Live in the Midwest and need a quick, quiet weekend getaway? Pack your bags and head to South Haven, Michigan. Just 122 miles from Chicago by car or 100 miles by boat South Haven is one of those towns that offers miles of beach, charming downtown, local farmer markets, delicious orchards, fascinating history, and quaint shopping. But more importantly, for me, South Haven is an unassuming small town with not a single pretentious bone in its body. Beautiful, clean, quiet, filled with friendly locals. Unfortunately, it is a summer tourist town and you are going to run into a drunken bone-head fifteen years out of college but still living for that frat-boy weekend. Just ignore him. He is the exception, not the rule.
Any time in the summer is a great time to visit South Haven, but if you want the best peaches in all of the world go in August and run! Do not walk! to one of the many orchards that offer Red Haven peaches. These juicy delights are picked fresh from the tree and placed in bushel baskets for you to pick through. Or better yet, pick your own straight from the limb.
Some of my favorite sites, sounds, and sighs include:
The Beach: Several city beaches give visitors access to wide expanses of sand but only South Beach gives you that perfect view of the city’s only lighthouse.
The Orchards: There are many top-quality orchards around South Haven, MI. No matter which one you pick you cannot go wrong. I personally like the Dutch Farm Market just 7.5 miles north of South Haven on I-196 housed in an old wooden barn it offers up all the farm market fare you would expect: fresh veggies, fresh fruits of many varieties but the show stoppers are the peaches in the summer and the apples in the fall. It also offers local jams, jellies, sauces and canned goods. Do not forget to walk through the white screen door into some of the best aromas you will smell all day. Because behind that door lies a bakery with fresh breads, pies, muffins, and tasty country biscuits. I went in for peaches and came out with my arms loaded with a bit of all the offered goodies.
The Outdoors: One of the outdoor gems is the Kal-Haven Trail. A 34-mile route following a former railroad line from South Haven to Kalamazoo you will go past blueberry patches, peach orchards, seven bridges, including a covered wooden trestle over the Black River. This is a very easy trail on a flat paved and gravel paths, a bit busy with bikers, hikers, joggers, and me (a.k.a. tourist) it is still a great way to spend the morning.
The Eats & Drinks: Normally we rent a cottage and enjoy grilling and cooking dinners at home. There are however some really great places to eat in South Haven. For small plates, you have to try Taste. For a diverse and interesting menu, you need to head over to Kitchen 527. For delicious coffee that will make your morning smile go to Ec·lec·tic Café. Make it to-go and sit down along the edge of the water and feel your spirits lifting and your tension evaporating. For the best fish tacos in town go to Captain Lou’s and order the Lindy Lou Tacos. Skip the Cajun version so you can really taste the delicate perch. It is too good to cover up.
See you in South Haven! – Ella