South Haven, Michigan is a perfect destination for a midwest summer getaway. Check out this list of 15 things to do in South Haven, Michigan that both kids and adults will love!
South Haven, Michigan is a fantastic little beach town along Lake Michigan. It is a perfect getaway for anyone living in the Midwest.
We first visited South Haven in the Summer of 2022. We had a wonderful time. There was a lot to do and see, fun activities for our young children, and many delicious and unique restaurants to eat at.
The town itself is very quaint and charming. We stayed at a brand-new Airbnb in a nice neighborhood with access to a pool along the harbor. While we were not impressed with the management company, the house itself was beautiful, and we loved the location.
We love finding new beach towns to explore along the shores of Lake Michigan. South Haven is one of those places you will want to visit again and again.
15 Things to Do in South Haven, Michigan
1. Go to the Beach
We will start with the obvious one. The expansive blue water and sandy beaches along Lake Michigan always make me feel like I am at the ocean – minus the salt and the sharks!
There are multiple public beaches to visit in South Haven.
North Beach and South Beach are the two main beaches with lots of parking and amenities, including concessions, restrooms, a sand volleyball court, and playgrounds. Kayak and paddle board rentals are also available at these two beaches. South Beach is home to the big red South Haven Light House.
Although the two beaches are just across the river from each other, you have to drive around through town to get from one beach to the other.
Packard Park is another beach in South Haven that offers restrooms, picnic tables, and grills.
There are 4 other public beach access points in South Haven – Woodman Beach, Dykman Beach, Oak Street Beach, and Newcome Beach. These 4 beaches do not offer any amenities, just sand, and Lake Michigan access.
Beach Parking Tip: Both North Beach and South Beach charge $10/day or $30/week for parking during the summer season. Parking is enforced from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., so you can park for free if you visit early in the morning or the evening for sunset.
If you don’t mind walking a block or two, you can find free parking up the hill from South Beach along Monroe Blvd. Those spots do fill up though, so arriving early can help your chances of snagging a spot. There is also free street parking downtown. You can find a spot and walk a couple of blocks to North Beach.
2. Walk the Pier to the South Haven Lighthouse
You can access the South Haven Lighthouse from South Beach. This historic lighthouse was built in 1903.
Follow the pier from South Beach along the water where the Black River runs into Lake Michigan.
At the end of the pier, you’ll see the bright red, 35-foot lighthouse. You can see the lighthouse from the beach, but we thought it was fun to walk along the pier to get a close-up view.
We took 2 strollers on the pier and had no problem reaching the lighthouse. Just be careful if you have young kids because there are not any guard rails along the pier, and the pier can be submerged on days when the water is rough and wavy.
The lighthouse is one of the best places to watch the sunset over the water!
3. Check Out the Scenic Playgrounds
South Haven has many community parks and playgrounds. Click here to learn more about the 15 parks South Haven has to offer.
We went to the playground at South Beach and the Kids’ Corner Playground.
We loved the South Beach playground. Our toddler had a blast alternating between playing in the sand and on the playground equipment. The South Beach playground is good for kids of all ages. South Beach does get busy though, so arrive early if you don’t want the playground to be super crowded.
Kids’ Corner Playground was in a cool location with gorgeous Lake Michigan views across the street. There were some stairs across the street from the park leading down the dunes to beach access.
Kids’ Corner is a big wooden playground with lots of opportunities for climbing and pretend play. It was kind of dirty and probably better for older kids, but our toddler still had a blast.
We were impressed by how many park and playground options there are in South Haven.
4. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Sherman’s Ice Cream
We had some seriously delicious ice cream at Sherman’s Dairy Bar. They have a wide variety of flavor options. Be prepared to wait in line here (especially in the peak summer months) because it is very popular.
Sherman’s has been a South Haven staple for over 60 years. “Do yourself a flavor” and treat yourself to some yummy old-fashioned ice cream at Sherman’s.
5. Cool Down at the Splash Pad
The Friends Good Will Splash Pad is a new lakefront splash pad just east of South Beach on the Black River channel.
It is modeled after a tall ship at the Michigan Maritime Museum. It is super cute and a fun way to cool off on a hot day! Open 10 am- dusk.
6. Venture Out to the Local Orchards
There are a wide variety of orchards and farm markets in and around South Haven.
Overhiser Orchards is open daily from July 1-October 31 from 10 am-5 pm. The orchard has u-pick cherries, peaches, plums, pears, and apples. They have a petting zoo full of friendly farm animals. They also offer wagon ride farm tours.
Bumbleberry Acres is great for family fun on the farm! They are well-known for their u-pick blueberries and raspberries (July-September). They also offer wildflower u-pick (July-October) and pumpkin u-pick (September-October). Wagon rides, a playground, a farm animal petting zoo, and a barrel train ride are some of the other fun activities on the farm.
