West Michigan Pike (Day 1)
This first tour is along the West Michigan Pike. The Pike is the first continuous paved road in West Michigan from the Indiana state line to Mackinaw City. It's a great way to combine fall colors with unforgettable beach moments along the two-lane US Route 12 (Red Arrow Highway) and US Route 31 (Blue Star Highway).
New Buffalo (2 hours)
Your Fall Color Tour starts on US Route 12 at the Gateway to Michigan, New Buffalo, just north of the Indiana/Michigan border. Begin your morning with a refreshing walk along this harbor town's pristine Lake Michigan beaches, find "must haves" at its sophisticated shops and galleries or catch your favorite hot brew in one of the downtown restaurants. From New Buffalo, drive north 40 minutes on US Route 31 (Blue Star Highway) to:
St. Joseph (3 hours)
As you head north on Blue Star Highway, don't hesitate to duck in to visit any of the resort towns along this dune-lined stretch of Lake Michigan. You'll find places to go antiquing, shopping or beach hiking. However, plan to catch a late lunch in St. Joseph. The walkable downtown is steps away from riverfront parks, tree-lined bluffs and Lake Michigan public beaches. It offers an eclectic selection of shops, restaurants, wineries and craft breweries. Visit art galleries, children's museums, historical sites, one of the nation's most picturesque lighthouses and a magnificent carousel (open year round). Although, you can easily fill a day here, continue north 25 minutes on Blue Star Highway.
South Haven (3 hours)
This quaint port town offers a century-old lighthouse, shops, restaurants and large expanses of public beaches. Come kick your feet through the rustling fallen leaves, tour art galleries along the coast, shop and treat yourself to an ice cream cone. One for-sure thing to add to your fall tour:
Lindy Lou Black River Cruise, Michigan Maritime Museum, 260 Dyckman Avenue, South Haven (1 hour)
Watch fall colors from the deck of this electric-powered river launch as it plies the Black River waters. Hour-long tours are available through the middle of October, five launches a day, seven days a week. Tickets can be purchased onsite or online.
Return to St. Joseph and stop for dinner at Silver Harbor Brewing Company before spending the night at one of our nearby lodgings. There is more beautiful leaf-peeping to do tomorrow.
Silver Harbor Brewing Company, 721 Pleasant St, St Joseph (2 hours)
With at least 12 different craft beers on tap, you will have fun tasting. A must-try is their smoked beer. Order a Kumbaya Brown Ale and ask them to inject hickory smoke into a glass chamber and bring it to your table. The smoke flavor infuses itself into the beer. A full menu of snacks to brewer plates will satiate your hunger.
Apple Country Tour (Day 2)
After breakfast in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph follow this route for a flavorful, fall day adventure.
Grandpa's Cider Mill, 2941 Friday Rd., Coloma (1-2 hours)
From September through October, watch cider being pressed. Enjoy a fresh-squeezed cup, hot or cold, and bring home a gallon or two to enjoy. While you’re here, try some of the 25 different flavors of cider at their sampling bar (peanut butter is a popular choice). Fresh-baked pies and apple cider donuts are great takeaways, too. On the same road., Jollay Orchards, 1850 Friday Rd., offers apple picking as well as weekend Harvest Festivals, Sept.-Oct., including hayrides, pumpkin and apple picking, fall decorations and Halloween fun. Pick up picnic food while you're in Coloma and head east on I-94 to Exit 41, then south 20 minutes on scenic MI-140 to:
Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, 9351 East Eureka Rd., Eau Claire (1-1/2 hours)
This is a great place to enjoy your picnic lunch with lots of fresh apples and pears available to augment your meal. This 400-acre farm offers ready-picked and pick-your-own fruits, a country store, pony and hay wagon rides, farm animal corral, tasting counter and heritage apple display. Open Friday-Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., it's a family-friendly place to fill your lungs with refreshing country air and your vehicle with fresh produce. When you're ready, our last stop is 25 minutes southwest. Just follow the winding country roads to:
Lemon Creek Fruit Farm & Winery, 533 East Lemon Creek Rd., Berrien Springs (1-1/2 hours)
Take time to sit and breathe in the rich scents of fall at this family-owned and operated artisanal producer of estate grown wines. Come pick your own apples or grapes in Sept.-Oct. Taste award-winning wines year round. A Harvest Festival in mid-September and home winemaking events make this a popular fall destination.
After a relaxing afternoon, head north 20 minutes to St. Joseph and enjoy dinner at one of the area's many restaurants before watching the sun set from Lake Bluff Park or nearby beaches and resting at a nearby hotel, B&B or cottage.
Into the Woods Tour (Day 3)
Enjoy a hearty breakfast or brunch in Benton Harbor or St. Joseph – you'll burn lots of calories walking on this last day of our fall color tour.
Fred Russ Forest Park, 20379 Marcellus Highway, Decatur (2 hours)
Open sunrise to sunset, this beautiful 13-acre park is one of the most popular fall destinations in Cass County. It features a Class A trout stream (popular with anglers) and 4 miles of hiking trails. Take the Big Tree Loop (1.6 miles) to see what remains of the largest tulip tree in Michigan (a violent storm took down 2/3rds of it in 1984).
Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve, 13988 Range Line Road, Niles (2 hours)
This gem offers 105 acres of cultivated and natural areas along the scenic St. Joseph River valley. Open Tues.-Sun., there is a small admission fee. Fernwood's café is the perfect place for lunch. Take time to explore the art gallery, fern conservatory, multiple outdoor gardens and nature trails brimming with autumn beauty. Special classes, including yoga in the gardens, are available during the week and weekends. Check Fernwood's online September and October calendars for details.