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South Haven MI: 15 BEST Things to Do

kids playing on south haven beach

South Haven MI: 15 Top Things to Do

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

Then read on, because we’re sharing some our favorite things to do in this fun 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 charming downtown shopping and dining area.

It’s also a favorite romantic getaway for couples, lured by the many cozy B-and-B’s and nearby wineries.

If you’re looking for the perfect Lake Michigan vacation with wide, sandy beaches along the shoreline and lots of outdoor activities, look no further than beautiful South Haven, Michigan, one of the top Michigan beachtowns.

south haven travel guide

Plan a South Haven 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 walkable pier, lighthouse and busy harbor.

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.    

You’ll find lots of natural beauty, too, like Pilgrim Haven Natural Area, a public nature preserve with abundant wildlife.

Read on for the 15 best thing to do in South Haven, MI and start planning your visit!

South haven beach guide

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.

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.

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.

South Haven MI does an excellent job of providing accessibility to the public beaches for users of wheelchairs and other mobility devices, too.

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

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. 

Map of South Haven beaches

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. 

  • 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

Do Some South Haven Shopping

If you visit South Haven, don’t miss these spots as you travel down Phoenix St, the town’s main street.

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. 

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.

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.

southwest michiagn wineries

Discover the South Haven Wineries

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 up to Grand Rapids.

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.

lake michigan lighthouses

Take a Selfie at the South Haven Lighthouse

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 Lake Michigan vistas.

See a Historic War Ship at the Michigan Maritime Museum

Much of the fun and excitement in South Haven 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 is part of a five-ship fleet docked at the museum.

Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum and Gardens

Visit this National Historic Site, garden, park, museum and educational outreach center. It 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 

Bike the Kal Haven Trail

This 33-mile 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.

Go Hiking in Van Buren State Park

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 South Haven 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. 

Visit the South Haven Blueberry Festival

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 a Race at the Gingerman Raceway

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.

Celebrate at the South Haven 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.

The South Haven Visitors Bureau shares updated information on local cultural attractions.

About the Author

Bella DiMascio is a content writing intern for mymichiganbeach.com. 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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