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20 BEST Things to Do in South Haven Michigan

beach in south haven michigan
Beach in South Haven Michigan

South Haven Michigan: 20 Top Things to Do

Looking for the best things to do in South Haven Michigan?

Then read on, because we’re sharing some of our favorite things to do in this bustling West Michigan beach town.

South Haven is a favorite beach vacation destination for travelers, who flock to the freshwater coast for the wide, sandy Lake Michigan beaches and its fun summer resort-town atmosphere. You’ll also find cultural attractions, charming downtown shopping and a wide range of dining spots, too.

Whether you’re planning a day trip, weekend road trip or vacation getaway, there is no end to the pure Michigan fun to be found in South Haven. If you’re visiting South Haven Michigan with kids, be sure to check out our kid-friendly activities on the list, too!

Use this Michigan travel guide to learn the 15 best things to see and in South Haven Michigan and plan your visit soon!

PRO-TIP: South Haven is also a favorite romantic getaway for couples, lured by the many cozy Inns, nearby wineries an stunning Lake Michigan sunsets.

South Haven Michigan Map

Map of south haven michigan

Directions to South Haven Michigan

By Plane: You can fly into Gerald R. Ford International Airport is located in Grand Rapids, just over an hour away. Rent a car for an easy drive along US 196 to South Haven.

By Train: Amtrak has a stop in New Buffalo, Michigan, just an hour south of South Haven. Rent a car an enjoy the drive noth along US 94 highway toward US 196.

By Car: From Detroit, it’s a three-hour car ride west; from Chicago, it’s just two hours.

south haven michgan lighthouses
South Haven Michigan Pier

Best Things to Do on Your South Haven Michigan Vacation

Charming South Haven is the ultimate Michigan beach town, right up there with St. Joseph and Grand Haven.

You’ll love the well-manicured and sprawling lakefront, where you’ll find a sandy beaches, a walkable pier, two lighthouses and busy harbor filled with pleasure and fishing boats.

Downtown South Haven is Michigan beach town perfection, too. The streets are lined with toy shops, beachwear and gift retailers and other specialty shops. The quaint downtown shopping district is completely walk-able and dripping with brightly-colored flowers along the wide sidewalks.    

There’s a lot to do outdoors, too: South Haven is one of the top southwest Michigan “trail towns,” with endless miles of hiking trails. You’ll find lots of natural beauty, too, like Pilgrim Haven Natural Area, a public nature preserve with abundant wildlife, and other great spots for hiking, biking and kayaking.

south beach in south haven michigan
South Beach in South Haven Michigan

Visit the Downtown South Haven Beaches

Spending time at the beach should top any Michigan beach town to-do list and South Haven is no exception. After all, it’s one of the top Michigan beachtowns.

There are two beaches in located right in South Haven you won’t want to miss if you’re in the area, and many more in the surrounding areas. Popular North Beach and South Beach are located in downtown South Haven, and both are clean and well-manicured.

They’re also picturesque: the iconic, red South Haven Light and pier are the pretty subject of many a postcard and calendar.

If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Friends Good Will, a replica of a historic square-rigged merchant sloop from the War of 1812 that is operated by the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Map of South Haven beaches

Lake Michigan Water Safety: Lake Michigan is known for unpredicable surf, which can cause rip currents and oter conditions unsafe for swimming. Please take caution when swimming.

South Haven’s North Beach

Both North Beach and South Beach come alive in the warm summer months, when visitors flock to the wide beaches that are complete with all of the amenities for a perfect beach day.

North Beach is one of the two largest and most frequently used beaches in South Haven.

South Haven MI does an excellent job of providing accessibility to the public beaches for users of wheelchairs and other mobility devices, too. This ADA accessible beach has concession stands, restrooms, play equipment, and parking areas, as well as wide- paved pathways that make it very comfortable to navigate.

Additionally, North Beach has volleyball courts set up for beach volleyball games.

South Haven’s South Beach

Like North Beach, South Haven’s South Beach is among the largest and most popular beaches.This beach is also ADA accessible and has many similar amenities, like concession stands, restrooms, play equipment, parking areas and wide, paved pathways.

