One of my favorite getaways is Western Michigan.
My family has history in the State, dating back to when my great-grandparents lived in Traverse City. Now, we’ve made our own memories all across Pure Michigan.
Recently, my wife and I took a babymoon to Holland. This is the perfect spot for a 4-7 day vacation. I’ll dive into the things we loved most about the area, and hopefully you can get some inspiration for your next summer, spring, or fall vacation!
Nestled against the beautiful Lake Michigan, Holland and surrounding towns have incredible sunsets. Each night, I made it a priority to get us to a different spot to see the views. Even though multiple days were a bit cloudy, the sunset did not disappoint. Below you will find a few locations to check out the sights.
1: Tunnel Park
Lets begin with Tunnel Park. The view so nice, we had to see it twice! The sandy beach laying against Lake Michigan costs $10 to get in during the day. It’s a pretty popular beach, and there’s good reason why. We’ll get back to the beach part of Tunnel Park later in the article. This spot is perfect for sightseeing because of the overlook above the Lake. As you can see in my photo, you can walk down these stairs to get to the beach, but I’d argue the view up above is much more serene. For those of you who like to learn your history, there are some displays up above that you can learn about Tunnel Park. There is another flight of stairs before you get to the overlook, but they are fairly doable. If you need to take your time, there are a few spots going up the staircase where you can take a break. We found that if you only go at night (say after 8:00 p.m.) you don’t have to pay the $10 to get in.
2: Grand Haven State Park Beach
While we did stay in Holland, our favorite area of the trip was Grand Haven. Take I-31 north about 30 minutes, and you’ll be there. The walkway out around the lighthouse is beautiful. You’ll see a good amount of boats on the waters, which as you’ll see below, make for great photos. Grand Haven’s beach was our #1 beach of the trip, I’ll share more details about that shortly.
3: Holland State Park
Another beautiful beach with a wonderful lighthouse. Holland State Park is one of the prize gems of the City. You can watch the sun turn red over the Lake from the beach, or walk out on a pathway farther into the water where you get the best views.
4: Laketown Beach
If you’re looking for a secluded spot, Laketown Beach is for you. The walk up the dunes is a bit more difficult than your other sunset spots, but if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, check this out! Once you get to the top, it’s a beautiful view.
When you think of going to the beach, you might think of Florida, California, or South Carolina. While all of these States offer amazing beach getaways, I’d recommend trying to get up to Michigan once and seeing if you prefer this. Yes, the water is colder than if you were to go to the States I just named. But for the most part, the beaches are less crowded, the sand is still soft, and the temperatures are much more bearable. Honestly, after sitting in the sun for an hour, getting into the chilly water actually felt pretty awesome.
Our favorite beach was Grand Haven’s. We got there about 9:00 o’clock in the morning. I’m not sure what vacationers are up to at 9 a.m. in Michigan, but nobody is up and at the beach. We had a ton of space to ourselves right by the lighthouse, which was a beautiful shot (see below).
If you get tired of sitting on the sand, take a walk down the walkway up to the lighthouse and get some great views. Some people were even jumping off the path into the water (I did this once).
Holland State Park’s Beach is also a great option. We showed up at about 9 o’clock, and it was a little more busy than Grand Haven. But we really enjoyed a relaxing morning on the beach. If you get hungry, they’ve got a snack shop up the beach where you can get some (mostly fried) food. We packed picnics everyday for lunch, so we were set there, but I definitely got some ice-cream the night we came for sunset. One really nice thing about Holland State Park’s beach were these padded paths they put down for visitors. Instead of walking a long ways down the sand, you can walk down the path they’ve placed for you and get to your seats faster (and less sandy).
Tunnel Park was a beautiful beach, and a different experience than the others. You can either walk up the stairs I mentioned earlier in the article, or you can walk through the tunnel at the lower section of the park. Hence the name, Tunnel Park. Once you get through the tunnel, you have to walk down a staircase anyway to get to the beach. This beach was much more crowded, similar to Holland State Park, but it also was a thinner beach. The sand was still soft, just as it was at Holland State Park & Grand Haven, but there were a lot more people for sure.
The day we went to Grand Haven’s beach, we stopped at a coffee shop called Jumpin’ Java beforehand. There, I asked the barista some food recommendations. She told me about The Deck in Muskegon (about another half hour north). We went there for lunch that day, and it was one of the best decisions we made that trip. I’ll have to dedicate another paragraph to The Deck later on in the article. After we had lunch, we chilled at Muskegon’s beach. It was pretty busy, but still very nice and relaxing.
The final beach we went to was also a bit out of town from Holland. We headed out to Saugatuck’s Oval Beach. Again, showed up around 9 o’clock, everyone else must’ve been sleeping! We were one of the first ones there. The sand here was a little more coarse once you got to the water. There were pebbles in the water which didn’t feel the best on your feet, but the rest of the experience was great! Pretty secluded, very relaxing.
I’m going to list out the places we went for food below with a quick description. This was another highlight of our trip.
