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Best Michigan Beach Towns

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, my girlfriend and I took a mini road trip from Chicago to several Michigan beach towns along the west coast of Michigan. I found a list on Thrillist of the top 20 beach towns in Michigan, so I did very minimal research to find the towns closest to Chicago. I booked two hotels ahead of time, but planned to rely on the Thrillist list. If you're looking for beach towns within driving distance of Chicago, a road-trip, or going to Michigan for any reason, I would highly recommend reading the details of our trip below. The Thrillist list is NOT what I would recommend (and Michigan natives would agree with me as well).

Let’s focus on the fashion first. Here are the top brands that I packed for this trip:

  • Greats - his and hers pairs, you can't go wrong!

  • Eredita - handmade Italian driving loafers perfect for driving, a walk around town, dinner and much more

  • Nifty Genius - horizontal striped short-sleeve button down shirt and blue (XXX) shorts perfect for the casual beach vibes

  • JACHS NYC - blue linen shirt and gingham check blue shorts

  • Away luggage - high quality luggage with an affordable price tag and lots of great features (e.g. USB charging)

Summary list of my ranking of the Michigan beach towns that we checked out:

  1. Holland - Thrillist list #3

  2. Saugatuck - Thrillist list #4

  3. South Haven - Thrillist list #8

  4. Grand Haven - Thrillist list #1

  5. Muskegan - Thrillist list #2

The original plan for our two-day trip was fairly flexible, but with the busy holiday weekend we booked hotel rooms in the cities we thought would be best to stay. We drove from Chicago to Grand Haven (about 2 hours), to stop for lunch and a walk around town. We really enjoyed our lunch at Snug Harbor. Snug Harbor has a great deck that overlooks the water and the food was better than I was expecting. From Grand Haven, we drove 30 minutes north to Muskegan. Our original plan was to stay in Muskegan overnight and we even had dinner reservations booked along the water. This was based off what the Thrillist list recommended. However, when we got to Muskegan it was raining and the town didn't appear to be a place where we could really have an enjoyable evening (walkable restaurants and restaurants, etc). So, we decided to call an audible and called a bunch of hotels in Holland and found one with last minute availability. We talked to a lot of Michigan locals throughout our trip that wouldn't recommend Muskegan either (sorry Muskegan loyalists).

We drove 45 minutes south from Muskegan to Holland, and we definitely did not regret that decision. Holland is a much more walkable town with a couple of breweries and restaurants right in town. We stayed at the Haworth Inn & Conference Center. While the location was great, I wouldn't recommend this hotel if the City Flats has availability (I'll cover that hotel shortly). Even being a Sunday night, we enjoyed our first night in Holland, MI. We walked to Our Brewing Company from our hotel to start, which was really fun! It's a very friendly, local atmosphere for the college students and also families (we met a local baker and also a dad who has been coming with his wife and young kids here every year for 6 years). They have a fantastic beer selection of all of their own beers and a popcorn machine that is always full. They do not serve food, so we headed over to the New Holland Brew Pub for dinner. New Holland Brewing brews one of my favorite beers, Dragon's Milk, and one of our new favorite beer, The Lost Dune.

The next morning started out early as we were capturing some photos for Greats in town before it got too crowded and awkward to take pictures. The local coffee shop, JP’s Coffee & Espresso Bar, is a great place to stop for a little caffeine, especially with the outdoor seating. We spent some time checking out the boutiques along the main street (about 0.5 miles with shops on both sides) and then headed down to South Haven. South Haven really had that small, beach town vibe. We ate at Captain Lou's, which doesn't even have a website, but I would recommend it for a low key place along the water (more of a bar than a classy restaurant). We went to the beach for about an hour in South Haven and then headed out to check out three different wineries on our way back to Holland. We stopped at the following wineries: Cogdal Vineyards, Mcintosh Apple Orchard & Winery, and Crane’s. Cogdal is more of a traditional winery (although very small). Mcintosh offers fruit based wines and ciders, which is pretty unique. Crane’s is known for their pies and dutch-syle food, serving great ciders as well.

Our second night in Holland we stayed at the City Flats Hotel. This is probably one of the cooler hotels I have stayed in recently. They also have one of the most comfortable beds. We learned that the hotel is owned by a furniture company, so they manufacture and sell everything they use in the hotel. We grabbed a bite to eat at The Curragh, which had above average bar food, and a great outdoor patio on the main street.

We drove from Holland to Saugatuck where they were having a massive July 4th celebration. It literally took us 30 minutes to find a parking spot, including street parking. But what a cool town! It seemed to really have a well-established artist community and we heard from several locals that it can be quite the party town.

The final leg of the journey was about 90 minutes from Saugatuck back to Chicago.

Be sure to reach out if you have any specific questions!



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