Known for its sandy beaches, Grand Haven, Michigan, sits between Lake Michigan’s eastern shore and Grand River. Congress designated the resort town a Coast Guard City in November 1998 for its annual National Coast Guard Festival. What started as a picnic for coast guard members and their families in 1924 has grown into a national week-long festival that attracts more than 350,000 visitors every July. Boasting accolades like happiest seaside town and one of the best secret beaches on Earth, Grand Haven is no stranger to showing off its historic charm and natural beauty. And its rustic lodging and delicious food and beer don’t disappoint either.
What To Do
Spend the day hiking at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, a less-than-15-minute drive from downtown. Walk the wooded trails or enjoy 3 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. For a panoramic view of the lake, trek up the Dune Climb Stairway, which leads to an observation deck on top of a tall sand dune. After, return to downtown and meander along Grand Haven River. On its north shore, check out the Grand Haven Musical Fountain, which features an impressive 25-minute synchronized light and water show at dusk every Friday and Saturday throughout September. After catching a show, follow the river’s shoreline south less than a mile to Lighthouse Connector Park. As its name suggests, the park is home to two lighthouses, both built in the 1800s. Walk the pier to admire the historic lighthouses, docked boats, and, if you’re lucky, the sun setting over Lake Michigan.
Where To Stay
Grand Haven is packed with all the motels, inns, and bed and breakfasts needed to host high-ranking coast guard officers and tourists year round. Book at stay at the Khardomah Lodge, a secluded cottage surrounded by wooded dunes just a mile from downtown and 100 yards from Grand Haven Beach. Partially built in 1873, the 15-bedroom, four-story rustic lodge is an official Michigan Historic Site. Khardomah means “happy home” in Anishinaabemowin, a Native American language. The name fits the bill. The lodge offers intimate suites with private baths and small rooms with shared bathrooms. It can even be completely rented out for the ultimate beach retreat. Its cozy interior and family-friendly vibes will make you and your loved ones feel right at home.
Khardomah Lodge, khardomahlodge.com
Where To Eat
Fricano’s Pizza Tavern does thin crust pizza right. In 2011, more than 150,000 Facebook and Twitter fans voted it the best pizza in the state in an unofficial Pure Michigan poll. The family-owned pizza place opened in 1949 in an old boarding house on Fulton Street in Grand Haven and has since expanded to five additional locations. Get in line at the pizzeria—that served a record 1,200 pizzas on a warm July night in 1994—and order a well-done pizza with house-mixed sausage and green peppers. Add anchovies (trust us) for what many claim is the best bite of pizza in the world.
Wash down your pie with a pint at Odd Side Ales, a family-friendly brewery downtown, just a five-minute drive from Fricano’s. In business since 2010, Odd Side is famous for its odd beer varieties. Try a Peach Strawberry Guava Fruitsicle, a fruity beer brewed with lactose, or a Cuckoo Wheats, a hefeweizen with hints of chocolate coffee that resembles a chocolate-covered banana.
Top it all off with a cup of frozen yogurt, gelato, sorbet, or custard at The Pump House just around the corner from Odd Side. With a plethora of crazy toppings and flavors, Pump House has something for everyone—even a gourmet coffee bar, hard ice cream, and raw cookie dough! The best part is it’s open year round.
Side Trip: USS Silversides Submarine Museum
An area ripe with maritime history, Western Michigan is home to several naval attractions. One of the most unique is the USS Silversides Submarine Museum. Located 20 miles north of Grand Haven in Muskegon, the museum includes a real decommissioned Gato-class World War II submarine. The highly decorated vessel is recognized for sinking 23 enemy ships, the third most of any Allied WWII submarine. Learn about submarine warfare and life on board by taking a guided tour. You can even book an overnight stay and sleep in the same berths that sailors once rested in after a long day at sea. But be warned: WWII submarines weren’t exactly built for sailors taller than 6 feet.