Uncover the charm of our lakeshore communities

Button Art Gallery, Douglas
Button Art Gallery, Douglas
Photo: Ollie and Tat

By Kelsey Smith

Each one of our eight lakeshore communities has its own identity and something special to offer locals and visitors alike. From award-winning wineries to spectacular public art, there’s something unique around every corner!

We met with the experts from each of our communities who shared some of their biggest takeaways.

Channel to Lake Michigan & Mt. Baldhead Radar Tower, Saugatuck
Channel to Lake Michigan & Mt. Baldhead Radar Tower, Saugatuck
Photo: Lane Nelson

Saugatuck, Douglas and Fennville

In Saugatuck, Douglas and Fennville, it’s all about basking in the natural beauty.

“The Saugatuck-Douglas-Fennville area offers a wide range of cultural, culinary and nature-driven experiences that blend the authentic spirit of a small town with modern and fresh perspectives,” said Lisa Mize, interim executive director of the Saugatuck/Douglas Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our communities are sophisticated, yet relaxed and approachable. We have a long-standing history of opening our arms to people and ideas considered different from the mainstream —making this a place where everyone is welcome and feels as though they belong. 

“At the heart and soul of each of our towns lies a creative culture that has shaped our character and firmly established us as the ‘the art coast of Michigan.’”

Must-visit

 The top of Mt. Baldhead (Saugatuck) has a view to die for! 

The Farmhouse Deli (Douglas) has fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner items as well as catering.

Fennville has wineries and cideries, apple and peach farms, a beautiful lavender farm and great farm-to-table restaurants.

Hidden gems

Saugatuck Dunes State Park is great for hiking. There are beautiful trails all leading back to Lake Michigan. 

Ox-Bow School of Art (Saugatuck) began as an extension of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1910, and is still operating today offering classes to the public and artist residency programs. 

Downtown Holland
Photos: Downtown Holland

Holland

Holland is well-known for its rich history and Dutch heritage. Its downtown is constantly growing and is home to plenty of trendy restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.

“Downtown Holland is vibrant and thriving, but in a beautiful and charming historic setting, which makes it very unique,” said Kara de Alvare, marketing coordinator for Downtown Holland. “We think there’s something special about Downtown Holland and it’s our goal to make everyone from local residents to out-of-state visitors feel welcome here.”

Must-visit 

There really is something for everyone in Downtown Holland, it just depends on what you’re passionate about. If you’re a foodie that loves to wine and dine or cook for friends and family, Holland has you covered. If you’re a fashionista that’s always looking for the latest trends in clothing and affordable accessories, look no further! If you’re an athlete or you’re outdoorsy, you’ll find what you need to be at the top of your game (or reach the top of your hike) in Holland, too! Downtown Holland also is a perfect destination for one-stop holiday shopping.

Hidden gems

An entire city block of Eighth Street between River and Pine avenues in Downtown Holland was recently redeveloped by GDK and is now home to shops, restaurants, a deli, bakery and a movie theater.

The Holland Peanut Store has been in business and owned by the same family, the Fabianos, since 1902. This classic, nostalgic candy store is five generations strong and offers homemade chocolate, freshly roasted nuts and the famous Nutty Paddle Pops.

Frank’s Restaurant
Frank’s Restaurant
Photo: City of Zeeland

Zeeland

If you’ve ever strolled through the little town of Zeeland, you’ve probably heard the catchy slogan, “Feel the Zeel.”

“Our vibe is truly, ZEEL,” said Abby deRoo, city marketing director at City of Zeeland. “ZEEL is an abundant enthusiasm that is unique to those living in Zeeland. It is a passionate and spirited pursuit to be part of a big small town full of everyday good living and unmatched enterprise.”

Must-visit

La Crème Creamery and Crepes is downtown’s newest eatery and it’s absolutely divine. The atmosphere and food are both worth writing home about and definitely Instagram-worthy!

Frank’s Restaurant is a Zeeland landmark. This fourth-generation burger joint is original to Zeeland and serves delicious food with a hefty side of nostalgia! Frank’s is known for its food and its memories, neither of which you should ever pass up. 

Hidden gems

Dekker Huis/Zeeland Historical Museum is modeled after a combination of an 1876 home and downtown store. Touring the museum is a genuine step back in time. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits that are relevant to Zeeland and Dutch-American heritage.

Pickleball courts at Huizenga Park were installed last year and have been excessively popular ever since! While you’re at Huizenga Park, visit the city’s largest playscape that was recently installed. 

Grand Haven icy pier
Photo: Ed Post

Grand Haven

With its pristine, soft-sand beaches and plenty of natural beauty, Grand Haven has become a popular year-round vacation destination.

“We are a charming small town, beach town, and most importantly, we are ‘Coast Guard City U.S.A.,’” said Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We have lots of community spirit and appreciate the fun, casual and festive approach to the holidays.”

Must-visit

The historic downtown shopping district is a great place to do your holiday shopping, particularly if you are looking for unique gifts. Peace Frogs and Just Goods Gifts will be open for the holidays in the historic depot train station. 

Hidden gems

Grand Haven has some open spaces for hiking and exploring, like Hiawatha Forest and Port Sheldon Natural Area.

Village of Spring Lake mural
Photo: Village of Spring Lake

Spring Lake

Located on a peninsula, the village of Spring Lake is surrounded by the Grand River and Spring Lake — making it a major hot spot for outdoor recreation.

“It’s homey here in Spring Lake,” said Angela Stanford-Butler, DDA director at Village of Spring Lake. “It seems quiet on the outside, but it’s very athletic. It’s all about being outside and getting around.”

Must-visit

Fuel Bar + Refuge is a trendy spot with incredible food. The barbecue falls right off the bone, and the drinks are just nuts. In the summer, a really great thing to do is sit out on the patio with a refreshing cocktail.

Hidden gems

Art in the Park began a few years ago and has since resulted in three new murals in town. Next year, there will be several more plus a sculpture. Art in the Park introduces public art, beautifies neighborhoods and helps prevent crime through environmental design.

There are many nice trails in Spring Lake, which are connected to Grand Haven and Fruitport, and will eventually go all the way to Grand Rapids.

Hoffmaster State Park
Hoffmaster State Park
Photo: Kristine Tyler

Muskegon

In Michigan’s most-populated city on its western shoreline, everyone is welcome.

“Muskegon is a perfect blend of art, culture and outdoor recreation,” said Emily Morgenstern, communications manager at Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “There’s always something fun and unique to do. What separates Muskegon from other cities is the welcoming and inviting people that call this place home.”

Must-visit

The Muskegon Farmers Market is the second-largest in the state. It showcases the best locally-grown Michigan products, from food and flowers to crafts and baked goods.

Pigeon Hill Brewing Company is named after a massive sand dune that once sat on Muskegon Lake. Pigeon Hill is one of the most popular places in town to wind down with an ice-cold brew.

Hidden gem

Burl & Sprig is a rum-centric distillery that focuses on crafting innovative and creative spirits, cocktails and small plates. 

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