Find and book unique accommodations on Airbnb
Guests agree: these stays are highly rated for location, cleanliness, and more.
Saint Joseph may be the best place on the so-called Michigan Riviera for families. Silver Beach and Lions Park Beach both promise soft sands and lifeguard-monitored swimming areas. Children will love riding the Silver Beach Carousel and running through the Whirlpool Compass Fountain. With its twin city across the river, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph is the largest town on the southwest coast of Lake Michigan. Adults can break away from the beach to tour local wineries and peruse the downtown boutiques. More active vacationers will find plenty of state parks and hiking trails nearby. If you’re spending the week, you may want to devote an afternoon to exploring the other resort towns along Red Arrow Highway, such as New Buffalo and Lakeside.
The most convenient way to get to and around Lake Michigan’s southeastern coast is by car. If you’re flying into southwest Michigan, the closest major airport is Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), 100 miles from St. Joseph, where direct flights land from around the country. Another option is to take a regional flight to South Bend, Indiana (SBN), 33 miles to the southeast. You can rent a car at either airport. Amtrak also operates rail service between Chicago’s Union Station and St. Joseph, and there is a Greyhound stop in Benton Harbor, just across the river. Once you’re there, if you’d like to explore the region at a slower pace, a number of companies along the shore rent bikes by the day or week.
During summer, peak season at the Lake Michigan coast, the temperature will range between the 70s through the low 90s Fahrenheit from June through August. In late summer the humidity spikes and it rains frequently, so pack rain gear as well as sunblock and mosquito repellent. You’ll want to dress for cooler weather — think layers — in the spring (April-May) and fall (September-November). Western Michigan’s long winter starts in early December and lasts until March. Freezing temperatures are the norm, and the lake contributes extra-cold wind and snow to southern Michigan and northern Indiana.
Located just across a park from Silver Beach, this one-block area is a children’s wonderland: They can ride the hand-carved wooden horses on the Silver Beach Carousel, or spend hours running around the play spaces and interactive exhibits at the Curious Kids’ Museum and Discovery Zone.
If you haven’t had enough beach time — or you’d like to wander along a bigger expanse of it — Warren Dunes offers three miles of shoreline, as well as hiking trails that snake through the wetlands. If you hear excited screaming, look up to see kids who have climbed to the top of a 250-foot sand dune flying down. Some even hang-glide from the top.
St. Joseph is located on the mouth of the St. Joseph River, and watercraft rentals are plenty and varied: Steer a kayak up the river, picnic on a pontoon, or take a speed boat for a spin out in the lake. You can also find jet skis, paddleboards, and even a paddleboat designed for big groups.