At South Beach however, you can find the iconic big red lighthouse along the pier that juts out into the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan. 

PRO-TIP: If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to check out the cool Friends Good Will Splash Pad just east of South Beach on the Black River channel. It’s modeled after a pirate ship! This is top kid-friendly stop in Michigan worth visiting.

south haven beach guide

Discover More South Haven Beaches

While North Beach and South Beach are popular destinations, there are still plenty of beaches to explore in and around South Haven. Here are some of our favorites and some of the things that make them special. Use our Guide to the Best South Haven Beaches for more complete information, including info on beach parking.

  • Casco Township Nature Preserve: Beach, Swimming, Wheelchair-Accessible, Walking Path, Restrooms
  • Covert Beach: Beach, Swimming, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Grills, General Store, Paddle Boards
  • Deerlick Creek: Beach, Swimming, Dog-friendly, Rustic Toilets
  • Dyckman Park Beach: Beach, Wheelchair-Accessible Ramp to Water, Swimming
  • Newcome Beach: Beach, Swimming, Roadside Parking
  • Oak Street Beach: Beach, Swimming, Picnic Area
  • Packard Park Beach: Beach, Swimming, Dog-Friendly, Grill, Play Structure, Picnic Tales, Deck Overlooking Lake Michigan
  • Pilgrim Haven Beach: Beach, Swimming, Wheelchair-Accessible via Paved Barrier-Free Walkway to Beach, Wildlife Viewing, Hiking, Canoeing, Kayaking
  • Van Buren State Park: Beach, Wheelchair Accessible
  • Woodman Street Beach: Beach, Swimming
south haven shopping
The Blueberry Store in Downtown South Haven

Shopping South Haven: Favorite South Haven Stores

South Haven’s main street is Phoenix St, where you’ll find a mix of cute boutiques, eclectic eateries, galleries and more. Don’t miss these favorite spots when you visit the city of South Haven!

  • Bayberry Cottage, featuring a selection of home furnishings and accessories ranging  from country primitives to fine linens. Find whimsical clocks, lamps, candles, bath and bedding tucked into two floor-to-ceiling showrooms and more. This is a favorite South Haven shopping spot.
  • Center Street Emporium, with a collection of work made by local artists and artisans from West Michigan. The work ranges from traditional art such as paintings, prints and ceramics to jewelry, mobiles, baskets, photography, wood, fiber, natural soaps and balms, and locally made, natural jams, syrups, honey, dip & drink mixes.
  • Harbor Toy Company is a toy store for ages newborn to 99 and carries kites, educational toys, travel games, beach toys, sand toys, water toys, puzzles, board games and more.
  • Lakeshore Trends, a modern boutique with vintage charm. Find apparel, home decor, gifts, furniture, jewelry, and paint.
  • Nature’s Country Cupboard is a family owned specialty and health food store offering a wide variety of products, including aromatherapy, herbs, supplements, personal care products, specialty foods and kitchen gadgets, home décor, Michigan products, fudge, and more.
restaurant in south haven michigan

Visit Our Favorite South Haven Restaurants

  • Captain Nemo’s has been serving South Haven for 25 years. Burgers, quesadillas & ice cream waffle cones are offered in this charming diner with a nautical theme.
  • Clementine’s is a well-known South Haven destination: a casual dining family restaurant located in a refurbished former bank. The building itself is historically significant, built in 1896 and featuring a golden cupola. Try the famous “Matilda’s Cheese Dip,” made with fontina and parmesan cheeses baked with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and baby spinach…it’s just marvelous.
  • Golden Brown Bakery on Phoenix Street has been a South Haven staple since 1938. This full-service bakery also offers breakfast and lunch in their adjacent dining room.
  • Maria’s Taste of Italy is a cheery, long-time South Haven favorite. You’ll find authentic Italian staples like homemade sausage, meatballs and pizza.
  • Captain Lou’s Dockside Eatery is where you’ll find tasty burgers, tacos and other bar fare, as well as some cold drinks.
southwest michiagn wineries

Discover the South Haven Wineries and Explore the Southwest Michigan Wine Trail

Located on the Southwest Michigan Wine Trail, South Haven is home to award-winning wineries and craft breweries making it a favorite for wine and beer lovers alike. 

