New York has the Hamptons. Boston has Cape Cod. Here in Chicago, our summer playground is the quaint harbor towns that dot the coastline of southwest Michigan. For those looking for a home base to explore these coastal towns, read on for MidWest Traveling Mom’s experience at the Inn at Harbor Shores, her suggested home base for exploring southwest Michigan.
Southwest Michigan’s Inn at Harbor Shores
Looking for the perfect hotel to explore southwest Michigan’s harbor towns? Located on one of the Great Lakes’ oldest marinas, The Inn at Harbor Shores is the great home base for exploring these coastal harbor towns.
Built in 2014, the hotel features deluxe accommodations, an inviting lobby, spa, fitness center, indoor and outdoor dining, and indoor and outdoor pools. In the summer, enjoy the fun outdoor tiki bar with its live music. The indoor year-round restaurant, Plank’s, serves up great food in a lovely setting with a cozy fireplace.
During our visit, we skipped dessert at the restaurant, Instead we opted for the complimentary nightly smores at the outdoor firepit of the hotel.
Amenities at The Inn at Harbor Shores
This southwest Michigan hotel offers plenty of great amenities for adults, as well as kids. I relaxed with a soothing massage at the spa, featuring a wide array of treatments. A Jack Nicklaus golf course across the street is another wonderful perk. Don’t golf? One fun offering at the spa is the Golfer’s Wives package — a 3 1/2 hour, pampering awesomeness with an exfoliating body treatment, facial, and hairstyle.
If you’re visiting in the summer, another great way to spend the day is on Lake Michigan with Captain Rich Greenwood. His sailboat, the Third Coast, is docked right at the hotel’s Harbor Shores Marina and is available for lessons, half day sails and overnight captained charters.
Day Trip: St. Joe, Michigan
One of my favorite Michigan harbor towns is St. Joe. A beautiful beach, vintage carousel, and pedestrian-friendly downtown make St. Joe feel like you’re stepping back in time. Imagine a coastal version of Mayberry, filled with cute boutiques and old-fashioned chocolate shops, and you’ll have an idea of what’s in store in St. Joe.
Stop for lunch or dinner at the family-friendly Silver Beach Pizza. A restaurant housed in a former train depot, the pizza is great — and so is the casual vibe.
While you’re waiting for your pizza, head across the street and take a ride on the recently restored Silver Beach Carousel. This classic carousel was built in 1910. Housed in a building, it’s open year-round, not just in the summer.
It wouldn’t be vacation without dessert, right? When it’s time for a sweet treat, head over to Kilwins Fudge or the Chocolate Cafe. While downtown, check out St. Joe’s cute shops.
One such shop that will surprise you is Third Coast Surf. A surf shop in the Midwest?! Visitors are often surprised when they first see Lake Michigan, known by Midwesterners as the Third Coast. It resembles an ocean, more than it does a lake. You can actually surf on this Great Lake.
If surfing Lake Michigan sounds totally rad, visit Third Coast Surf to rent a surfboard or sign up for lessons.
Not looking for a surfing safari? Just stop by one of St. Joe’s beautiful beaches. The beach is only a mile from the Inn at Harbor Shores.
More Day Trips to Nearby Harbor Towns
New Buffalo, Michigan
Take the Red Arrow Highway south a half hour, past Grand Lakefront Estates and bucolic farms until arriving in New Buffalo. This harbor town lures Chicagoans with its casual beach vibe and proximity, just over an hour from downtown Chicago. It’s got a popular marina and even more popular restaurant, The Stray Dog. Families line up for burgers at The Stray Dog, but only adults can head up to the rooftop bar and patio.
South Haven, Michigan
A half hour north of the Inn at Harbor Shores is the fun-loving town of South Haven. You’ll hear a lot of Jimmy Buffett playing in the bars and restaurants here. Kids will love climbing aboard the stationary Idler Riverboat. Parents will love the shrimp tacos, tropical drinks, and waterfront views. Clementine’s is a local favorite and Captain Lou’s seafood shack serves fresh perch and live music on the weekends.
If you’re traveling with teens and tweens, take the time to learn about South Haven’s rich boating history at the Michigan Maritime Museum. South Haven also claims to be the blueberry capital of the U.S., hosting the National Blueberry Festival every August.
A weekend getaway to the Inn at Harbor Shores is a great opportunity to learn about the rich and unique history of Southwest Michigan’s harbor towns. Summer is the hotel’s most popular season, but a visit here is a fun escape any time of year.