South Haven is a delightful hamlet of everyone’s favorite big mitten, Michigan. It’s a small town known for its spectacular scenery, delicious restaurants, and earning a reputation as a resort hotspot for those in the know.
One of the best places to visit in Michigan, South Haven, is called ‘the Catskills of the Midwest’ for its abundance of natural wonders. It’s set along the shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the beautiful Black River.
Find out if this charming city lives up to all the hype (spoiler: it does) with these best things to do in South Haven, Michigan.
Best Things to Do in South Haven, Michigan
South Haven Lighthouse
Also known as South Pier Head Light, this historic structure is a must-see in South Haven. It was built in 1872 and is still operational today. It’s located at the mouth of the Black River and it reaches 37 feet high. It has one of only four boardwalks built to connect the lighthouse to the shore that’s still standing.
This 120-foot long pier offers picturesque panoramas. You can take a guided tour to learn about this famous fixture’s maritime heritage. You can also visit the two-and-a-half-story tall keeper’s quarters. It’s an ideal place to capture some stunning photo ops.
- Address: Water St, South Haven (GPS)
Kal-Haven Trail State Park
Stretching over 33 miles between South Haven to Kalamazoo, this epic rail trail is the mecca of multipurpose outdoor adventure in the area. Take a trek through lovely little towns, vast farmlands, and dense forests. It’s open year-round and is quite popular for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing during the winter season.
Hikers and bikers flock to fulfill their natural needs, and there’s even a designated section available to horseback riders. We love to stop in town first to pack a picnic and then enjoy it in the lush landscape once we’ve discovered that perfect shady spot.
- Address: 4143 10th St N, Kalamazoo (GPS)
Michigan Maritime Museum
The nautical history of South Haven has been carefully preserved and displayed for all to investigate at the Michigan Maritime Museum. It’s located right on the waterfront, and in-depth exhibits walk you through the exciting past of the Great Lakes.
It’s an all-around immersive experience with plenty of hands-on educational opportunities throughout the space. Its crowning glory is the Friends Good Will, a replica of an 1812 warship. You can climb aboard the square-rigged sloop and see what it would have been like to sail the open waters here.
- Address: 260 Dyckman Ave, South Haven (GPS)
- Cost of Admission:
- Summer: Adult: $12.00, Senior: $11, Military: $8.00, Child: $8.00, Student: $8.00 Educator and member: Free (With school ID for students and member card for members)
- Winter: Adult : $10.00, Senior: $9, Military: $6.00 , Child: $6.00, Student: $6.00 Educator and member: Free (With school ID for students and member card for members)
Visit the local Farms
South Haven is lousy with acres upon acres of gorgeous agricultural areas. A visit to a local farm is such a fun way to spend a day here.
Overhiser Orchards has been family-run for over five generations. They offer a wide range of u-pick experiences, including peaches, plums, cherries, cherries, and pears, all throughout their harvest season. Farm fresh fare is available to try and buy, like homemade doughnuts.
There’s a little petting zoo to meet a few of the cute creatures that live here, wagon rides, and a well-stocked pond for some idyllic fishing as well.
Degrand Champ Blueberry Farms focuses on blueberries and cranberries. Their market sells fresh preserves, sauces, butter, and more. You can wander the scenic groves and fill up your own basket with fresh fruit, but even if you go off-season, they will likely have some frozen goodies to give you.
- Address: Degrand Champ Blueberry Farms: 76241 14th Ave, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Monday -Sunday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Van Buren State Park
Van Buren State Park boasts a full-mile stretch of scenic shore to explore. Wander through towering dunes on any number of nature trails here to gain a real appreciation for that famous South Haven terrain.
The breathtaking vistas seem endless, from forest to beach. You can bike or hike here; many choose to stay on one of the primitive and picturesque campgrounds available.
Their facilities are also nice, with a picnic shelter, playground, and restrooms. It’s a great escape for a relaxing respite as it’s one of the more remote destinations in South Haven.
- Address: 23960 Ruggles Rd, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday : 8:00 am -10:00 pm
Michigan Flywheelers Museum
Okay, so you may end up learning more than you ever wanted to know about the world of farm machinery, but the Michigan Flywheelers Museum is a surprisingly cool museum!
