When Colin and I go on a vacation, spending time at the ocean is absolutely one of our favorite things to do. Our hearts are full of JOY when we look a the waves, smell the saltwater, admire the seagulls, feel the sand between our toes, take long beach walks, and play in the water. In fact, we plan on retiring by the beach someday.
But I have to say that spending time at Lake Michigan ranks awfully high as well. Sure it's not sporting 80-degree temperatures during the summer months like the Gulf waters do. But it looks like the ocean - minus the jelly fish. So naturally, Colin and I recently enjoyed a fabulous one-week vacation in South Haven, Michigan, which is located along this enormous body of water.
This was our fourth trip to this popular tourist destination in the past five years. While Colin and I typically thrive off of exploring new places, we welcomed the idea of making an easy 3 1/2 hour drive from Indianapolis to return to this wonderful community - a place where we were guaranteed to enjoy our stay. Not to mention that South Haven offers a variety of lovely beaches with public beach access which provide concession stands, places to picnic, beach volleyball, and daily/weekly parking passes. And there is lodging that offers private beach access for a more serene environment.
So back to this particular trip! After arriving just before dinner at the condo that we booked for the week, which was located directly on the popular North Beach, we ran out to the condo's expansive community patio to take in this gorgeous view. As we watched the waves and the Midwest gulls fly high in the air, our shoulders began to drop. It was starting to feel like we were on vacation!
Due to the power of hunger, we managed to pry ourselves away from this view and walked to the restaurant, Taste, which is rated South Haven's #1 restaurant on Trip Advisor. Taste is located downtown on South's Haven's happening road, Phoenix Street, and is particularly known for its small plates. It reminds me of a tapas bar. Somehow I didn't get pictures of our meal that evening (I'm going to blame this on being in vacation mode). But farther into this post I'll share pictures of the scrumptious meal that we enjoyed at Taste when we returned a second time that week! Later that night, we admired this lovely sunset as we enjoyed a glass of red wine. Pure heaven.
The second day it was in the high 60's/low 70's. So instead of going for a swim, we peacefully sipped our morning coffee as we walked along South Haven's Black River towards the historic lighthouse - which has existed for over 100 years. As we walked along the Black River, we admired the boats which are shown in the picture below. Boaters can go boat riding down the Black River to enter Lake Michigan.
Throughout our morning stroll, we admired the beautiful landscaping at nearby houses and bed and breakfasts - including these glorious flowers.
While we were walking that day, Colin noticed that he had a kink in his neck. In the past, this type of kink has led to having a seriously stiff neck. So we decided to just go grocery shopping that afternoon and eat in for the night. Yep. It was the perfect night for a rotisserie chicken, potato salad, and a vegetable salad!
On the third day, Colin's neck was still bothering him. But he thought that taking a peaceful walk would feel good. So we went to South Haven's popular Kal-Haven Trail State Park. This beautiful park provides a 34-mile bike trail that connects South Haven to the community, Kalamazoo. We stuck with walking versus renting bikes for this gorgeous trail, but saw plenty of walkers along the way.
For dinner that night, Colin and I went to the family-owned Italian restaurant, Maria's! This wonderful restaurant - where homemade Italian sausage is made every day - is located a few blocks from the center of South Haven's downtown. It's always packed with people! In the end, we determined that our meal would make just about any cheese lover happy.
For an appetizer, we ordered this delicious Caprese salad, which consisted of creamy mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and fragrant basil - topped with cream of balsamic and olive oil. You really can't go wrong with this salad at Maria's!
Then we enjoyed part of this SCRUMPTIOUS supreme pizza! The savory pepperoni and homemade sausage, paired with the fresh green peppers, pungent onion, earthy mushrooms, gooey cheese, dreamy tomato sauce, and delightful crust made our taste buds sooo happy! The leftovers the next day were also off the charts!
The following day we walked to one of our favorite stores, The Blueberry Store, in downtown South Haven.
This store offers a wide array of products which are made from the blueberries grown at a nearby farm called, True Blue Farms. Our favorite is the Blueberry Ground Coffee, which offers a fabulous blueberry aroma and a delicious, mild blueberry flavor. So it's no surprise that I'm drinking a cup of this special coffee right now as I'm writing this post!
While downtown, we also went into the dog boutique, Decadent Dogs. This adorable store offers dog supplies, cute decorations, treats, and cat items as well. If you click on this link, you can see a picture of the adorable shop dogs, Sandy and Gilligan!
