My wife and I are attending a wedding in Valparaiso, Indiana on 22 June. We plan on adding some days of vaction to the trip and are interested in visiting some of the beach towns along Lake Michigan. We’ll fly in to Chicago and finish our trip with a few days in that city.
Neither of us know anything about the area except for Chicago. I’d appreciate any tips on the trip from dopers in the area. I’m pretty fried from my job, so I’d like to be able to lie on a beach, read a book, go out to dinner and do some swimming. We’d be interested in quiet and quaint as opposed to colleges kids and partying. We’d be renting a car to get from Chicago to the wedding and then back to Chicago at the end of the trip, but we don’t want to waste too much time driving from the Valparaiso area.
Sorry if these are really stupid questions, but we don’t know the area at all: is the water warm enough to swim at that time of year? What about the weather in general, is it good laying on the beach reading weather? What about reservations, the wedding is coming up and we haven’t even started making any bookings, are we screwed, or is it still doable?
June 22 the water temp on the Michigan side will probably be around 60. Unless the wind is from the north it’ll be very pleasant for sunbathing and refreshing to take an occasional dip. The beaches are quiet family places, and there are plenty of B&Bs and nice, if not four-star, restaurants.
Saugatuck isn’t too bad of a slog from Chicago if you’re staying for a few days. I have relatives from Chicago that owned a house in Saugatuck and would make that trip a couple times a month.
I lived in various towns along the New Buffalo to Holland tourist corridor for a while. New Buffalo, St. Joseph and South Haven are all good for killing a couple of days. Holland I was never much of a fan of. If you do end up in South Haven, I would suggest trying to get a river view room at the Old Harbor Inn.
For beaches my favorites were the Dykeman St. beach access on the north side of South Haven. It is slightly off the tourist beaten track but still close enough to walk to and from. In St. Joseph there is a “known to locals” type beach access at Lakeshore Dr. and Lake. Just take the wooden ramp at the end of the street down to the water. There is also a nice path along the beach that will take you to Silver Beach/downtown.
Another vote for New Buffalo. The beach is rather nice and we take an annual vacation there the last couple years (from the Chicago suburbs). It ain’t the ocean but it beats the Chicago beaches. Not too bad of a drive either – we make a few days out of it just to make it an event but we could easily do it as a day trip.
If you’re feeling like a little more time in the car and have an extra day or so to burn you may want to consider driving up to Mackinac Island. I haven’t personally been there but it would be more of a landmark with a more complete tourist experience than the SE Michigan corridor.
Certainly some locals could compare and contrast it with the other locations mentioned, but I figured I’d toss it out there for discussion.
I spend a lot of time up at the dunes. $5 gets you into the state park, with miles of trails and beaches. If interested in such things, you could read about the Save the Dunes movement, ecological succession, and the local ecological history beforehand. There are also free places to park and access the beach.
Warren Dunes is right up the road across the border. Very nice beach and dunes.
Can’t really go wrong IMO w/ any of the small towns heading on up - Saugatuck-Douglas, South Haven, Grand Haven … We used to spend quite a bit of time around Muskegon - some really nice beaches. I’m going to a wedding in Holland in 2 weeks. Nice town. Might enjoy a stop in Three Oaks - a neat artsy town. If you want a theme to your travels, see how many lighthouses you can hit. Could enjoy a canoe/tube down one of many rivers.
Head further up and Sleeping Bear Dunes are amazing! Traverse City is like something you’d expect on the Gulf of Mexico. And Mackinac Island and the bridge are pretty neat.
All depends on how much time you have to spend and how far you want to drive. If just a couple of days, I’d suggest the state and Nat’l parks, Warren Dunes, and 3 Oaks. From downtown Valpo you can be on the beach in 20 minutes. Look for a tall guy throwing a stick for a stupid golden - could be me!
If you’re interested / willing to head up the west shore of the lake instead of the east shore, Door County, WI (the “thumb” of Wisconsin) probably would also meet what you’re looking for. Lots of quaint little towns, and a lot of things to do (including hanging out on the beach). The west side of the peninsula (on the Bay of Green Bay) was historically more “built up” than the east side (along Lake Michigan proper), though I haven’t been up there in a few years, and it might be a bit different now.
Yes, you’d likely want to make reservations, but there are enough places up there that I’d be very surprised if you can’t still get a room at a good hotel / resort.
FWIW, you can drive along the lakeshore up to about South Haven. At that point you’ll “need” to drive inland a bit until you get to the other side of Muskegon. Not that you can’t take an exit and go to the lake, just that you need to know where you want to go.
… and just for the record, the listing of towns quoted above isn’t in order as you proceed north.
Before we made New Buffalo our destination, we used to travel up to Empire. It’s very nice up there but the extra ten hours (round trip) in the car with the kids wasn’t worth it when we were just hitting the beach.
Sleeping Bears Dunes was something else. Warning: It’s deceptive to climb. There’s a couple spots where it looks like you’re going to crest the summit just to find out it keeps on going. I did it once and never again – I’m too old for that twice.
I find the Traverse City remark ironic since some of the worst Mexican food I’ve ever had, I had in Traverse City.
Sorry I’ve been away from this thread, for the past couple of days I was traveling back from Afghanistan for work. Thanks for all the info.
Dinsdale, the reception is at the County Line Orchard. I’ve never been to Valparaiso, so I’ve no idea where that is in the city. Although, if I had to guess, it would be somewhere near the county line.