Explore the evolution of this essential American technology spanning over centuries. Tinker with elaborate mechanisms and get up close and personal with some seriously impressive antiques, like an original sawmill. They also host interesting community events throughout the year, so check their schedule for swap meets and tractor shows.
- Address: 06285 68th St, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: 10: 00 am- 3:00 pm
Try some Michigan Wine
One of the main draws of South Haven is the enticing myriad of vineyards to visit! It certainly helped put it on the map as a happening vacation hotspot in this neck of the woods. The most well-known is likely Cogdal Vineyards, and for good reason.
They carefully craft small-batch Michigan wines that they serve by flights, glass, or bottle. Each can be paired with a selection of artisan cheeses or chocolates, as well, within the serene oasis of their tasting room.
The varietals range from classic and refined to bold and eclectic. Warner Vineyards is located conveniently downtown along the Black River and offers over 25 different wines to taste test by the glass or bottle. The patio is delightful and serves ciders and slushies if you want to branch out a bit – I particularly love visiting during the fall in Michigan. After sipping your wine, head to Maple Haven to relax. It’s one of the best treehouses in Michigan!
- Address: Warner Vineyards: 515 Williams St, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Sunday, Saturday & Friday : 12:00 pm- 8:00 pm, Monday -Thursday : 3:00 pm-8:00 pm
Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum
This South Haven institution honors and celebrates the life of renowned horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey. Dr. Bailey co-founded the American Society for Horticultural Science. The building is set in his actual birthplace and childhood home. The little farmhouse was constructed in the 1850s on 40 acres of land. It was built in the classic Greek Revival era style in a clapboard fashion.
Many rooms inside have been reconstructed to appear historically accurate, and you can view them on a guided tour to learn about the preserved facade and the achievements of his legendary life. The gardens are also gorgeous, and a lovely little nature trail meanders through some of the landscape.
- Address: 903 S Bailey Ave, South Haven (GPS)
South Haven Charters
Getting out on the water is one of the best things to do in South Haven, Michigan. Set sail out on the shimmering waters of Lake Michigan for a scenic cruise you won’t soon forget. You have your choice of vessels, from yachts to sailboats, and all kinds of packages right at your fingertips.
Hop aboard just to enjoy the sights and feel the sea breeze, or load up some gear for a day spent trying to reel in an impressive catch.
We recommend taking a sunset tour, with bites and boozy beverages, for a relaxing romantic Michigan outing that feels a little luxurious. Try Sailing South Haven or Jensen Charters, a couple of trustworthy agencies to get you started, though there are plenty of outfitters around town.
- Address: South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Monday – Sunday : 9: 00 am – 8:00 pm
If you’ve ever felt like you need for speed, South Haven is the place to make all those driving dreams come true. Gingerman Raceway claims to be one of the fastest tracks around, and auto enthusiasts have been flocking here to indulge in a real rush for decades. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in South Haven for the adrenaline junkies.
Runway time is available to rent, and you can test out your cars and motorbikes here in a super safe environment. Expert photographers and videographers are even on deck to capture your metal melting in all its majesty. Plenty of thrilling events are held here throughout the year, as well.
- Address: 61414 Co Rd 388, South Haven (GPS)
Downtown South Haven has a charming smattering of specialty shops and cute boutiques. These local independent stores often feel one-of-a-kind as they reflect the spirit of this quaint Michigan city.
A few of our favorites are Black River Books for browsing shelves for the perfect read, the Blueberry Store for gourmet goodies, Decadent Dogs for all the canine lovers out there, and Props for selecting that extra special souvenir. After you’re done stop by Three Blondes Brewing which is a fantastic Michigan brewery!
- Address: 525 Phoenix St, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Friday – Sunday : 11:00 am -6:00 pm
A lesser-known gem to check out in South Haven is Khnemu Studio. It’s set on the scenic Fernwood Farm and focuses on contemporary ceramics. The space features the handmade pottery of over 30 local artists. Each piece has its own unique style, crafted meticulously by hand.
Many are for sale as well if something happens to strike your fancy. The solar-powered studio also offers classes and workshops for a fun and artistic excursion. The two-hour mini class is perfect for beginners who want to learn about the ways of the wheel.
