whole trail or just a short section, you’ll love the beautiful, tree-lined Kal Haven Trail.

6. Van Buren State Park

Van Buren State Park

When to go: Open daily from 8AM-10PM
Where: 23960 Ruggles Road, South Haven (map)
Cost: Michigan Recreation Passport required ($9 per day or $34 per year for non-residents)
Website: https://www2.dnr.state.mi.us/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=502&type=SPRK 

Van Buren State Park is on the shores of Lake Michigan, so it offers a lovely beach area, as well as protected high-dune formations. Take a hike on a wooded trail that ends with a picnic on the beach.

The day-use area has picnic facilities and public restrooms. There is also a campground with electric hookups in the park. The 400-acre park can be reached by car or via the 3-mile biking and walking path that connects Van Buren State Park with downtown South Haven.

7. Rent a Bike from Rock ‘n’ Road

Rock ‘n’ Road Rent Bike Michigan

When to go: Open Monday-Friday 11AM-5PM, Saturdays 10AM-3PM, Sundays 11AM-2PM
Where: 315 Broadway St, South Haven (map)
Cost: Call (269) 639-0003 for rates and reservations
Website: https://www.rocknroad.bike/ 

South Haven is a bike-friendly city with a variety of biking trails and bike lanes on the roads downtown. Using bikes to get around lets you experience the city from a unique perspective and saves money on gas and parking.

There are several places to rent bikes in South Haven, but Rock ‘n’ Road has the largest rental fleet in lower Michigan. Specialty bikes like e-bikes, tandems, kids’ bikes, and tag-alongs are also available. 

8. Packard Park

packard park beach

When to go: Open from 8AM-10PM every day, year round
Where: 231 North Shore Drive, South Haven (map)
Cost: Park is free. Parking fees may apply.
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/packard-park-south-haven 

Enjoy this quiet neighborhood park with an observation deck overlooking Lake Michigan and beach access. There are picnic facilities and a playground, and if you want a break from the beach, relax in the shade of the old oak trees.

Public restrooms are available, and this is also a great place to launch a canoe or kayak for a day on the water. (Carry-in boat access only.)

9. Black River Preserve

Black River Preserve

When to go: Open year-round from dawn until dusk
Where: 69401 8th Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: Free
Website: https://swmlc.org/project/black-river-preserve/ 

Explore the wetland areas surrounding the Black River on one of seven trails, each less than a mile long, that give you access to this unique ecosystem. Birdwatchers will find themselves in a haven for waterfowl, and all nature lovers will enjoy the diversity of plant and animal life that is reclaiming this restored area.

Each season here has its own beauty, and the trails are open in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. If you have the opportunity, visit in the spring and summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom, or in the fall when brilliant foliage is on display. 

10. Stanley Johnston Park

Stanley Johnston Park

When to go: Open daily year-round from 8AM-10PM
Where: 202 Dyckman Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: Free
Website: https://www.michiganwatertrails.org/location.asp?ait=av&aid=1331 

Enjoy this peaceful setting that overlooks the port, so you can watch the boats coming and going. A quiet community park, the Stanley Johnston Park has playground equipment, basketball courts, public restrooms, and picnic facilities.

There are plenty of large trees to provide shade, and a variety of historical markers to help you learn more about the area. Avoid the crowds but enjoy a relaxing day outside.

11. Deerlick Creek Park

Deerlick Creek Park

When to go: Summer season
Where: 76773 13th Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: Free (including free parking)
Website: https://www.michiganwatertrails.org/location.asp?ait=av&aid=118 

Deerlick Creek Park has access to the Lake Michigan shore with a more rocky beach. In addition to enjoying the water, visitors to Deerlick Creek Park like to collect unusual stones and fossils that can often be found in the park.

When the water levels are high, the beach is relatively small, but it is one of few beach areas in South Haven that allows dogs. It is a quiet, peaceful, and wooded spot to soak in the sights and sounds of Lake Michigan.

12. Kids’ Corner Playground

Kids’ Corner PlaygroundKids’ Corner Playground

When to go: Open 8AM-10PM daily, year-round
Where: 82 Monroe Street, South Haven (map)
Cost: Free
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/kids-corner-south-haven 

This large and unique playground is an exciting stop for kids of all ages. There are picnic facilities and benches for the adults, but kids are unlikely to sit for very long as the many facets of the all-wood play structure beckon.

The environment encourages creative and imaginative play, through both the natural feel of the equipment and the proximity to the lake. A visit to Kids’ Corner is easily combined with nearby South Beach.

13. Riverfront Park / Riverfront Concert Series

Riverfront Concert Series

When to go: Park is open daily from 7AM-10PM year round; Free concerts are held on Thursdays at 7PM during the season, which begins in May
Where: Water Street, South Haven (map)
Cost: Free (including free parking)
Website: https://www.southhavenmi.gov/parks_and_recreation/riverfront_concert_series.php 

Riverfront Park is a beautifully landscaped park overlooking the Southside Marina. It’s a great place to take a walk on the walking path or enjoy the picnic areas. Grills and restroom facilities are available for convenience.

