One of our expert Family Travel Avisors, recently visited St. Joesph, Michigan with her family. She wrote a great review of her experience. Enjoy!
As much as I enjoy the fast-paced excitement of visiting a major city or planning every moment of attractions and dining for our Disney family vacations, I adore the beach. A slow amble along the shore, flying a kite, and listening to the kids happily chatter while digging in the sand is paradise to me. Because I plan every vacation detail for my guests at The Travel Agent, it’s sometimes refreshing to wonder what activity we’ll decide to do or what local restaurant we’ll happen upon that day.
When we think of the beach, we usually think of going south—but how about taking a little northern detour? Instead of driving sixteen hours to Florida, it’s only a three-hour jaunt to the lovely shores of Lake Michigan! The tiny town of St. Joseph hearkens to a voice of yesteryear in its beachfront and activities, and you really feel like you have stepped back in time several decades. Once you park, you really don’t need a car for the duration of your stay. Restaurants, shops, and most importantly, the beach, is all just a short walk.
St. Joseph’s most popular beach, Silver Beach, was formerly Silver Beach Amusement Park. Although the amusement park is just preserved in memory and photographs, the Silver Beach Carousel remained and is the centerpiece of and icon for family togetherness. The carousel, which is fully enclosed and open all year, features entertainment in-the-round with popcorn, cotton candy, free board games and even some play- fortune-telling by the Great Zandini. To make your carousel ride even more nostalgic, you can borrow a hat so you feel especially festive as you listen to the music of the Mighty Wurlitzer and ride your whimsical beast of burden.
As a family of six, we fell in love with St. Joseph immediately. We chose the Boulevard Inn and Bistro for our home base for three nights (which we extended to four nights because we had such a wonderful time). Perched on a bluff, the hotel offers beautiful views of the lake. When we arrived in our room, we were disappointed that a huge tree outside our window was blocking our view of the water. Good fortune was smiling on us, though, as tree trimmers began trimming the tree while we were unloading our luggage and their work soon revealed the sparkling blue waters of the Great Lake!
Our one-bedroom suite was spacious and gave us an extra sleeping area to put down our toddler at night so we could socialize with some friends who were also staying at the hotel. An “expanded continental breakfast” was included as an amenity, and we were pleasantly surprised. Freshly-made Belgian waffles, hardboiled eggs, oatmeal, granola, yogurt and fruit were more than sufficient to give us energy to hit the beach right after breakfast.
The pristine beaches of St. Joseph are well-maintained and were not too crowded, even at the end of July. The guests at Silver Beach seemed to be an even blend of locals, young families, families with teenagers, and couples without children. We spent most of our days at the beach and periodically walked over to the playground or cooled off at the Whirlpool Compass Fountain. The perfect end to the day was dinner at Silver Beach Pizza, located where the edge of the beach meets the Amtrack train tracks. Amtrack stops several times per day loading and unloading travelers, and proves to be a triple thrill for the kids: seeing the Carousel, train and beach while eating pizza!
The shops in the downtown district of St. Joseph are all within walking distance. We enjoyed eating Mediterranean cuisine, fresh fish, and delicious burgers at the local restaurants. My husband’s birthday was in the middle of the trip, and a little shop called The Golden Brown Bakery made a blueberry pie for the celebration. If you visit Michigan in the summer, do a little research to see which fruit festival is going on during that time. The Blueberry Festival was in full swing, so we ordered blueberry pancakes at restaurants and bought 5 pounds of fresh blueberries to bring home!
My favorite memory of the week was our last evening as we took a walk at sunset as a family. We strolled the pier, watched a teenage boy catch a sizable freshwater trout, and took family pictures at the lighthouse. On our way back to The Boulevard Inn, we stopped for one last ride on the carousel. My two-year old daughter Nadia rode the same animal each time we visited the carousel and she had grown attached to it—a sheepdog named Millie. As I helped her balance on Millie and I watched the delight in her eyes as the music began to play, I looked at my other three kids who were tipping their hats and laughing with Dad. I tried to remember every detail of their faces and the sound of their voices in that short snapshot of pure joy. It was one of my happiest moments.
It was such a delightful week, and as we packed to go home the next day, I vowed we would not leave the hotel until I booked for next year. We’ll be there next July for my husband’s birthday—this time for seven nights!