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There’s something about a trip to Lake Michigan that’s hard to beat. From the gentle, rolling waves to the sandy shorelines, Lake Michigan has long promoted a sense of wonder and exploration that’s linked very much to its role as part of the Great Lakes.

South Haven, Michigan, on the state’s western edge, holds its title as Lake Michigan harbor town closely and proudly. The scenic beauty, small-town feel and charm that encompass this destination draw visitors from near and far in the name of family-fun, relaxing getaways and of course, delicious dining opportunities.

With so much to see and do, it can seem a little overwhelming when you’re trying to plan a first-time itinerary to South Haven. Between the vineyards, farms, beaches, shopping and dining it’s possible to stay well-beyond your intended vacation and still not get to everything you want to see and experience.

If you have a limited amount of time, here are 5 of the must-do activities in South Haven to ensure your first-time trip to this fantastic city is everything it should be and more.

South Haven Lighthouse

South Haven Lighthouse during the winter. Photo by bennobok8908 on Pixabay.

South Haven Lighthouse during the winter. Photo by bennobok8908 on Pixabay.

The city of South Haven was built on a history of maritime culture, and nothing stands as a reminder more than the South Haven Lighthouse. It’s hard to miss with its beautiful red façade contrasted against the blue waters of the lake at 355 Hubbard Street. While it’s amazing to admire, it’s also a testament to the story of time.

Built in the early 1870s, the old wood lighthouse tower was replaced with a new 35′ cylindrical metal tower in 1903. Come and witness the architecture of maritime safety before strolling down the pier and finishing off the day at the beach. There’s nothing like a shoreside day to remind you of just how integrated the water is with this community.

South Haven Fishing Charters

Fishing boat at sunset. Photo provided by author.

Fishing boat at sunset. Photo provided by author.

An essential part of experiencing a harbor town to the fullest is getting out on the water and seeing what it’s all about. Booking a charter with South Haven Fishing Charters is a guaranteed way to expand your horizons and come back with an amazing catch.

Hop aboard a 30-foot SeaRay Express Cruiser alongside Captain Jeff and Captain Rob for an unforgettable adventure at sea. Customized packages are available for those looking for a more relaxed cruise on the lake or a vigorous attempt at reeling in a prize fish. All vessels and captains are fully licensed and come equipped with the gear you need to get out and cast a line in South Haven style. Onboard radar systems allow the captain to successfully track schools of local fish and point out incredible species along the way.

McIntosh Cellars

Wine cellar

Michigan has been producing fine wines for close to a century! Image by StockSnap on Pixabay

When you’re in the mood to taste the authentic flavors of South Haven, make your way towards McIntosh Cellars at 6731 107th Avenue. This family-owned winery specializes in crafting delicious and traditional hard ciders alongside a selection of wines that are sure to please the palate. Stop by for a chance to get an insider’s look at the process while also sampling the fare!

If you happen to be in town on a Friday evening between the hours of 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm, make plans to be in the area then for a delicious get-together where guests enjoy pizza and a pint on-site. Even if you’re not in the mood for a beverage, a stop at McIntosh Cellars provides stunning orchard views that shouldn’t be missed.

Michigan Maritime Museum

Lindy Lou excursion boat at the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Lindy Lou excursion boat at the Michigan Maritime Museum. By Chris LightOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Good things in life are worth fighting for and its this philosophy that pushes the Michigan Maritime Museum forward. This incredible establishment is worth a stop when you’re in the mood to indulge in South Haven’s maritime roots, get an inside look at waterway preservation efforts and even get out on the water for a ride unlike any other.

The museum is made up of five buildings that host permanent and revolving exhibits that highlight The Great Lakes but feature those topics which most closely relate to Michigan. Exhibits cover the history of marine trade and travel with displays that speak to boat building, sailing equipment and the skills needed to master the water. Both mysterious and essential to shoreline communities, the water has long called to adventurers and the residents of South Haven feel the pull just as strongly.

In the name of exploration and education, the museum also offers a variety of boat tours that feature riverboats and large vessels of all kinds. It’s also affiliated with a reconstructed War of 1812-era topsail sloop used in the North American fur trade, the 47-ton Friends Good Will. Sail on a replica tall ship, river cruiser or lifeboat when you’re here for a chance to get an authentic feel for the many ways to take to the waves.

Wild West Ranch

Horseback riding.

Horseback riding. Image by PixelwunderByRebecca on Pixabay

While the scenery of South Haven is sure to thrill, there’s a connection with creatures in this community that can’t be denied and is best experienced at Wild West Ranch. This well-loved stable gives visitors a chance to hit the many South Haven trails on horseback while learning what it takes to care for and handle these majestic animals.

For those longing for the experiences of a time gone by, Wild West Ranch provides romantic carriage rides in the summer and sleigh rides across South Haven in the winter months. Younger riders can take advantage of on-site pony rides as they have their first encounters with animals that are sure to capture their minds and imaginations! Experienced and helpful staff are always on hand to instruct prior to rides, meaning you don’t have to be an expert to make the most of this horseback adventure in South Haven.

South Haven is Waiting for You

Blueberry Festival South Haven, Michigan

The National Blueberry Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, is an annual celebration of blueberries held on the second weekend of August each year in beautiful South Haven, Michigan!

While these activities are sure to help you create lifelong memories during your first journey to South Haven, it’s a city that tends to see travelers returning time and again in the name of outdoor adventure and many beautiful beaches to be enjoyed. Don’t be surprised to find yourself planning your next trip before the first one has reached its end! South Haven is a warm and welcoming city that’s worth a return visit once you’ve gotten a taste for the beauty it brings to a getaway.

Learn more about visiting South Haven, Michigan at:

Reference for South Haven Lighthouse information:


Caitlyn Knuth is a travel writer whose personal adventures have motivated her to write about everything from the most delicious cafés in Paris to the breathtaking salmon runs in Juneau, Alaska. Working alongside Beachwalk Properties, she has fallen in love with writing about the inspiring destination of South Haven in hopes that others will head to Michigan in the name of history, travel, and family-fun adventures of their very own.

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The image in the header above was taken by manalshakir on Pixabay of the South Haven Lighthouse in South Haven, Michigan, USA.

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5 must-do experiences in South Haven, Michigan.

5 must-do experiences in South Haven, Michigan.

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