When reading about others’ travel experiences, whether on TripAdvisor, Yelp, or elsewhere, it’s important to me to know a little about the preferences of the writer. With some insight into how they like to travel, I’m better equipped to understand whether their recommendations are up my alley or not. Given that this is important to me, I’ll tell you a little about how my partner (Melissa) and I tend to do a weekend road trip.
First of all, we’re both in our 30s. We work full-time (plus some), and have various side projects which keep us each busy. On the weekend, we do our best to recharge. To us, that usually means slowing down and exploring new places when we’re able.
Given this affinity for wandering, and the fact that I’ve lived in Southeast Michigan for my entire life, I’m struck by one thought after this weekend’s trip to South Haven: Why have I never been here before? Here’s how we spent our relaxed weekend in South Haven:
Thankfully, we both arranged to skip out of work early so that we could get on the road before rush hour. Road trips are more fun when you’re not stuck in traffic with a bunch of commuters and other Friday night summer road trippers, right? It took us less than two and a half hours to get to South Haven from Ypsilanti. We were starving by the time we rolled into town, so we skipped checking in at our hotel in favor of dinner and drinks downtown at Taste, a tapas restaurant at the end of the shopping district. Everything we tried was fantastic.
We both knew that, if we went to check-in after dinner, we’d not just get our keys, but we’d go to sleep. Instead, we opted to walk around town– mostly along Phoenix St.– and window shop for a while, until it was time for dessert. A quick stop at Kilwin’s for a scoop was a great end to the evening. The shop was packed. Apparently lots of other people wanted a summertime sweet treat, too. We hung out on one of the benches outside of the shop while we enjoyed our ice cream. By this time, it was approaching 10 PM.
After ten or fifteen minutes, I noticed flashes of light out of the corner of my eye. Then I saw shop-keepers hurrying to get their signs and merchandise in. A storm! We finished our ice cream, got into the car, and drove toward the water. By the time we parked at the beach (South Beach, but we didn’t know that at the time), it started to sprinkle– and then the rain came down in a torrent. The lightning was almost constant, which we watched from the car for about a half hour. It was an amazing, perfect start to our trip.
After sleeping in and enjoying a light breakfast, we decided to head back into town to check out the farmer’s market. Visiting towns which are surrounded by some of the best farms in the state promises a well-stocked and active farmer’s market. South Haven’s didn’t disappoint! The berries and peaches were perfectly ripe, the food carts were dishing up specialties as quickly as they could, and musicians were set up at the periphery of the market shed.
Post-market, we took a peek inside some of the quaint shops along Phoenix St. Since all that shopping makes a person hungry, and since I hadn’t yet consumed enough coffee, we stopped for brunch at Phoenix Street Cafe. (Try the Jalapeno Corned Beef…)
By then, it was mid-day and we hadn’t yet made it to the beach. South Haven’s a beach town, the storms were long gone, and we both love the water. Clearly, this situation had to be rectified immediately!
We hurried back to the lovely Victoria Resort, our host for this beautiful #MittenTrip get-away (more about the resort in a forthcoming piece). Since the resort is only a block and a half from tiny Oak Street Beach, we hoofed it down the tree-lined sidewalk, threw our bag down in the sand, and jumped into Lake Michigan. The beach was busy, but not crowded, even though chairs were set up for a wedding that was going to take place there later that evening. There were no clouds in the sky, a slight breeze, and the temperature was around 85 degrees in the middle of the day. Those folks were looking forward to a picturesque wedding night!
Back at the Victoria Resort, we decided to check out the swimming pool for a little while before heading back to our cabin and cracking open our respective selections from New Holland Brewing (one of my favorites). Since we’re both always thinking about our next meal, and culinary tourism one of the most best ways to learn about a town, we spent some time debating before deciding on Su Casa for dinner.
If you go to Su Casa and have a few minutes to spare– and if the weather abides– take the time to wait for a table on their patio. It’s spacious and offers a lovely view of the water. Even on a hot evening, the breeze from the lake kept us cool.
We finished dinner about 45 minutes before sunset, and made our way back down to South Beach. Wow, this place looked different compared to the stormy night before! If you’re able, walk out to the lighthouse, take a seat on the ground, and watch. The sun, clouds, boats, people, and dogs came together to create a breathtaking scene. Lingering on the pier for a while as the foot traffic of fellow sun-seekers tapered off was a perfect way to spend an hour.
Then we realized that we hadn’t yet had any ice cream that day. That had to be remedied immediately. So, off we went to Sherman Dairy Bar, which both the internet and people told us is the best ice cream in the area. You know how sometimes there’s a line outside of a club or bar or something else that’s supposed to be supercool? Yeah, that’s what was happening here– a line around 50 people deep, and a parking lot full to bursting, all for the love of ice cream. We waited in line for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes before our number was called. It was worth it. Go here. It’s not downtown, and that’s OK. Get in the car and go to Sherman’s.
Check-out at the Victoria is at 10 AM, and we had a 9 AM seating for the resort’s breakfast. Blueberry baked french toast was on the menu, along with a buffet of fruit, yogurt, juices and coffee. It was a perfect start as we looked toward heading back across the state.
After handing our cabin key over, and getting into the car, we couldn’t help but drive back over to South Beach for one last slow walk to the lighthouse. There, we met a woman who is local to the area. She said that she rarely came out to the beach or the lighthouse– when you live near an attraction, it sometimes becomes less of an attraction. This morning was different, and she was glad she’d made her way out for a walk. It was a clear, breezy, absolutely stunning day.
Eventually, we pried ourselves from the beach, got back into the car, and hauled ourselves home. Our introduction to South Haven was amazing, and we’re sure to be back.