Exploring South Haven, Michigan with Kids

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At just five hours away from Columbus, South Haven, Michigan was the perfect little getaway for our family’s summer vacation.

It had a quaint downtown area, nice restaurants and most importantly, a beach for the kids to play on! If you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway, which isn’t too far away, South Haven might be a place to add to your potential travel list.

We spent three full days vacationing here in June 2021 and here were some of our favorite places to eat, play and shop!

Exploring South Haven, Michigan

Eat

There are a number of restaurants situated on the main street, Phoenix Street, and in the surrounding area. Here are a few we tried and really enjoyed with two little kids!

  • Clementine’s – Probably the most well-known restaurant in South Haven. There were numerous good reviews in our Vrbo’s guest book about it. Everyone loved their food! The kids had mac ‘n cheese. My husband and I had sandwiches and split an order of their stacked onion rings. We went for lunch, right when they opened, to avoid the dinner crowds, i.e. wait time with little kids!
  • Phoenix Street Cafe – Open for breakfast and lunch, this was a hit with everyone. The kids both loved their cinnamon roll pancakes and my husband and I enjoyed our meals as well. Our waiter was really friendly and the food came out pretty quickly despite how busy they were. Breakfast is served all day, which I find is generally a good bet while eating out with kids.  I would visit again!
  • Golden Brown Bakery – I read about this bakery in Shauna Niequest’s book Bread and Wine, so naturally we had to go! There is a restaurant in the back, but we came for donuts! Both of my children wanted donuts with frosting and sprinkles (both delicious!), but I went for the apple fritter with cherry glaze – yum! They also had a large selection of cookies, bread, fudge and other bakery goodies! I definitely recommend making a trip for breakfast!
  • Captain Nemo’s – Although they do serve food, we went for ice cream! They had many flavors and options of cone, cup, etc. There is both indoor and outdoor seating but, we took ours to go and ate on one of the street benches.

Play

The beach was my kids favorite, but there were several other attractions they really liked too! Here are a few I’d suggest to put on your South Haven to-do list.

  • Beach – My kids loved the beach, even though it wasn’t really warm when we went in June. There’s a North Beach and South Beach. We spent our time on south beach, which also had a playground that we visited each time we went to the beach. There is also a small gift shop and concessions stand. The beaches weren’t crowded at all in June, although I hear they can get crowded in July and August.
  • Kid’s Corner – My kids loved this playground, just a few blocks southwest of downtown. It was a large wooden castle-like structure with all kinds of little nooks to climb through. The playground also had swings and several slides. We went here every night to play.
  • Splash Pad – Right before you get to South Beach there is a nice splash pad, which looks like a ship. The kids liked the idea of it, but the water was a little too cold to play in it for long. It would probably be good on a really hot day though!
  • Light House – We all loved seeing the light house! There is a catwalk to get out to it off of South Beach. To note, there are no railings on the cat walk and there were some waves coming over the side, so walk with caution! You can’t actually go up the light house, but it was neat to see up close.
  • Grand Rapids Zoo – Ok, so while this was about an hour drive from South Haven, we all liked it so much I thought it was worth a mention! If you need a little break from the beach, this zoo was a lot of fun! In addition to animals, they also had some fun little play areas for the kids.

Shop

There are several restaurants, bakeries and shops to explore along Phoenix Street. We had our kids with us each time we went, but this would be a fun place to explore kid-free (maybe during naptime?) as well!

  • Oh My Darlings – This is a cute toy store on Phoenix Street. They had a wide variety of toys and books for many ages. There’s both an upstairs and downstairs. They also carry beach toys in case you forgot to pack yours!
  • The Blueberry Store – Even though blueberry picking hadn’t started when we went in June, we could still get our blueberry fix at this cute store, once again on Phoenix Street. They had all types of blueberry goodies from lollipops to baking mixes to beef jerky. If you want to get a souvenir to take home for family members, anything from here would be a welcomed gift.
  • Black River Books – Located a block away from Phoenix Street is this really interesting used book store. I could have spent a while looking around this place. Plan to go during naptime so you can take your time to look through everything. They did, however, have a kids area in the back of the store, which my children enjoyed browsing.
  • Renaissance + Papyrus – This was a cute woman’s store with clothing, candles, gifts and more. I could have spent a while exploring this shop and all of the interesting items they had. Note, this would best be explored without kids as there were a number of items they could probably get into at their eye level.
  • Souvenir Shops – There are a handful of souvenir shops along Phoenix Street. If you’re looking to leave South Haven with a momento, such as a sweater, t-shirt, or coffee mug, you’ll have a handful of places to find one!

If you’ve been to South Haven, I’d love to know what shops, restaurants and things to do were your favorite when you visited! Please share in the comments section below!


Another popular Michigan beach area is Sleeping Bear Dunes. Check out the details here: Sleeping Bear Dunes Vacation: My Family’s Top Five List

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