Local vintners have taken advantage of the near-perfect growing conditions of the Lake Michigan coast, and have created some unique and delicious wines making this a key stop on the Lake Michigan shore wine trail – which stretches from Kalamazoo MI and Battle Creek north to Grand Rapids.

Must-Visit South Haven Area Wineries

  • 12 Corners Vineyards Tasting Room is the place to sample wines from an award-winning vineyard that spans 115-acres with both vinifera and hybrid grapes. The 12 Corners Tasting Room serves Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and more at their downtown South Haven location. The oak barrel-aged Marquette, a dry red wine with savory notes of blackberries and cherries followed with a soft kiss of black pepper is a favorite.
  • Cogdal Vineyards is the best place to experience innovative wines in an intimate setting just a 1/2 mile from the shores of Lake Michigan. In addition to traditional reds and whites, they also male a special Maple wine made from maple syrup harvested at the vineyard. Their “Little Man” wines are award-winning blends; try the Nana’s Kiss, a fruity rose.
  • Fenn Valley Vineyard is located north of South Haven in Fennville. This award-winning vineyard and an important stop on the Lake Michigan shore winery map and worth every minute of the drive. In addition to wine tasting and educational wine tours, guests visiting the gorgeous Fennville Estate can enjoy a glass of wine and a small plate, stroll through actual production vineyards, or even have a picnic. The dry, red Capriccio is very good: add it to your list.
  • Warner Vineyards, a winery in nearby Paw Paw, Michigan, has a tasting room in downtown South Haven that is definitely worth a visit, especially for their wine slushies.
best south haven breweries

Try the South Haven Breweries

South Haven has made a name for itself among the big names of West Michigan brewing. With more than seven local breweries in the area, visitors flock to this town to enjoy unique flavors while surrounded by the natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Best South Haven Craft Breweries

  • Harbor Light Brewery is a one-of-a-kind location, with 20 original house-made beers on tap and 6 ciders. This 130-year-old building in downtown South Haven offers menus from area eateries or food from one of their local partners.
  • South Haven Brewpub is located in historic Old Harbor Village and offers unique hand-crafted beer and cocktails as well as a full food menu and outside seating. This South Haven microbrewery also offers some truly unique tastes in the form of ciders, Shandies, ales and more.
  • Three Blondes Brewing is a fun, family-owned brewery in South Haven. It a casual dining atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor seating, too. They serve up quality inspired craft brews alongside creative and eclectic pub fare including pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, and shareable plates. They serve a Russian Imperial Stout called DG7  with raspberry and vanilla that is inimitable.
south haven michigan lighthouse

Take a Selfie at the South Haven Lighthouse

Grab a selfie with this picturesque rd lighthuse in the background. The historic South Haven Pierhead Light has guarded the entrance of the Black River for over 100 years. Walk along the 1200-foot pier and enjoy stunnng Lake Michigan vistas.

Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum and Gardens
903 S Bailey Ave, South Haven, MI 49090

Visit this National Historic Site, garden, park, museum and educational outreach center that celebrates the life and contributions of the South Haven-born “Father of Modern Horticulture.” Many of the items in this museum have been left unchanged, and you’ll develop an appreciation for Bailey’s “New Agrarian” ideas a you stroll the lovly gardens.

Kids Corner Playground

PLEASE NOTE: The popular Kids Corner Playground on Monroe is undergoing an extensive revamp. The new playground will feature acccesible playground equipment. Stay tuned for more information.

Bike the Kal Haven Trail

This 33-mile bike trail and former railroad bed has a limestone/slag surface. It links the city of South Haven to the city of Kalamazoo. The Kalhaven trail crosses over bridges, passes through small towns and by points of historical interest. It’s a preferred destination for those who enjoy hiking, biking, cross country skiing and snowmobiling.

