SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WLS) -- It's time for our special series, One Tank Trips - family-friendly fun you can get to on a tank of gas!
Roz Varon has visited many towns in Michigan, but this was her first time in South Haven. If you're looking for a getaway with beautiful beaches, unique shops and restaurants, throw in a little history - and don't forget blueberries - you've found your perfect One Tank Trip!
"South Haven is just so quaint and it's almost like a secret, people come here and they're like, 'Oh my gosh! I didn't know this existed,' and it's just that little secret that people find and they're excited when they get here because there's so much to do in such a small space!" said Jennifer Sistrunk, executive director of the South Haven Visitor Center.
Known for its miles of beautiful, sandy beaches, South Haven offers all kinds of fun in the sun! Relax on the shores of the other side of Lake Michigan, or get out there for some water play. You can rent paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis, fishing boats, even bicycles. The newest addition - a splash pad for the kiddos!
Just up the hill from the lake is a very walkable downtown, filled with charm and character. This is a very dog-friendly town. I couldn't pass up the chance to check out Decadent Dogs, a specialty shop for pups and their owners!
Downtown you'll also find a variety of restaurants. We stopped at Clementine's, a family-owned, popular eatery known for the miles of onion rings they serve. The restaurant is steeped in history!
"The building was built in 1896 as Citizen's State Bank and Trust," said hostess Tammy Gleeson. "There's original brickwork, the tin ceilings are all original."
The original bank vault is still there, although now they use it to lock up their liquor supply!
A quick walk across the marina takes us to the Michigan Maritime Museum, with hands-on exhibits from boat-building to the Coast Guard. While you're there, you can take a ride on the tall ship Friends Good Will, a replica of an 1810 top sail merchant sloop.
Since South Haven is also known as one of the Blueberry Capitals of the World, our last stop was at DeGrandchamp, a family owned U-Pic blueberry farm.
"My folks bought the farm in 1958," said Mike DeGrandchamp. "It was 12 acres on the site we're standing on right now, we've since expanded from the original 12 acres to about 250 acres of blueberries. So we're standing on some of the original bushes on the farm, they're probably about 80 years old right now, it's an heirloom variety we call jersey."
They grow some 20 different varieties of blueberries that don't all ripen at the same time. I got my first lesson in blueberry picking!
"Roz, we're gonna double our production, so we're gonna pick with two hands, you roll them off with your thumbs, in the palm of your hands, just the blue ones and you leave the green and red ones on the bush," DeGrandchamp said. "My professional pickers can fill that 6 pound pail in 10 minutes."
DeGrandchamp's will also be participating in next weekends' Blueberry Festival with plenty of blueberry goodies, tours of the farm and a glimpse into the processing and packaging of these sweet treats. And yes, I did fill my six pound bucket in less than 10 minutes!
The South Haven Blueberry Festival is August 12 to the 15, and they'll have all kinds of events from a blueberry market, blueberry picking and a blueberry pie eating contest! It's about a 2, 2 hour drive from Chicago, so make your plans now!
Beaches and blueberries in South Haven, Mich. all on 1 tank of gas