23 Best Things to do in South Haven, Michigan

Michigan may be most known for Detroit and the automobile industry, but the state is much more. With 3,288 miles along the Great Lakes, it has the longest freshwater coast in the entire country. With so much coastline, there are bound to be many vacation communities nestled along the lake. South Haven, located on Michigan’s western border, and situated at the mouth of the Black River and Lake Michigan, is one of these highly desirable resort towns.

People from all over the Midwest and the country have been vacationing in South Haven since the early 1900s. They were attracted to the beautiful recreational harbor and easy lake access. Summer is the peak season for people flocking to South Haven, but the permanent residency is a modest 4,372.

Since most people looking for things to do in South Haven are likely visiting the area, much of what it has to offer will involve the lake. Boating, fishing, and watersports are all favorites of the Michiganders who find themselves venturing here. If you are in the region and looking for things to do, here are 23 of the best in South Haven, MI.

South Haven’s Natural Attractions

1. The City’s Beaches

Living directly on the lake has certain benefits. The biggest is the abundant access to the beach. South Haven’s residents have access to at least three public beaches and multiple more access spots for swimming and putting boats in the water. North Beach and South Beach are the town’s largest and most popular beaches. These beaches are free to use but charge for parking so the city can maintain and keep the areas clean. Each of the big beaches has amenities like concession stands, restrooms, grills, and picnic areas.

Beyond North and South Beach, locals and visitors can also check out Packard Park, with its own little beach, or access the water at three other public access areas throughout the city.

2. Kal Haven Trail State Park

The once-prolific railroads of the United States are utilized less and less in the modern world. The result is a series of former railways that many states and communities are paving and using as outdoor recreational trails. Michigan’s Kal Haven is one of these trails. It runs for 33 miles from Kalamazoo to South Haven, passing over beautiful bridges, through scenic villages, and alongside some historical sites. Using the trail is completely free and can be traveled by foot, bike, and winter vehicles when appropriate.

3. Van Buren State Park

Van Buren State Park is situated on the shores of the lake and is one of the most desirable places to enjoy the outdoors around South Haven. Campers, swimmers, metal detector hobbyists, and anyone else should check out this beautiful slice of Michigan’s natural splendor.

23 Best Things to do in South Haven, Michigan

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South Haven’s Sites and Activities

4. South Haven Lighthouse

Officially called the South Haven Pierhead Light, the local lighthouse was initially erected in 1872 and is still fully operational today. It stands directly at the mouth of the Black River, where the surf tends to get rough and entertaining when the weather is right. The local historical society has restored and maintained the lighthouse. It is free to visit for anyone who enjoys looking at such historical structures. All it takes is a short walk down the pier.

5. Bumbleberry Acres

Michigan is one of ten states that combine to contribute more than 95% of the country’s blueberry production. Bumbleberry Acres is South Haven’s contribution. It’s a fun little farm where families will enjoy picking their own berries, taking tractor tours of the land, purchasing some terrific local blueberry-flavored products, and petting some cute and cuddly farm animals. It’s a family-owned and operated business that’s been running in the community since the 1970s.

6. Lake Arvesta Farms

This place hails itself as Michigan’s ultimate outdoor adventure venue. It’s an accurate description. The property has courses for disc golf and pickleball, as well as venue spaces of all shapes and sizes to accommodate any group needing it. An aquapark is available for summer use, and even a small food stand serves burgers, hot dogs, nachos, and delicious sandwiches.

7. KJC ATV Rentals of South Haven

From the first buds of spring to the inaugural snowfall, a favorite activity of South Haven’s thrill-seekers is ATV riding along the beautiful wooded trails at KJC. Choose from one-person and two-person vehicles and enjoy the miles of terrain along with outdoor activities like horseshoes, picnic tables, a catch-and-release fishing pond, and a complementary fire pit to amp up the relaxation after a day of riding.

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8. Gingerman Raceway

A racing enthusiast named Daniel Schnitta opened Gingerman Raceway in 1995 to bring the sport to the South Haven area and share the sport with the local community. For amateur racing, Gingerman is an excellent facility. The venue prides itself on being the safest possible place to race, having kept safety in mind throughout the entire design process of the track. Additionally, the site allows spectators and racers to camp after a day of racing fun.

9. South Haven Center for the Arts

Initially founded by the American Association of University Women sponsorship in 1951, the South Haven Center for the Arts aims to enrich the community by encouraging local artists to practice their craft and foster the spread of artistic values around the city. The center has many permanent exhibits and is always adding and changing its collection. Parking is available on-site, and a visit here is always free. It’s a great way to expose yourself to the work of local artists.

10. Michigan Flywheelers Museum

The Flywheelers Museum is an 80-acre site maintained by a group of volunteers who aim to preserve the region’s heritage of locomotive and farm machinery. The museum hosts four events each year, one for each of the four seasons. These events are perfect for the community to come together and celebrate the rich history of South Haven. Farm History Day, Kids Lawn Tractor Day, the Swap Meet, and the Antique Engine and Tractor Show are all favorites of the local populace.

