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Traveling by car is the easiest way to get to and around Lake Michigan’s southeastern shore. If you’re flying in, you can easily rent one at an airport. The major airport closest to South Haven is Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), 125 miles away. A closer option is Kalamazoo Airport (AZO), 38 miles to the east, connected to Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis by regional flights. Motor coaches from Chicago and Detroit also pass through South Haven, and one Amtrak railway line from Chicago stops in Bangor, just to the east. Once you’re in South Haven, if you’d like to stay out of the car, a number of companies rent bikes by the day or week.
Summer is definitely the ideal time to visit the Lake Michigan shore. The temperature varies from the 70s through the low 90s Fahrenheit from June through August, but the lake tempers the heat. As you may expect from a land of lakes and rivers, in late summer the humidity spikes, and rains are frequent, so pack rain gear as well as sunblock and mosquito repellent.
April and May are cooler — think high 50s and low 60s Fahrenheit — but still pleasant, and autumn, which begins mid-September and lasts through November, is glorious, with crisp air and brilliantly colored foliage. Winters stretch from early December to March. During those months, temperatures below the 40s Fahrenheit are the norm, and the lakeshore effect brings freezing winds and snows.
Just 20 miles north of South Haven, Saugatuck has the air of a perennial resort. Its charming downtown is the culinary capital of the coast, and between meals you can stop in at craft breweries and art galleries. The city is also considered the Provincetown of the Midwest, with numerous LGBTQ-friendly campgrounds and gathering spaces.
This flat, wooded trail extends 33 miles between South Haven and Kalamazoo, with bridges and towns along the way. A former railroad, its crushed-rock surface is free of steep inclines and easy for bikes and wheelchairs to navigate. In the winter, cross-country skiers leave their stripes in the snow, and some snowmobiles travel as far along the route as they can go.
Southern and western Michigan is the Midwest’s fruit bowl, providing three seasons’ worth of berries, stone fruit, and apples. U-Pick farms are scattered around South Haven, and the city hosts an annual blueberry festival. Even if you can’t fill your suitcase with fresh cherries, you can pick up pastries and jams for the journey home.