Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory


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Driving the Lake Michigan shoreline ranks up there among the best of RV road trips, where winding roads connect small mid-western towns eager to please visitors year-round. As the route transitions from south to north, the scenery becomes progressively greener, evolving from small, lakeside resort towns into the great wide open spaces of northern Michigan.

Let’s trace the lake’s shore by starting in the town of St. Joseph, in the southwest corner of the state. “St. Joe,” as the locals call it, is a small town with a big heart, complete with a charming town center chock-full of shopping and excellent bistros. South of town is the wonderful, 1,500-acre Warren Dunes State Park, which offers beaches, fine campgrounds, and plenty of hiking trails. Once you’ve warmed up to this neck of the woods, let’s head north along scenic Hwy 63, skirting the lake’s eastern shore, until you hit the town of Paw Paw Lake. This quiet little town opens its arms to summer visitors, drawing them in with its flourishing grape industry. With grapes come wines, and with wines come local vineyards. Take a tour and tasting at the several wineries in the area, or stick around in early September for the Wine and Harvest Festival.

Continuing north along the shoreline on I-196, take some time to stop at the town of South Haven, home to the impressive Lake Michigan Maritime Museum. The town is also well known for its marinas and several charters, which can take you for a spin around the lake in search of abundant (with the right bait and know-how) lake trout or Chinook salmon.

Get back on the interstate for a spell, before stopping in the wonderful artist’s colony of Saugatuck and its amazing Oval Beach (rated one of the best in America by Conde Nast Traveler); it has a terrific, “artsy” downtown. This is a prime spot for a weekend getaway with some great campgrounds in the area. When you’re ready, head back onto the highway to Holland, one of Michigan’s most charming little towns. Settled in the mid-1800s by the Dutch (of course!), today Holland is world-famous for its tulip festival, blooming each May. For those Dutch RVers (or those willing to be Dutch for a day), check out the Dutch Village, a theme park that recreates 18th-century Holland right here in America. Take a picnic near the spinning arms of the only operating imported Dutch windmill in the U.S. at Windmill Island near downtown. Be sure to stop by the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory, the only one of its kind in the entire nation and a perfect place to find a unique gift.

From Holland, let’s take a side trip away from the shoreline eastward to Grand Rapids. Well-known for its city parks (there are almost 50 of them), Grand Rapids is the great place to spend an afternoon. Be sure to visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, an enormous botanical garden complete with a 15,000-square-foot conservatory. Of course, one can’t leave town without paying respects to its favorite son at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, commemorating the life and work of our 38th president. If you happen to be downtown during the springtime, be sure to visit the Grand Rapids Fish Ladder, a unique device that allows spawning salmon and trout to circumvent the dam and continue their journey upstream.

From Grand Rapids, head back northwest along I-96 to the town of Muskegon. Wander some of the city’s 25+ miles of Lake Michigan shoreline or enjoy a picnic in some of the city’s 3,000 acres of public parks. Downtown is built on the shores of Lake Muskegon, which is popular with fishermen hoping to catch perch, walleye, pike, and other quarry. Other favorite destinations include the P.J. Hoffmaster State Park along Lake Michigan and the impressive Gillette Visitor Center, where you can learn all about dune ecology. Muskegon State Park is just north of town and offers up more than 1,000 acres of outdoor fun.

Heading north out of Muskegon you’ll begin to entire another world – Michigan’s North Country. You’re first stop should be the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Some half-million acres large, this is your gateway to wild Michigan. In addition, along US-31 north you come across Duck Lake, Silver Lake, Hart-Montague, and Charles Mears state parks. Our last stop on this route will be the charming town of Manistee. One local hangout is the Orchard Beach State Park, a 200-acre park located on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, but the downtown area is still the big attraction here. Loaded with quaint shops and restaurants, the city’s promenade follows the banks of the Little Manistee River as it empties into Lake Michigan.