Growing up in the heart of Harbor Country in Southwest Michigan, I often found myself exploring from the very corner of Michigan up to the shores of St. Joseph/Benton Habor, Michigan.
While I no longer live there, I consider myself a local at heart and want to share with you how to spend a day visiting hidden (and not-so-hidden gems) to make a magical trip down the coastline of Southwest Michigan.
Savor Coffee With a View at Clifford’s Coffee Canal
When it comes to road trips around Michigan, I try to always start at a local coffeehouse. With espresso, smoothies, juices, bakery items, and more, you could easily spend all morning enjoying this incredibly unique coffee shop nestled in the canal district of Benton Harbor.
This stunning botanical garden cafe encompasses a love for nature, and you can choose to sit inside and enjoy all of the plants and eclectic decor or bring your cup and bakery goods out to the outdoor seating with a view of the water.
Visit the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse
With a coffee in hand, it was time to head to one of my favorite Michigan beaches. At Tiscornia Park, you will enter a pay-to-park lot and have just a short walk until you are on the pier making your way out to the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse.
While you will still find plenty of people here on a beautiful day, I have found this to be my little peace of heaven to avoid some of the more frequented beaches when I make my way to St. Joseph.
Enjoy a Mural on the Bluff
Whenever I am in St. Joseph, no matter the reason, I try to make it to the bluff staircase located right near Silver Beach Pizza to view the mural. This year’s temporary mural was painted by artists Nate Baranowski and Chris Carlson and is well worth the stop to view.
With my love for nature, seeing the realistic butterfly life cycle was a real treat. This is the fourth year the temporary installment has been in place. I can’t wait to see what next year’s piece.
Experience Lunch at the Overlook
After spending the morning at the beach, it was time for lunch. And I am going to let you in on one of my favorite gems of southwest Michigan. Baguette De France is a small counter sub shop, and if you like a toasted sandwich, I have never found better.
One of my favorite things to do when I visit back home is to order a sandwich and take the couple-minute drive to Kiesel Overlook or Lookout Park, both located on Lakeshore Drive. These two roadside parks are perfect spots to enjoy a quick lunch or catch a Lake Michigan sunset.
Take a Hike at Warren Woods State Park
After lunch, I continued my way down Red Arrow Highway to take a hike at Warren Woods State Park. This is a no-frills state park that is often overlooked and mostly used by locals because out-of-town guests flock to Warren Dunes State Park, just miles away.
While there is no Great Lake here, you will find mighty beech and maple trees to give you a walk through an enchanted forest feel. This is also a perfect trail for families with young children because it is short and relatively easy. If you haven’t visited before, this is always a must-stop for me when the fall colors have arrived.
Indulge in a Scoop of Ice Cream at Oink’s
After a short hike, it was time to head to New Buffalo for a sweet treat. Oink’s Ice Cream is a favorite among many and is always recommended when others are looking for a scoop. But you just won’t find ice cream here.
When you walk in, you will see just about every inch of this small ice cream parlor covered in pig and ice cream memorabilia—a feast for both your tummy and eyes.
Treat Yourself at MAK Salon and Spa
After enjoying a hike and an ice cream, it was time to treat myself further to some self-care. I have been visiting MAK Salon and Spa since its opening ten years ago.
With my good friend as the owner, I have made a point to keep my hair and nail services here through moves across the Midwest because the service and community you find here are just that good! If you already have these covered, I still encourage you to stop in for any hair care, skincare, and other self-care products you might need.
Dine at Gather in Harbert
Just across the street from the salon is a perfect little restaurant called Gather. With an invitation right there in the name, this is the best spot to come together with loved ones and enjoy a delicious meal. You’ll be blown away by the elevated experience but relaxed feel of this gem tucked right off of Red Arrow Highway.
End Your Day with a Show at The Acorn Theater
I ended my day by taking in a live acoustic show with my dear friend at the Acorn Theatre. This non-profit performing arts center is a small and intimate venue with amazing shows. If you haven’t ever visited before, I would take a look at the Acorn Theatre calendar and see if there is something that catches your eye and make visiting this venue a priority.
Venture to Southwest Michigan
I hope that you take the time to head down the coast of Southwest Michigan and explore some of these hidden gems that make this community so amazing.