Space to think. Space to feel carefree. It’s what you will find all year-round in Southwest Michigan. Here is an invigorating, three-day itinerary to get you outside and loving every minute of it.
Start your morning on the water. Choose your waterways from mighty Lake Michigan to mirror-smooth inland lakes or the ever-changing beauty of the St. Joseph, Paw Paw, Galien, Dowagiac or Black Rivers;
Gaze up at the magnificent North Pier lighthouse glistening at sunrise. Watch deer drink along the river banks. Search the sky for soaring eagles. Often the only sounds you will hear are the wind in the trees and water rhythmically dripping from your paddle.
If you don’t have a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard, rent one. The Third Coast Surf Shop in St. Joseph can supply everything you need to ply the waters between spring to early October. Third Coast is also your year-round source for advice on where to paddle or to learn more about the adrenaline-rush of surfing the Big Lake’s waves.
Hungry? If you’re paddling on the Paw Paw River, pull the kayaks out at North Shore Drive and make a pitstop at North Pier Brewing Company for a quick bite or brew. Or once you return to Third Coast’s Paw Paw River or Silver Beach rental sites, the brewery is less than a 10-minute drive away.
212 State Street, St. Joseph
This family-friendly craft brewery’s taproom and beer garden are just minutes from Lake Michigan and popular paddling rivers. You’ll find tasty tacos, sandwiches and appetizers on their taproom menu to pair with a hand-crafted ale or lager inspired by Belgian and European brewers. Wine, homemade cocktails, cider and soft drinks are also available. Stay long enough for a board game or shuffleboard and be sure to pick up a Makers Trail passport (Labor Day through April) to earn rewards during your stay.
Next, head back to the river for pedaling fun that’s only 10 minutes away.
670 N Shore Dr, Benton Harbor
It’s a boat! It’s a bar! It’s the Harbor Hopper cycleboat!
You and up to 15 others, ages 12 years to adult, will spend two hours laughing while powering this Coast Guard-certified, party-on-the-water boat in the St. Joseph Harbor. Bring your own drinks and snacks onboard or grab some when the Hopper makes its two pit-stops at restaurants along the route. An optional Lake and Land Tour includes two hours on the harbor and a three-hour Brew Bus tour to local breweries. The Hopper takes off and returns to docks at Plank’s Tavern on the Water at the Inn at Harbor Shores. Weather permitting, you can book a ride from spring into October.
Next, regain your land legs on the trails that are only a five-minute drive north.
800 Whitwam Drive, St. Joseph
These two connected trail systems in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph are year-round calorie-burners that showcase 12 miles of peaceful, stop-in-your tracks views. The loop you must experience is the 1.4-mile Jean Klock Park circuit which you access from M-63. Its observation trail goes up the sugar-sand dune to a gull’s-eye overlook of Lake Michigan then down to the interdunal marsh and wetlands. Push on to make your way around any of the five other loops that make the Edgewater Fitness Trails at Harbor Shores. See stretches of the championship golf course, the Paw Paw and St. Joseph Rivers and enter the Benton Harbor Arts District. Runners, walkers, bikers and in the winter, cross-country skiers and snowshoers, return again and again for the ever-changing scenery.
When it’s dinner time, head for the unique vineyard trail and chef’s creations you’ll find 33 minutes south.
Jean Klock Drive
Southwest Michigan’s newest outdoor trail experience gets rave reviews. This 3.6-mile trail system meanders through the woods and vineyards between Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant and Round Barn Estate. The best part of these trails – you are encouraged to enjoy your favorite libation and food purchased from either winery along the way! If you are hiking close to dinner time, take the trails’ shortest round trip (1.3 miles) and dine at Tabor Hill.
185 Mt. Tabor Road, Buchanan
For more than 50 years, this legendary winery has crafted some of the region’s finest wines. Many say this winery changed the landscape of Southwest Michigan and other wine regions in the state when it was the first to plant European vinifera grapes. Our region is ideal for growing fruit that produces the finest wines. Try a glass or two of Tabor Hill wine and pair it with a tantalizing selection from its restaurant menu. The chef uses ingredients grown by nearby farmers. Enjoy your delicious repast on the outdoor patio or inside in the dining room, both overlooking the vineyards. Should you come on a cooler evening, the fireplaces will chase away the chill.
After dinner, head back to nearby lodgings for a good night’s sleep. You will find more outdoor adventures tomorrow.
185 Mt. Tabor Road, Buchanan
You may want to start or end your day at this rare gem of a park in Michigan. Your daytime outdoor adventuring includes biking and hiking trails, disc golf, volleyball, fishing and horseshoe pits. Trails offer scenic lake views and lookout points. In winter you can enjoy seven miles of groomed cross-country ski trails (there are loops for all levels), plus an inner tube sledding hill (tubes provided).
But what sets this park apart is its designation as one of only two International Dark Sky Parks in Michigan! If you want to see stars, look up during one of their monthly night-viewing weekends. It will change you.
Another scenic outdoor adventure awaits 33 minutes away in Berrien Center.