11. Michigan Maritime Museum

The staff on hand, as well as the volunteers at the Michigan Maritime Museum, are dedicated to sharing the maritime history of the Great Lakes with the public in enjoyable and interactive ways. With permanent and rotating exhibits available for viewing, educational community outreach, and special events, the museum is a South Haven neighborhood stalwart. The most popular thing the museum has to offer is a series of boat tours out onto Lake Michigan.

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12. Friends Good Will Sailing Tour

The Friends Good Will is a tall replica ship modeled after the boats built around 1810 and took part in the War of 1812. Taking a tour of the waters of Lake Michigan on this ship is a unique thrill that will make you feel like you’re a part of history. But beyond the usual tours offered on Friends Good Will, there’s also a pirate adventure cruise geared more toward children that will bring thrills for the whole family.

13. Lindy Lou Tour

The Lindy Lou is a smaller riverboat that holds about 12 passengers max, but its tours are no less thrilling than those of Friends Good Will. The trip on this boat covers only about three miles, but guests will learn all about the trading and commercial history of the Black River.

14. Smaller Boating Adventures

For a more intimate experience out on the water, the maritime museum has a few options to accommodate smaller groups. There’s the U.S. Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat, which was used in an old Disney Film, a small craft called Merry Time for romantic motor rides, and a beautiful classic racing yacht called the Bernida. Any of these options is perfect for a day out on the water.

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15. Friends Good Will Splash Pad

Built directly adjacent to South Beach during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, the unique splash pad has been a massive hit with local families. It’s off the main lake and provides a safe water option for kids when the water conditions get too rough. It’s modeled after the Friends Good Will ship as a tribute. It has been such a big hit with the community that it won 2021’s “Project of the Year Award” from Michigan’s American Public Works Association chapter.

16. Old Harbor Village

One of South Haven’s most quaint and charming areas is the shopping center known as Old Harbor Village. It’s modeled to look like an old New England town center with brick sidewalks and cozy neighborhood stores. The area features all kinds of unique shops and businesses to visit. No matter what you’re looking for here, you’ll be able to find it. As a bonus, Old Harbor Village is situated directly on the water, so the scenery is top-notch!

17. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park South Haven 

Suppose you’ve ever been on vacation with kids. In that case, you know the destination plays a considerable role in how smoothly a trip will go. Jellystone Park is designed to be family-friendly and provide a fun-filled trip for everyone. Here, guests can take a load off in one of Jellystone’s deluxe cabins or camping sites, enjoy the on-site playgrounds, or even play a round of golf on the private 18-hole course. The facility even hosts seasonal events such as Christmas in the Park.

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Unique Restaurants, Breweries, and Wineries in South Haven

18. The Idler

The Idler is a seasonal place only open during the warm months. Still, when it is open, everyone loves the open-air, outdoor environment. The establishment serves all types of great American fare and lots of seafood. There’s a kids’ menu, too, so the little ones can stay happy while the adults enjoy a nice meal out of the house.

19. McIntosh Orchards and Wine Cellars

Despite the name, McIntosh is a lot more than just stellar wine. The good people here also produce an entire line of ciders and craft beers. With a tasting room open to the public and dozens of drinks available for consumption, this business will indeed have something for all tastes. They also host regular special events and rent out their facility for private gatherings.

20. Cogdal Vineyards

Who doesn’t enjoy sipping an excellent local wine while enjoying fresh charcuterie? Cogdal Vineyards provides that experience for all guests who walk through the tasting room doors. Cogdal Vineyards was established in 2008, and they grow multiple varieties of grapes on their seven-acre property. Come check them out.

21. Clementine’s

Clementines, or Clem’s as known to locals, is in an old bank building, so just walking up to the restaurant is an experience in and of itself. Inside, you’ll find a spacious dining room serving warm American fare, suitable for all ages, from the youngest toddlers to the wisest elderly. The menu has fun names for its meals too!

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22. Captain Lou’s

Captain Lou’s is another seasonal restaurant, but it’s well worth the wait for the hot months, as it has won the honor of being one of Michigan’s top-5 waterfront bars. With great views of a drawbridge and passing ships on the river, it’s a beautiful spot to enjoy a cheeseburger after a long day in the Michigan sunshine.

23. Black River Tavern

Black River Tavern provides a classic pub setting that’s laid-back and kid-friendly. It’s a fun place for a group that doesn’t mind eating in a fast-paced, exciting atmosphere. The food is a favorite of the locals, and the tavern runs fun events like weekly trivia nights each Tuesday.

Conclusion:

For a smaller city, South Haven truly stands out as one of Michigan’s more popular resort towns. All of the attractions, both water-related and otherwise, are designed to engage, entertain, and satisfy guests and keep them coming back again and again. One thing is for sure, if you’re looking for an enjoyable lake vacation, South Haven, Michigan, has everything you’re looking for.

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