Southwest Michigan, the beautiful transitions from deep green leaves to brilliant yellows, oranges, reds and browns typically begin in mid September and peak the first two weeks of October. Companioned with our gorgeous autumn sunsets along our Lake Michigan shore, you are never far from breathtaking views from dawn to dusk. Take a day, a weekend or week to welcome this colorful season by following these three favorite routes.
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.
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).
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.
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.
260 Dyckman Avenue, South Haven
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.
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.
721 Pleasant St, St Joseph
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 M-140 to:
2941 Friday Rd., Coloma
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:
9351 East Eureka Rd., Eau Claire
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.
533 East Lemon Creek Rd., Berrien Springs
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).
20379 Marcellus Highway, Decatur
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.
13988 Range Line Road, Niles
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 was built between 1911 and 1922 to attract motorists from Chicago to the resort towns along Lake Michigan's eastern shore ... and it still does! 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).
After breakfast in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph follow this route for a flavorful, fall day adventure.
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.
We hope you enjoyed your travels throughout Southwest Michigan. Check out other trips that you can take on our itineraries page. Happy trails!
There are more colorful roads to travel after sunrise tomorrow.