15122 Monkey Run Street, Vandalia
Featuring 200 acres of meadows, forests, marshes and creeks, there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore year-round. See the wildflowers in bloom April through October. Hike or cross-country ski over 5 miles of trails every season. Mountain bikers can pedal 3.5 miles of beginner/intermediate trails spring through fall or get outside in the winter months to ride fat tire bikes or cross-country ski on groomed trails. Fat tire bikes and cross-country ski rentals are available!
After working up an appetite, head west 23 minutes for pizza and brews in Bridgman.
9292 Huckleberry Road, Berrien Center
This old state police station turned brewery will win you over with their charming outdoor beer garden. Their wood-fired pizzas will also steal your heart. Choose staples like pepperoni and sausage or try a more unique flavor like their elote pizza. (You’ll be glad you did!) Pair it with a Blood Orange Blonde and choose your favorite picnic table to relax at (limited indoor seating is also available). Stick around for a game of corn hole beneath the twinkling lights before heading 11 minutes south to a breathtaking hiking destination.
9301 Red Arrow Hwy, Bridgman
One of the most stunning destinations in Southwest Michigan is the towering sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park (a Michigan Recreation Passport or day pass is required). Climb to the top for a panoramic view of Lake Michigan and, on a clear day, catch a glimpse of the Chicago skyline across the lake. The climb is mighty but the view is worth it. If you’re up for more adventure, this 1,952-acre outdoor playground also has six miles of hiking or cross-country ski trails. Plus, the dunes give sand and snowboarders exhilarating rides. Be sure to save a little energy for the last hike of the day. The next trails are 17 minutes south on Red Arrow Highway.
12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer
Reach new heights spring through fall at this upland and wetland habitat. Venture out along the 300-foot canopy walk to the overlook tower. The view of the marshland and the Galien River will make this short, casual hike memorable. For a closer view of the water, walk along the 600-foot marsh boardwalk that leads to the river viewing and fishing platform. It’s a great location for wildlife viewing! Relax and listen to the birds sing until you’re ready to head one minute south to your dinner destination.
17424 Red Arrow Highway, New Buffalo
One of the newer members of the Makers Trail, Ghost Isle offers a fun, family-friendly taproom with a full-service restaurant serving classic pub fare. Sample a house-made beer flight by the outdoor fire pit on the patio overlooking 156 acres of wetlands. Or try a hand-crafted cocktail featuring local craft liquors and ingredients, wine, cider or seltzer. Virgin cocktails and soft drinks are also available for the whole family to enjoy. Now head back to your hotel to rest up for one more day of great outdoor adventures.
17684 US HWY 12, New Buffalo
If you’re looking for a thrilling boating experience on the Big Lake rent a boat at Pier 1000 Marina. Located on the St. Joseph River and Morrison Channel you’re just a short cruise to beautiful Lake Michigan, passing by the historic St. Joseph North Pier lighthouse.
Tip: Before heading out to the lake, get the ultimate on-the-water dining experience by ordering dockside delivery from Plank’s Tavern at the Inn at Harbor Shores. Call in your order, pull up to their dock and their staff will bring your order right out to your boat!
Pier 1000 has four boat rentals to choose from. Full-day rentals are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Plus, add to the fun by renting a towable tube! Lake Michigan tubing is a gripping experience- literally! Hang on tight as you glide across the freshwater and jump the wake. You’ll have an unforgettable day! Pizza and frozen mugs await you at today’s dinner spot.
1000 Riverview Dr, Benton Harbor
Known as the “Best Pizza in Southwest Michigan” a visit to Silver Beach Pizza is a must. It is located in the historic building adjacent to the Amtrak station just below the bluff in St. Joseph. Kids can keep busy at the table playing with pizza dough while you enjoy a filled-to-the-brim, ice-cold schooner of your favorite beer. A bonus is the view of Lake Michigan, the Whirlpool Compass Fountain and the coming and going trains while you wait. Once the pizza arrives you’ll find out what the hype is all about.
Next head to Stevensville for another scenic hike.
410 Vine St., St. Joseph, MI 49085
Get back to nature by hiking the forest trails of this 985-acre park. Cross the magnificent dunes that will lead you to one mile of Lake Michigan shoreline. This is a relatively challenging hike with moderate elevation changes but the view of the Big Lake at the end will be worth the effort. Then hike back to your vehicle. We’ve saved the best view for last.
7337 Thornton Dr., Stevensville
The number one sight you must see while you’re here is the sunset over Lake Michigan. On the way back to your hotel make a stop at Lookout Park in St. Joseph. Watch the sun sink below the horizon and fill the western skyline with beautiful hues of red, orange and yellow. It’s the perfect way to end your stay.
3218 Lakeshore Dr., St. Joseph
From a morning paddle on the water to an evening hike through the vineyards, you will sleep well tonight.
Whether you prefer hiking or biking this tour sends you up rigorous dunes, around twisty trails and to some of the most scenic spots along our Lake Michigan coast.
Navigate great waters, hike wooded trails and indulge in Southwest Michigan’s best.
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.