In addition to wondering through the wide array of beach stores and gift shops downtown, we visited the independently owned Olive Cart - which offers a wide variety of yummy samples of extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, pasta, gourmet gifts, etc. You could easily spend hours testing all the oils and vinegars here, ranging from 25-year Dark Balsamic to Creme Brulee White Balsamic.
The next day it was rainy. At this point it was time for Colin to head to a care clinic and seek some medical assistance. One muscle relaxant later, we were on our way to the outlet mall, Tanger Outlets, in Byron Center. This outlet is about an hour drive north of South Haven, and is just south of Grand Rapids. With around 75 stores, there's a nice selection of shopping. But given how many retailers do not offer clothes for a variety of shapes and sizes, I was really happy to come across Torrid.
Torrid is a terrific store that accommodates sizes 12 through 28 for women, and designs its clothes to properly fit curves. Two employees who assisted me at Torrid, Molly and Rachael, were as nice as could be. They were also incredibly passionate about the body positivity that their store promotes - and the customers who have told them that their store has changed their lives. I LOVE the black Jeggings that I purchased there for my 5 '9" shape! I highly recommend checking this store out!
Thursday morning we parked our beach chairs in the sand just a few feet away from Lake Michigan and enjoyed our blueberry coffee. We savored every sip as we admired the Midwest gulls flying in the air, the sounds of the soothing waves coming to shore, and the glorious big body of water that looked like an ocean. After we were done with our coffee we took a lovely walk along the shoreline. The sand at North Beach felt SO GOOD underneath our feet.
Then we decided to drive 30 minutes north to the coastal community, Saugatuck.
Saugatuck has a wide array of art galleries and offers one of Condé Nast Traveler's top beaches in the world, Oval Beach. Pretty impressive, eh? As we drove back to South Haven, we stopped in the northern part of the community at the Cogdal Vineyards, which is less than half a mile from Lake Michigan.
We arrived an hour before it closed. While Colin was perfectly happy drinking a sprite - since he was taking muscle relaxants - I greatly appreciated the kind staff providing me with a variety of wines to sample before picking just the right one. Then we enjoyed sipping our beverages outside on the vineyard's lovely patio overlooking the grape vines.
On the drive back to our condo, we enjoyed stopping at some side streets by Lake Michigan and taking in the view.
After returning to our condo, we walked to a fabulous restaurant downtown called, Kitchen 527. In addition to having regular size meals, Kitchen 527 provides dishes called, "Sharings." Since we were craving some seafood, we savored every bite of the calamari and the mussels that we split between the two of us!
Then pan sauteed calamari which was seasoned with garlic, Calabrian chilies, and a tomato white wine broth was DIVINE! I highly recommend this dish if you're in town! We were in heaven as we dipped our toasted baguette into this dreamy broth.
These mussels, which were nestled into a garlic tomato broth combined with Pernod cream, basil, and micro greens were off the charts.
We left Kitchen 527 vowing to absolutely return someday! Since it was such a pretty evening, we decided to end our day by taking another lovely stroll along South Haven's Black River towards the lighthouse.
We were so glad that we did.
The next day - which was our last full day in South Haven - was our designated beach day. And it was HOT for this area (Low 90's). We so enjoyed getting into that beautiful, cold lake and cooling off. And our new beach tent was a total success! Since Colin and I burn really easily, we avoided having to constantly reapply sunscreen throughout the day - thanks to the shade that our tent provided!
Later that night we went back to the restaurant, Taste, and enjoyed splitting each of the Small Plates that we ordered (The more variety the better in my opinion)! This creamy, savory macaroni and cheese topped with fresh tomatoes and salty bacon was so yummy!
Since we were in the mood for some fish, we enjoyed this panko and parmesan crusted blue gill with a side of lemon dill aioli.
These savory polish sausages paired with homemade sauerkraut and ground mustard were the bomb.
The next day it was time to drive home to Indiana. After we left the condo, we couldn't leave South Haven without eating a scrumptious egg-y breakfast downtown at the Phoenix Street Cafe. I highly recommend this popular restaurant due to its prices, good food, and great customer service.
After enjoying some much needed coffee, we walked just down the road on Phoenix Street to South Haven's fabulous Farmer's Market. This Farmer's Market operates under a pavilion in the Huron street parking lot and is a fun stop if you're in the area!
As we left the Farmer's Market, we decided that we absolutely needed to purchase these luscious Michigan cherries! We ended up enjoying every bit of sweetness that these beauties had to offer!
We also purchased a bag of dry Black Turtle Beans which I can't wait to add to a soup this winter!
On our drive back to Indiana, we vowed to return to this beautiful and welcoming coastal community. It is a true Midwest gem!
What's one of your favorite vacation destinations? I'd love to know in the comment section below!