I am a West Coast girl. (Of course if you’ve spent anytime rifling through the pages here at The Midwest Mermaid, then you probably already know that.) A West Coast girl living in the Midwest who misses the beach. True, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, not Southern Cal, but beach girls exist all up and down the West Coast and hone from places like Seattle and the San Juans to San Diego, the Baja Peninsula and everywhere in between.
And being that I’m a beach girl at heart, you can imagine my disbelief when a Midwesterner told me “the Great Lakes are just like the ocean”—minus, of course, the sharks and the salt. I mean listen, I took geography in high school, I remember seeing how massive the lakes look on a map of the U.S., but “just like the ocean?” Umm. No.
But then I went. And although there is more missing from the Great Lakes than just sharks and salt (there is very little surf and no shells to speak of), I have to admit, when you sit on the beach and look out over the vast horizon, it does look like the ocean.
Late June, 2017, I rented a VRBO house for my family—my husband, my dog, my mom, my daughters and their boyfriends, and my son; not a small group, but not an overly large one either. Given that the summer is primetime for the Great Lakes, finding a place last minutes can be difficult, unless, that is, you have an unlimited budget and don’t care which lake you’re on not what part of your chosen lake. Me, I wanted someplace within a five-hour dive of Indy—so that meant I would be Lake Michigan either in Illinois, Michigan or Indiana. (INTERSTING FACT—There are actually eight states and two Canadian provinces that boarder the Great Lakes: Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Quebec and Ontario.)
I scoured the VRBO site for place in Saugatuck but couldn’t find anything for less than $1,200 a night (that would fit our group) … I looked in New Buffalo, South Haven and St. Joseph … which is where I landed a fabulous home with plenty of room in a great location.
St. Joseph. A quaint town right on the water with great beaches, good restaurants and plenty of space to recreate. If you go … hit Silver Beach where you can stroll down the pier, rent paddle boards and kayaks, ride a carousal, munch on all kinds of food from the beachside vendors and feel safe and secure in the water knowing there are no sharks : ) NOTE: And this is a big “note” there is only one beach in the greater St. Joe (Warren Dunes) area that allows dogs, and even so, they need to be leashed at all times. Which, for me, was a major bummer. Dogs aren’t even allowed on the sand at Silver Beach. And the beach that is dog-friendly, well, it isn’t spectacular and since it is the one place where everyone with a dog goes, it’s not the most relaxing beach. Still, I would go back to St. Joe … it’s the quintessential beach town with plenty of happenings in the summertime. And, if you’re adventurous, drive around a little and ou will find some hidden spots where you can take your dog in the water. Just don’t tell anyone I sent you (wink, wink).
Pizza, Ice Cream, Running and Fishing (maybe not in that order)
Eat pizza at Silver Beach Pizza … more than one person recommended this local hotspot and it lives up to its reputation of having the best pizza in southern Michigan. Try for seat in the upper deck … you can call ahead for reservations.
Get ice cream from Kilwins … or, if you’re like me and don’t really care for ice cream, get one of their special caramel apples—so ridiculously tempting Snow white would have eaten her share long before the Wicked Queen showed up.
Run along the sidewalk/trail that boarders Silver beach. Park under the bridge, just down from Silver Beach Pizza, and run east down the sidewalk, past the water treatment plant, up and over the wooden walkway, and then—depending on how far you want to go—continue up and down the town streets until you eventually wind your way back to your parking spot. Easy peasy. I used Under Armor’s Map My Run, found a route, and easily went for a five-miler.
Fish along the pier or, if it’s not too rough, checkout this USA Today article for advice on where to find some of the best fishing in and around the St. Joseph area.