- Address: 6322 113th Ave, Fennville (GPS)
- Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 10: 00 am –5:00 pm
North and South Beach
There are many beautiful beaches in South Haven and its surrounding areas, but two shores stand out in particular. North Beach and South Beach are super popular picks, especially in the summer months.
The coastline gets crowds of sunshine seekers from all over, and it’s no surprise as these stretches of coastline are spacious, clean, accessible, and iconically pretty, with all the amenities you could need.
- Address: 45 Lakeshore Dr, South Haven (GPS)
Venture into the Galleries
South Haven has an amazing art scene to discover. The streets here offer galleries galore for appreciators and aficionados. Our absolute favorite is the South Haven Center for the Arts, a space entirely dedicated to the enrichment of the community through the arts.
The building itself is a beautiful example of historical architecture, as well. They display various rotating works in varying mediums from local and international artists and often hold events and classes for cultural outreach.
- Address: South Haven Center for the Arts- 600 Phoenix St, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Wednesday, Friday – Saturday: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Thursday : 11: 00 am – 6:00 pm
A music-focused non-profit, Foundry Hall makes for such a fun activity in South Haven. Support the local performers of the city by stopping by and enjoying a show! All kinds of productions grace the stage here, including open mic nights, grand piano concert series, a jazz festival, and Rhythm on the River.
It’s an all-ages venue providing entertainment for everyone with an eclectic array of genres.
- Address: 422 Eagle St, South Haven (GPS)
- Cost of Admission: Individual: $20, Family: $40
Porter Legacy Dunes
Porter Legacy Dunes is a 48-acre protected piece of land in South Haven that’s ecologically significant and boasts some surreal scenery. It’s part of a two-mile corridor and is an oasis for migratory raptors and songbirds. If you’re looking to spot some flying friends while in town, this is the place to do it.
The trail system allows all to roam and take in the exceptional terrain of sensitive sand dunes, wildflower fields, and captivating creeks.
Pilgrim Haven Nature Area
Pilgrim Haven Nature Area is another magical preserve ripe with possibilities for outdoor exploration. It provides a tranquil pebble beach right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Many will take a small stone as a souvenir with them when they leave. There are a few trails, all easy to navigate and under a mile, that traverse woods and meadows leading to sweeping panoramas of the waterfront.
Dogs are welcome but need to be leashed, and swimming is allowed though advised to do so at your own risk as there is no lifeguard on duty.
- Address: South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: 6:30 am -10:00 pm
Barden’s Farm Market
For all the freshest locally grown grub and handmade wares, be sure to hit up the Barden’s Farm Market. It even has more to offer than you would find from your usual stroll around any old farmers market. There are many things, including a community farm, greenhouse, prepared food counter, and bakery. It’s family-owned and has been a long-standing tradition in South Haven for decades.
You can find everything from flowers to sandwiches to local wine and craft beer. A bustling array of all the best vendors in the city, it happens twice a week (May 1 – November) and is not to be missed.
- Address: 1101 Phoenix St, South Haven (GPS)
Arvesta Sports Complex
Not your average recreation center, Arvesta Sports Complex is one of the town’s most fun and active South Haven attractions. Anyone seeking adventure in the great outdoors will be in for a good time here.
It’s set on Lake Arvesta Farms and offers a wide range of exciting water-filled feats for all ages along four inland lakes. They’ve got everything from floating obstacle courses to cable wakeboarding to stand-up paddleboarding. Strap on a helmet and prepare for action-packed pastimes in South Haven.
- Address: 06464 Arvesta Drive, South Haven (GPS)
- Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:00 am-6:00 pm
Enjoy the South Haven Festivals
Throughout the year, South Haven hosts various festive events for the whole town, at least one each season. In the summer Harborfest happens, a celebration of the unique maritime history of Michigan. It’s no surprise that the National Blueberry Festival takes place in this scenic hamlet, as well, and is perhaps the most famous event here.
It has a little bit of everything, like pie eating contests, a parade, live music, and all the blueberry-themed food and drinks you can imagine. It truly encompasses the best of things to do in South Haven.
Come the colder months, and they have the Icebreakers Winter Festival. It’s a fun and frosty fete that involves a chili cook-off, ice sculptures, sled races, ice skating, wagon rides, s’mores roasting, and more!
- Address: 1301 M-43, South Haven (GPS)
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