Each year, starting in May, the park hosts the Community Riverfront Concert Series each Thursday evening. The free event features live music in a variety of styles. Check the website for more details so you won’t miss this wonderful event!

The Fruit of the Earth

14. Bumbleberry Acres

Bumbleberry Acres South Haven

When to go: Open Thursday-Sunday from 9AM-6PM; Closed Monday-Wednesday. Activities vary by season, but summer and fall are best!
Where: 6785 Baseline Rd. South Haven (map)
Cost: $9 for adults (ages 11+), $5 for children (ages 5-10); Children under 5 free.
Website: https://www.bumbleberryacres.com/ 

Visit Bumbleberry Acres for a variety of U-Pick fruits, berries, and vegetables. The selection varies by season, of course, but Bumbleberry also offers many other farm-themed activities that are perfect for the whole family.

Visit the miniature farm animals, take a wagon ride, and more. In the fall, make your way through the 10-acre corn maze, decorate a pumpkin, then check out the obstacle course, climbing wall, or giant slide.

15. McIntosh Orchards

mcintosh cellars

When to go: Open on weekends. Hours vary by season.
Where: 6431 107th Avenue, South Haven (map)
Cost: Prices vary depending on product purchased.
Website: http://www.mcintoshorchards.com/ 

Spend the day picking apples or other fruit at the McIntosh Orchards. Sample some of their fresh and delicious apple cider, apple cider donuts, or homemade fudge. For the adults, McIntosh Orchards is known for their unique selection of fruit wines.

The list includes strawberry, peach, and blueberry, plus unique combinations like Blushing Bare (pear and cranberry), and Red and Black (raspberry and blackberry blend). 

16. DeGrandchamp Farms

degrandchamp farms

When to go: U-Pick available daily in July and August. Market is open Fridays and Saturdays in September and October
Where: 76241 14th Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: Prices vary depending on product purchased. Online shopping available.
Website: https://degrandchamps.com/ 

The DeGrandchamp family blueberry farm has been in business for over 60 years. They’ve added 40 acres of cranberries to their 200 acres of blueberries, and their market is a tempting array of dried fruits, preserves, syrups, and other homemade items.

Availability varies by season, but this is a great place to pick up a local souvenir of your trip to South Haven. If you visit in the right season, there are U-Pick fields, as well as fresh fudge and baked goods in the market.

17. National Blueberry Festival

National Blueberry Festival

When to go: Held annually on the second weekend in August
Where: Various locations around South Haven. See website for a map.
Cost: No cost for the festival. Products available for purchase.
Website: https://www.blueberryfestival.com/ 

South Haven takes its blueberries very seriously, but on the second weekend in August each year, the whole city is celebrating. There are activities for kids and adults alike, including a craft fair, a basketball tournament, and a 5K run/walk.

Don’t miss the blueberry pie social, the pancake breakfasts, or the classic car show. There are concerts and even a pageant. And so many blueberries, your mouth and fingers will be purple for days – but it won’t matter because so will everyone else’s! 

18. Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

When to go: Anytime! Special events are offered during Michigan Wine Month each May. Mark your calendar for the annual Wine Festival on the 3rd Saturday in June.
Where: 2 South Haven Vineyards are a part of the Wine Trail:
Cogdal Vineyards: 7143 107th Ave, South Haven (map)
12 Corners Vineyards Tasting Room: 511 Phoenix St, South Haven (map)
Cost: Tastings start at $10
Website: https://www.miwinetrail.com/ 

The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail is a collection of wineries and vineyards along Michigan’s lakeshore that stretch between the Indiana border and the city of Holland. Two of these distinguished vineyards are found in South Haven: Cogdal Vineyards and 12 Corners Vineyards.

Both have won numerous awards and are well-known in the region for being exceptional artisanal wineries. Celebrate Michigan’s wine country with a visit to one (or both!) of these vineyards for a wine tasting.

South Haven’s Museums

South Haven’s Museums

19. Michigan Maritime Museum

When to go: Museum is open Fridays and Saturdays 10AM-5PM
Where: 260 Dyckman Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: $8 per adult, $5 per child. Under 4 is free. Discounts for seniors, military, and educators; On-water experiences available for an additional fee.
Website: https://www.michiganmaritimemuseum.org/ 

The Michigan Maritime Museum is a collection of five different buildings that together house both permanent and temporary exhibits relating to the Great Lakes and life on the Lake Michigan coast throughout history.

They also have a fleet of five period boats, some replicas and some original, that can be viewed at the museum’s docks. These vessels are also used for on-water experiences which can be reserved for an additional fee. Imagine yourself sailing in open water for 90-minutes aboard the replica tall-ship, the Friends Good Will, from 1810!

