South Haven Travel Guide

A relaxing vacation is priceless, especially with the busy lifestyles that most people keep. South Haven, Michigan provides all of the beauty and tranquility of a relaxing lake side vacation, as well as ample opportunities for fun and excitement for the whole family.

What to Do in South Haven

south haven lake michigan

Explore Lake Michigan

There are several ways to take in the relaxation of sailing the waters of Lake Michigan. Take a cruise on a catamaran sailboat or a one of a kind private cruise or scuba diving expedition on the Elise J Fishing Tugboat. Rent a boat, dinghy, jet ski or tube to experience the lake in your own exciting way or charter a lake fishing expedition.

Michigan Maritime Museum

Visit the Michigan Maritime Museum for a glimpse into the water-bound history of the Great Lakes area, including several ships and other exhibits along a self-guided tour. The museum focuses intensely on maritime research, preservation and education. Experience maritime history in person on the Friends Good Will, a 19th century replica of a tall ship.

South Haven Center for the Arts

The South Haven Center for the Arts has a variety of events scheduled throughout the year for you to enjoy. There are art shows, classes and workshops for all ages, as well as various concerts and lectures. Possible events include art fairs, film festivals, drawing classes, sculpture studios and much more.

south haven vineyards

Wineries and Vineyards

Over ten wineries and vineyards dot the South Haven landscape. Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery specializes in hand-crafted wines manufactured on an 1882 vintage homestead. Enjoy a picnic at Domaine Berrien Cellars fruit farm, among the beautiful cherry trees and grapevines. Sample tasty wines at the Southwest Michigan Wine Trail.

Outdoor Recreation

Go paint-balling at the Hole in the Wall Paintball Field or take in a round of golf at one of four courses in South Haven, including Beeches Golf Club and Glenn Shores Golf Course. There are also several trails available for hiking, biking or horseback riding, such as the Kal-Haven Trail and Sarett Nature Center. Go kayaking or canoeing on the Black River or enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride at Bitter-Sweet Acres.

Winter Activities

Skiing is popular in South Haven during the winter months. Bittersweet Ski Area has 16 ski runs, a ski shop and a rental facility. Take on some cross-country skiing at Sarett’s Nature Center or the Kal-Haven Trail. Dunham Sports also offers passes for snowmobiling on the Kal-Haven Trail. The South Haven Ice Rink offers fun for the whole family.

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What to See in South Haven

south haven lighthouses

South Pier Lighthouse

Built in the 1870s, the South Pier Lighthouse, a 35 foot metal tower with an octagonal cast iron lantern on top, still stands today on the end of a 1200 foot long concrete pier. While there have been many renovations to the lighthouse, it’s still a beautiful site in South Haven. Additionally, the lighthouse is available for tours once a year during HarborFest in mid-June.

Lake Michigan Beaches

Spend a relaxing afternoon sunbathing or swimming at one of the beautiful beaches in and near South Haven. Newcomb Beach is a quiet public beach great for swimming and relaxing in the sun, complete with a large shaded area, a deck overlooking the water, grills and picnic tables. Take a walk along the North Beach Pier or play a game of beach volleyball while you watch the boats on the water near South Beach and Riverfront Park.


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Where to Shop and Eat in South Haven

South Haven, Michigan offers a variety of dining experiences to fit your every culinary whim. Check out South Haven restaurants like the 50’s Drive In of Big Boy Restaurant for blasts from the past or enjoy beautiful waterfront views at Captain Lou’s and Idler Riverboat Pub. South Haven prides itself on being family friendly and the majority of the near 40 restaurants in the area provide wonderful dining experiences for the whole family.

There are many eclectic stores in the area that make shopping in South Haven a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s a great place to shop for everything you can need or desire. Check out Arbor Antiques or the Blueberry Store dedicated to, you guessed it, blueberries and more. Visit Lollipop’s, an old-fashioned candy store and eatery, Oh My Darlings specializing in old-fashioned toys for all ages or Sea Glass Cottage which has home décor inspired by lake hues and the beautiful sea glass that washes up on the local beaches.

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When to Visit South Haven

The best time to visit South Haven depends entirely upon what activities you want to experience and the type of weather you’re looking for. The temperature averages in the 70’s during the summer months and often reaches 20 degrees in the winter. July is the warmest month of the year with temperatures near 80 degrees and, therefore, peak tourist season in South Haven.


One of the most popular festivals in the Lake Michigan region, you may want to try and plan your South Haven vacation around HarborFest, which typically occurs in mid-June of each year. This weekend celebration consists of free live music, a crafts fair, Dragon Boat races on the Black River, a pancake breakfast and tours of the South Haven Lighthouse.

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What to Bring to South Haven

When packing for your South Haven vacation, you should bring clothing appropriate for the time of year that you visit, such as cool clothes in the warmer months and warm clothes in the winter months. Even if you visit during the summer, it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket for evening activities.

Be sure to bring your swimming gear in the summer and maybe even a pair of hiking or walking shoes. Sunscreen is a must throughout the entire year. You also don’t want to forget your camera.

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Local Services in South Haven

Coastal Concierge provides a great service to South Haven tourists. Deemed a “lifestyle and vacation management company,” Coastal Concierge does everything from run errands and pick up groceries to babysitting and helping you determine things to do in the area. Additionally, coastal Concierge only refers you to vendors in the area that pre-qualify for the Preferred Vendor Network.

Other services in the area include laundry services, pet care and grooming services, photographers, grocery stores and banks. Get in a good workout as a guest of the Shoreline Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, complete with an indoor track and pool, state-of-the-art cardio equipment, spinning and aerobics studios and a gymnasium. In case of an emergency you and your family will be well cared for at the South Haven Community Hospital.

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What to Know About South Haven

Traffic in South Haven can be a bit of a pain on the weekends, so plan your travel and activities accordingly. It’s also important to know that the water current can be strong, even on Lake Michigan. Boats and weather can cause undertow that will drag swimmers under, so always practice water safety when participating in lake activities.

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Getting to South Haven

By Car

South Haven is generally a two and a half to three hour drive from Chicago. From Chicago take Interstate 90 East to exit 21. At the exit take Interstate 94 East toward Detroit. Take Interstate 196 North (US-31 North) to exit 20. Turn left at the exit onto Phoenix Road which brings you into South Haven.

If you’re coming from the Detroit, Michigan area the drive will take approximately three hours. Take Interstate 94 West to US 131 North, followed by M-43 West. Take a right to head North on Blue Star Highway and go West at the next traffic light onto Phoenix Road.

By Airplane

You can take a flight from nearly any destination into the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. From there you can rent a car or use one of the other options below to get into South Haven. Another option is to fly into the Detroit Metro Airport and drive to South Haven. You can also fly to Capital Regional International Airport in Lansing, Michigan, which is less than a two hour drive to South Haven on Interstate 96 West to Interstate 196 West.

Other Options

Take the the Amtrak Pere Marquette line from Chicago and the West Michigan lakeshore region. The Indian Trails Bus Service provides approximately two hour bus rides from Chicago to South Haven twice a day starting at approximately $30. If you can afford to do so, you can take a private plane directly to the South Haven Regional Airport. You can also travel by boat from any of the other Lake Michigan communities, if you have the means.

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Why South Haven vacation rentals?

Why stay in a cramped hotel when you can enjoy all the comforts and amenities of staying in a beautiful lake side vacation rental? You’ll feel like you belong in South Haven with available amenities such as lake front property, fully-equipped kitchens, hot tubs and private parking. Plus, the space and accommodations of most South Haven vacation rentals allows for a number of traveling companions to enjoy their vacation together, under the same roof, while comfortably having their own private space.

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