The friends good will ship in south haven Michigan
The Friends Good Will, an 1812 replica ship operate by the Michigan Maritime Museum

See a Historic War Ship at the Michigan Maritime Museum
260 Dyckman Ave, South Haven, MI 49090

Much of the fun and excitement here is centered around the town’s nautical ties. These ties are carefully preserved and celebrated at the Michigan Maritime Museum.The perfect spot for every Great Lakes enthusiast, the Michigan Maritime Museum has hands-on exhibits at their waterfront campus  and historically immersive experiences aboard the on-water fleet.

You can even ride the waves on a square-rigged sloop: a reproduction of an 1812 warship called the “Friends Good Will.” The Friends Good Will Tall Ship is part of a five-ship fleet docked at the museum.

Go Hiking in Van Buren State Park
23960 Ruggles Rd, South Haven Charter Twp, MI 49090

One full mile of sandy beaches and towering dunes and trails to wander through makes Van Buren State Park a must-see on any trip to the area. In addition to camping, there is also biking, hiking, and metal detecting. Additionally, you’ll find a picnic area with shelter, playground, and restrooms for day use. 

Guide to Lake Arvesta in South Haven

Check Out Lake Arvesta Farms Outdoor Waterpark
06464 Arvesta Drive, South Haven, MI 49090

This outdoor adventure venue has many fun activities to offer. From a four-lake Aqua Park, swimming, kayaking, pickle ball and disc golf to wake boarding, boat rides and paddleboarding, Lake Arvesta Farms has something for everyone.

Lake Arvesta is a great trip in Michigan to plan for a day, or as an amazing event space. It’s also a great place to your kids to burn off some energy while having a great time outoors.

Visit the South Haven Blueberry Festival on August 10-13, 2023

Blueberries and South Haven are practically synonymous around the west Michigan area. Every August, celebrants come from far and wide to pay homage to this delicious local treat during the National Blueberry Festival. You can find even more fun Michigan fairs and festivals in our Ultimate Guide to Michigan Summer Festivals.

Take in Exhibit at the South Haven Center for the Arts

The South Haven Center for the Arts hosts a variety of exhibitions throughout the year featuring local and regional artists, as well as hosting a number of events throughout the year, including art fairs, concerts, and festivals.

south haven petting zoo

Pet Some Farm Animals at Bumbleberry Acres
6785 Baseline Rd, South Haven, MI 49090

One of my favorite farm markets in southwest Michigan, Bumbleberry Acres has more than U-Pick Pumpkins and Blueberries. You’ll also find farm animals to pet including bunnies, goats, donkeys and more. Your young ones will love vsiting this farm and taking a tractor ride tour. This is a fun spot to see fall colors and pick your own pumpkin from the patch!

Take in a Race at the GingerMan Raceway
61414 Co Rd 388, South Haven, MI 49090

Watch sports cars and motorcycles as they watch around the course at this two-mile track.

Explore the Michigan Flywheelers Museum

This unique Van Buren County Musuem is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of antique gas/steam engines and tractors. Located on close to 80 acres, the museum features displays of old farm machinery, a sawmill and shingle mill. Additionally, you can explore along with “Olde Town” – a 1920s era community. It’s filled with businesses like Over The Forge blacksmith shop, Abbert & Sons Farm Machinery Repair and Old Tyme Jail.

Pick Your Own Fruit at Overhiser Orchards
6405 109th Ave, South Haven, MI 49090

You can have fresh fruit all season long if you visit this sprawling fruit orchard. You’ll find tasty U-Pick cherries, peaches, plums, pears, and apples here, as well as some pretty views of the rolling countryside.

South haven fireworks

Celebrate at the Fourth of July Fireworks

This town knows how to celebrate: check out  the spectacular South Haven Fourth of July Fireworks celebration. It is aptly named “Light up the Lake,” and that draws massive crowds annually. Plan your trip so you have a chance to catch these amazing fireworks.

Watch the Dyckman Bridge Go Up and Down

The Dyckman drawbridge spans the Black River in downtown South Haven, and rises to allow boating traffic up and down the river. It’s always fun to watch the bridge raise and lower as the big boats pass by.

More Things to Do in Southwest Michigan

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south haven travel guide

About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor at She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.


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