20. Michigan Flywheelers Museum

michigan flywheelers museum

When to go: Visit during one of their 4 annual events:
Farm History Day in May, the Swap Meet in June, Kids Lawn Tractor Day in July, and the Antique Engine and Tractor Show in September
Where: 06285 68th Street, South Haven (map)
Cost: Admission fees vary depending on the event. See website for more information.
Website: https://michiganflywheelers.org/ 

Antique engines and tractors await at the Michigan Flywheelers Museum. It’s a lot more interesting that it may sound! This 80-acre museum features a wide variety of antique farm equipment, but even visitors who are not tractor enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the Olde Town.

Based on a Midwestern town from the 1920s, visitors to Olde Town can step back in time and watch the blacksmith hard at work, or see how the shingle mill works. There’s also a sawmill, a machine repair shop, and even an “Old Tyme” jail. 

21. Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum and Gardens

Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum and Gardens

When to go: Open seasonally. See website for details.
Where: 903 S. Bailey Ave, South Haven (map)
Cost: General admission / exploring the grounds is free. Other fees vary by event. Membership options available. Member of the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admission program
Website: https://www.libertyhydebailey.org/ 

This farmhouse from the 1850s was the birthplace of Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr., a botanist who is known as the “Father of Modern Horticulture.” The historic homestead houses a collection of artifacts from Bailey’s life, which tells not only his story, but the story of many who grew up on Midwestern farms in the late 1800s.

The museum also hosts rotating exhibits. Beyond the homestead, the grounds offer several horticultural gardens, a nature trail, and a historic blacksmith shop. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is South Haven, Michigan known for?

A: South Haven, Michigan is known for its incredible Lake Michigan coastline. Beautiful beaches, a variety of parks, marinas, and other attractions draw thousands of visitors each year. Much of South Haven’s history and culture is centered around its proximity to the lake. The South Haven lighthouse is also one of Michigan’s iconic coastal lighthouses.

Q: What can you do in South Haven, Michigan for free?

There are many free activities to enjoy in South Haven! There are several public beaches that are all free (although there is a fee for parking at some of them). Many events and festivals, such as the National Blueberry Festival, are free to attend and only have a cost if you choose to purchase something. Visit one of the many parks and preserves, walk or bike on the various trails, or attend the Riverfront Concert series – all for free! 

Q: What is the weather like in South Haven, Michigan?

A: South Haven has warm, mild summers and cold winters. Spring and fall have moderate temperatures but tend to be rainy. For outdoor activities, including enjoying all that Lake Michigan has to offer, the best time of year to visit is in the summer months, particularly July and August.

Q: What is the weather like in South Haven, Michigan?

A: South Haven has warm, mild summers and cold winters. Spring and fall have moderate temperatures but tend to be rainy. For outdoor activities, including enjoying all that Lake Michigan has to offer, the best time of year to visit is in the summer months, particularly July and August.

Q: How do you get to South Haven, Michigan?

A: By car, South Haven can easily be reached off of Interstate-196, which follows the Lake Michigan coastline in western Michigan. It is about a one-hour drive from Grand Rapids, MI or South Bend, IN. The closest airports are Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO), and Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids. 

Best Way to Spend a Day in South Haven

On a beautiful day in South Haven, rent a bike and spend the morning exploring a section of the Kal Haven trail, crossing bridges and enjoying the scenery. Ride back to South Beach for a picnic lunch on the beach.

Relax on the beach, take a swim, and walk the pier out to the South Haven lighthouse. Later in the afternoon, try a wine tasting at the 12 Corners Vineyard Tasting Room, then end the day with a sunset cruise on Lake Michigan with Jensen Charters. 

If the weather is less cooperative, explore the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum and the Michigan Maritime Museum. Book a cozy wine tasting along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. Stroll down toward the beach at sunset, since some of the most brilliant sunsets come on cloudy days.

Other locations to visit:

Christine Lindstrom

Christine Lindstrom is a freelance writer and digital nomad who has made travel her lifestyle. She is currently traveling in the United States in an RV with her husband and three kids. She is passionate about helping others learn to travel well and overcome common challenges, especially women and families. Why are you giving advice on Locally Guided? I love traveling so much that I've made it my lifestyle. Over 5 years ago, our family sold everything and moved into an RV so we could travel around the United States. I'm a digital nomad raising roadschooled kids. I write for Locally Guided so that I can share with others all the amazing places I've discovered along the way and help more people to realize their travel dreams. What was your first big trip you've ever taken? My family didn't travel very much when I was growing up, but when I was a teenager we took a big road trip through the southeastern United States. That was probably when the travel bug first bit me. What is your biggest wishlist trip? When the pandemic started in 2020, we had just started a big tour of national parks, starting from the Grand Canyon in Arizona up through Utah, Idaho, and Montana, into the Canadian Rockies and eventually on to Alaska. We had to cancel all of it. So that's probably the top of my wish list right now. What is one piece of advice you'd give people that want to travel more? Start small but get started. Take opportunities to be a tourist in your home town or places that can easily be a day trip. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can't do. There are lots of tips and tricks to make travel more affordable so that doesn't have to be an obstacle. It's always worth doing something even if it's not the dream trip of a lifetime.

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