Barden’s Farm Market is very close to downtown South Haven. It is a little market offering locally grown flowers and fresh fruit and vegetables. They also have a delicious morning bakery.
DeGrandchamp Farms is South Haven’s largest blueberry U-Pick and farm market. Visitors can sample and purchase a wide variety of fresh blueberry products and can tour the on-site blueberry packing plant.
7. Take a Downtown Stroll
Downtown South Haven is very charming.
There are many shops and restaurants to visit. We had fun walking along the main streets, taking in the views, and browsing the shops.
8. Go Sailing or Book a Charter Boat
Get out on the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan. You can find sailing excursions, charters, and boat rentals in South Haven.
9. Walk or Bike the Kal-Haven Trail
The Kal-Haven Trail is a 33-mile limestone trail linking the cities of Kalamazoo and South Haven. The scenic trail crosses over bridges, passes by points of historical interest and winds through a few small towns.
If you want to explore a small portion of the trail, the Donald F. Nicholas covered bridge is a good destination. It is about 1.5 miles from the South Haven trailhead, making it a nice little 3-mile round-trip jaunt.
Rock n’ Road Cycle is a good place to rent bikes if you want to see more of the Kal-Haven trail or bike around South Haven.
10. Stop in at Decadent Dogs
If you are a dog lover or have pups at home that you want to bring something back for, check out Decadent Dogs. It is an upscale doggie boutique, selling dog food, treats, toys, collars, and more.
If you have your dog with you, bring them in for some tasty treat samples. They also sell dog-themed clothing, decor, and gifts, so it is a perfect place to shop for any dog lovers in your life!
11. Dine at Delicious & Unique Eating Establishments
During our trip to South Haven, we ate at:
Admiral Jacks – This seasonal restaurant is located on the Black River, so you have some nice views while eating. The food was okay. Unfortunately, it was not very kid-friendly – really loud, no high chairs, and no kid’s menu. We decided it would be a fun place to hang out and get drinks without our kids.
Clementine’s – This is a restaurant you will want to go back to. The restaurant is located in a refurbished bank building with excellent food and service, so the theme and ambiance are unique!
Idler Riverboat & Dockside – Another seasonal restaurant on the Black River. Eating homemade food on a boat with a view sounded pretty sweet to us! It was raining the day we went, but the boat had a covered area outside that we were able to sit under. Make sure to go in and check out the inside of the boat – it is super historic and cool to see! If you can, request the table on the lower deck at the front of the boat. This place was a lot more kid-friendly than Admiral Jacks was.
Su Casa – We loved the queso here. We ate outside and had a nice view of the Black River across the street. A great option if you are craving Mexican food.
Restaurants we want to try next time we visit South Haven:
Golden Brown Bakery & Cafe – a popular spot downtown to grab breakfast, lunch, or a baked good snack
50s Diner Drive-In – We love a classic diner. Burgers, fries, & shakes, oh my! Kids’ meals are served in a cute little cardboard car.
Captain Lou’s – Similar to Admiral Jacks, this seems like it would be a fun place to go to without kids. There is a small outdoor deck overlooking the Black River. It looked like an enjoyable vibe with cool decor and string lights.
Maria’s – A family-owned Italian restaurant always sounds like a good idea. They advertise themselves as family-friendly Italian dining.
Three Blondes Brewing – Reviewers say it is a family-friendly place with good food and drinks.
12. Go Bowling
Looking for a rainy-day activity? If the weather isn’t cooperating or you just need a break from the sun, bowling is a fun activity for all ages.
Lakeside Entertainment in South Haven offers bowling, a restaurant, and seasonal mini golf (outdoors).
13. Catch a Movie at the Michigan Theatre
Another great rainy day activity. The Michigan Theatre in downtown Safe Haven is crazy affordable. The theatre typically shows 2-3 new/popular movies at a time.
14. Marvel at the Michigan Maritime Museum
The Michigan Maritime Museum features both permanent and changing exhibits to preserve and share the history of the Great Lakes. There are many hands-on exhibits and a lot of interesting information, which makes it fun for both kids and adults.
15. Visit Van Buren State Park
Van Buren State Park is 3 miles south of South Haven. The state park has a campground and one-mile stretch of sandy beach along Lake Michigan.
Van Buren State Park has numerous hiking trails, high dunes, picnic tables, a picnic shelter, and restrooms. The entrance fee is $9/day for non-residents.
That rounds out our list of things to do in South Haven, Michigan. We hope you add this charming lake town to your list of places to visit.
If you have been to South Haven, feel free to leave a comment about your favorite things to do and see.
Bonus: Take a Day Trip to Holland, Michigan
Holland, Michigan is only about a 35-minute drive from South Haven. We took a short day trip to Holland while we were staying in South Haven, but we want to go back when we have more time because there is so much to do and see!