1: Seventy-Six (Holland) — Feels fancy, but is a bit hipster. Really good food. I tried Virtue Cider (made in Michigan nearby) and it was the best cider I’ve ever had. Good vibes, plus it’s right downtown.
2: Captain Sundae — the classic ice-cream spot in Holland. Lots of options, super tasty.
3: Boatwerks (Holland) — Fan-favorite spot in Holland right by the harbor. Really good view, awesome outdoor seating. Inside of the restaurant is kind of designed like a ship. Highly recommend.
4: Long Road Distillers (Grand Haven) — Nice place downtown. Good burgers & Nashville hot chicken sandwiches.
5: Crazy Horse Steakhouse (Holland) — A more relaxed steakhouse. I wish I would’ve known because I showed up rocking a dress shirt and nice pants, but it’s all good, no judgment here. Really good steaks and sides.
6: The Deck (Muskegon) — Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Listen folks, I’m a barbecue snob. This was some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. You smell the grill as soon as you walk up to the restaurant. There’s indoor seating, but if you come to The Deck, get a table outside. I’ll put a photo below to show you why.
First of all, you’ve got plenty of options. You can sit below near the sand, or above as you see on the left side of the photo. And it all overlooks the beach. Now, back to the barbecue…
Phew, I’m getting hungry just seeing this photo! BBQ ribs, mac n cheese, Mexican street corn, fries and chips. Meal probably cost me $20. That’s a steal! The BBQ sauce was incredible, the ribs were immaculate, but the Mexican street corn (bottom right of photo) was a show-stealer. If you’re in the Muskegon area, this is a must-go!
7: Crust 54 (Holland) — There are multiple locations of Crust 54, we went to the one on 8th Street downtown. We had the Srirancha pizza, it was seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. I love ranch, and I’m a big sriracha fan, so it makes sense why I’d like this. We also got these things called Tim Wheels, basically rolled up pizza which was delicious.
8: Windmill Restaurant — Need some breakfast? Here’s your option. Windmill is located in downtown Holland. Be prepared, because you’ll probably have to wait a few minutes outside before getting in. The food was incredible and the vibe of the shop was really cool.
Enough about the food, lets talk about some activities you can do if you’re sick of the beach or if the weather gets a bit funky.
1: Nelis’ Dutch Village — Got kids? Go to the Dutch Village. You can feed goats, ride rides, taste cheese, learn Dutch history, and much more. It’s $15 to get in for adults, and it’s definitely worth it. Spend an afternoon here and you’ll have some fond memories. Also, for you romance lovers, the Village has some great spots for photos which makes you look like you’re in Venice, Italy or something. Just an idea.
2: Windmill Island Gardens — I’m a sucker for good views, you probably guessed that since I started off this article going on about sunsets. Head over to the Windmill Gardens where you can see flowers galore, and checkout an actual Dutch windmill. You can get up in it and walk up to the 5th floor. I’ll post a photo below.
3: Holland Farmer’s Market — On Wednesdays and Saturdays, head downtown Holland and checkout the Farmer’s Market. It’s right next to the Civic Center. Here you can find plenty of produce, flowers, coffee, jams, salsa, you name it! It’s a fun thing to do for an hour before getting on with your day.
4: Downtown Holland shopping — My wife loves shopping (so do I, but mostly her). So we spent plenty of time walking up and down the streets of downtown Holland going into stores and checking out all they have to offer. My wife always jokes that she is the one who always wants to shop, but I’m the one who always buys more stuff. It’s true, I’ll admit it. A few spots we went… Cherry Republic. Here you can find cherry ANYTHING. I got my mom some sour cherry chewy candies (she loves those), and I got myself some cherry BBQ sauce (maybe I’ll use that on my pork steaks tomorrow…). They also have different counters where you can try out plenty of their cherry products, for free. Salsa, sauces, chips, etc. I’m a big wine guy, so of course I had to stop by Warner Vineyards downtown Holland as well. I had a wonderful time learning about Michigan wine and doing a wine tasting. I of course bought a bottle of cherry wine, which I’m actually about to go pour myself a glass as I finish this article.
5: Bowerman’s Blueberries — This place made me fall in love with blueberries. I’ve always been a blackberry or raspberry guy, now things are changing for me. Truly. They’ve got EVERYTHING blueberry here. Coffee, crisps, pies, wine. They’ve also got some really cute home decor, I definitely bought a drink coaster while my wife wasn’t looking. She likes it though, we’re good. Of course the best part about Bowerman’s is the U-Pick blueberry picking outside. Huge blueberries I tell you, huge! If you didn’t get enough of Bowerman’s, have no fear, there’s a Bowerman’s shop downtown Holland where you can get breakfast, coffee, jams, and more.
This is just a taste of Holland and Western Michigan in general. There is so much more to do, but you’ll have to go find out for yourself and report back to me.
If you liked reading about Holland, subscribe to my blog! I’ll be posting more about my travel adventures. Also, send me any tips for places to checkout!