South Haven's beautiful waterfront
South Haven Harbor
Mark gets a quickie haircut
South Haven's riverfront
Fun on the beach
A kayaker tests the waters
Funky raised boardwalk in town
Drawbridge to the inner harbor
Catching ducks - on film
Twilight over South Haven Harbor
Pirate ship ghosts past the lighthouse
Lovers watch the sunset
Cool cars cruise the beach
I'll take it!
Mark would prefer this one
Dad at the wheel -- just this one time.
South Haven, Michigan
Early June, 2009 - We left Elkhart, Indiana and started up the west
coast of Michigan. We were in search of cute little waterfront towns, and
there is an abundance along Lake Michigan, each unique and
welcoming. The first was South Haven. The town straddles a small
harbor and a river channel lined with a pretty boardwalk leading down to
a small lighthouse. We walked through town, admiring the small shops
and catching glimpses of the boats in the harbor.
Mark needed a haircut, so we turned in at the barber pole and he
got a quick clip. With his new summer do making him feel lighter
and freer, we headed out to stroll along the riverfront.
Boats of all kinds were cruising in and out of the harbor, and as we
approached the pier we found there were two terrific beaches on either
side of the channel entrance.
We kicked our shoes off to feel the Michigan sand squeeze
between our toes, and watched the action on the beach.
Teenagers were strutting their stuff all around us, with babes in
bikinis perfecting their runway walks up and down the pier.
Back in town, we found a fun and funky wooden walkway
that climbed up and down and around the harborfront
There were little
and a drawbridge
leading to the inner
Big boats and small
boats maneuvered around each other,
and a young girl in a dinghy followed a
family of ducks trying to catch them
with her camera.
We found a small motel on the edge of
town, and when we commented on the
charm of this town she said, "Well, you
have to go down to the waterfront at
sunset. Don't miss it. The sun sets at
about 9:30, so get there
about an hour before and
you'll have plenty of time."
We've seen such stunning sunsets in the southwest, just
peering out our trailer's windows, that her insistence that
we go back to town and down to the beach for the sunset
that night struck me as kind of amusing. The sky didn't
look especially promising for any kind of colorful display,
but we followed her advice anyway and returned to town
as the sun was slipping towards the lake.
What a spectacle awaited us. We began walking towards the pier and
found ourselves surrounded by throngs of people heading down to the
beach to watch the sunset: young couples hand-in-hand; families with
kids romping around in excited circles; old folks with a hand on the
railing. Everyone in town was making their way to the waterfront.
A restored pirate ship that had been
taking people out on lake rides all day
had one last sunset dinner cruise on
tap, and we watched her stately form
slip past the lighthouse in the dimming
Some people spread out on picnic blankets, and
others just enjoyed the quiet moments as the sun
worked its magic. Every swing and slide in the
playground was in motion with kids crawling all
over, and behind them the cars cruised up and
down and round and round the streets.
There was a car show scheduled for the next day,
and quite a few antique convertibles
showed up early as their proud owners
cruised the beach the way they did fifty
A newlywed couple posed for
wedding shots along the pier
with the lighthouse in the
background, as the sun sank
lower and lower towards the
The ice cream stand was a hub of
activity all evening, and the evidence
was everywhere as nearby folks
wandered slightly off kilter down the
pier, head sideways, tongue licking,
while their eyes stared around their cones at the sinking sun.
Photographers of all ages staked out places on the beach to catch the sun slipping into the
water. None of us cared about the sand filling our shoes as we stomped through the dunes to
get the best angle. It was a great evening and a great show.
Once the sun had fallen into the distant waves, everyone on the beach quietly packed it up and
headed home. As we walked back up towards town, surrounded by smiling people carrying
folded blankets and empty coolers, I felt as though we'd just left an outdoor concert. Nature's
symphony. The innkeeper had been right: we didn't want to
miss the sunset that night.
The next day was the car show. Again, the whole town came
out for the event. The streets were lined with beautifully
restored cars and admiring fans. Mark's roots from the motor
city sure showed as we wandered from car to car and he
pointed out the finer points of each engine. A peak under the
hood and he would suddenly ooh and aah and give me a
history of the engine and tell me which of his friends had
owned such a beautiful marvel of engineering back in the day.
To me they were all just shiny cars from another era, alhough I did like
the sporty little red Corvette convertible. Mark's taste ran more
towards the muscle cars that just looked like plain old sedans to me.
But then he'd drop to his knees and point out the wrinkle wall tires and
tell of the time his friend put a $10 bill on the dash board and challeged
Mark to catch it as they peeled out. Plastered to the passenger seat as
the rocket launched, there was no way he could reach that bill when it
flew up in the air.
We got talking with a fellow showing off his dragster. He used to race it himself, but now it was a
father-son project, with him supplying the bucks and know-how and his son taking the wheel at the
At the end of the day there was a parade
through town and we had a chance to see
each car in all its glory. Some revved their
engines as they went by, although our
buddy in the dragster got a tow through
town instead. There were prizes of all
kinds, and almost every car won
something. We left South Haven in high
spirits and made our way north a few miles