Vacation Destination: South Haven

Last week, I ventured up to South Haven, Mich., to get away for a couple days by myself. I’ve written before about why I think everyone should take a solo vacation at least once. South Haven proved to be a great place to do just that. Here are some highlights from my trip, to be read in the voice of Tim Allen a la the Pure Michigan radio spots.

For the beach bum
The adorable B&B I stayed at, The Last Resort Inn, was only two blocks from the beach. It was never too crowded, outside of my last day when everyone camped out early to grab spots for the fireworks that were later that night. You could see the lighthouse and watch the sailboats come in and out of the marina. It was incredibly relaxing and just what I needed. And the best part? It was less than four hours from Indy.

Sunset Lighthouse Relaxation

Note: Click each image for a larger view.

For the foodie
My first night in town, I wandered around downtown hoping I might stumble upon something good for dinner. As luck would have it, I found Taste, a small plates and martini bar. I had a ridiculously delicious crab dish that was so good I didn’t order anything else just so the taste would linger a little longer.

I also discovered one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had at the Phoenix Street Café: turkey cranberry crunch. It’s one of their most popular menu items for good reason. Another unique place is Olive Cart. They have a huge variety of flavored oils you can sample. I loved the roasted garlic and black truffle olive oils and bought a bottle of each.

I also have to give a shout out to Mangia Mangia and Central City Tap House. I visited a friend in Kalamazoo one night and we had great dinner, drinks and conversation at both.

Crab napoleon at Taste  Olive Cart

For the booze hound
The nightlife options are limited in South Haven. As the only restaurants actually on the water, Captain Lou’s and The Idler are popular spots to grab a drink. Another decent spot is the Black River Tavern.

About an hour away in Kalamazoo, you can take a free tour of Bell’s Brewery and enjoy a tasting flight at their Eccentric Cafe. Their Two Hearted Ale is really popular here in Indy but I am not a big fan so I was excited to sample some of their other stuff. Not surprisingly, my favorite was a Kölsch-style beer called Baron Von Nordwestlich. (Full disclosure: I’m on a Kölsch kick that has no end in sight. Obsessed.)

Conveniently located along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, there are 19 wineries and tasting rooms within 50 miles of South Haven. I visited Karma Vista and Contessa. For $5, you can sample several wines and relax on their decks overlooking the hills of southern Michigan. I also recommend making a pit stop at The Chocolate Garden nearby for a tasty palate cleanser between wineries.

Bell's tasting room Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

For the athletic traveler
I was really excited to take my bike up and ride on the Kal-Haven Trail. As the name implies, the trail stretches 33 miles from Kalamazoo to South Haven. The countryside scenery was beautiful and very serene, especially during the first hour of my ride when I was completely alone on the trail.

I had a distance in mind but cut it down when I saw the trail wasn’t paved. My hybrid bike was fine but the compacted dirt/gravel/mud trail took some getting used to. I also didn’t want to ride too far alone since the trail is basically in the middle of nowhere. I ended up riding 25 miles, which is the farthest I’ve gone to date!

Kal-Haven Trail Kal-Haven Trail Kal-Haven Trail

All in all, it was a great trip. You can check out more pictures here. I would definitely recommend South Haven for solo travelers, families or groups of friends looking for a low key, relaxing getaway.

Have you been to South Haven? Did I miss any of your favorite spots? Share them in the comments below!


7 thoughts on “Vacation Destination: South Haven

  1. We enjoyed our visit to this lovely part of Michigan last summer. Our highlights were watching the sunset at Holland’s Big Red Lighthouse (feels like New England), boating on beautiful Lake Macatawa and intercoastal waterways, Worship on the Water, and eating the best (and cheapest) blueberries in the world at the Eighth Street Farmer’s Market in downtown Holland. I’d venture to say we’ll be back. The beaches in South Haven are as good as those in Florida and the commute from Indianapolis is more affordable.

  2. Excellent post. So glad you enjoyed your time up in South Haven. It’s one of my favorite vacation spots. Also glad to hear you found Taste. I haven’t made it out there yet, but I’m glad you went there instead of Clementines (kind of a TGI Fridays knock off – nothing too special there). Next time you’re up there, try the Phoenix Street Cafe for breakfast and travel a bit out of town to hit up Fenn Valley Winery.

      • When I researched the town beforehand, none of the restaurants really stood out to me (including Clementine’s). Glad I took a chance on walking around.

        I heard good stuff about Fenn Valley and the farmer’s market so those are on the list if I go back for sure!

        Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  3. I was gonna say, you went to South Haven and didn’t go to Clementine’s?

    Some years ago the Chicago Tribune had a writer take a multi-month tour of the midwest (Minn, MI, WI, IL. IN) looking for the best food. Reports were carried in the ChiTrib for a number of months. South Haven had only one entry: Fried perch at Clementine’s!

    Clemtines’s was once a bank, but immediately before Clementine’s it was a Men’s clothing store, shoes for all, and sporting goods. When I was in high
    school I backed into an after school job there. The only woman employed
    was the bookkeeper, out of sight in the mezzanine, Otherwise, it was all
    returned WWII vets and high school hot shots, and the 80+ year old
    Canadian immigrant owner. Lots of business on Saturday – every woman
    in town made it a point to walk thru there (Phoenix street entrance, Center street exit) at least once every Saturday.

  4. Mel- I went to several of the places and then some last year…Been to several of the craft breweries in the K ‘Zoo area…Next time you go let me know…I will tag along…lots of great stuff in that neck of the woods…

  5. Pingback: On being alone | Melanie Woods

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