Southwest Michigan
Photograph: Retro Boat Rentals

Captain a Retro Boat Rental


A partner of the Chicago Electric Boat Company on the Chicago River, Retro Boat Rentals offers the best way to cruise the peaceful waterways of Saugatuck and Douglas. Its electric fleet includes Easter-egg-colored vintage speedboats and covered Duffy boats. Most only go four miles per hour, but there’s no need to rush. (After all, you’re on vacation!) Pack a cooler with Virtue Cider Rosé from Fennville, cruise (from $119 for 90 minutes) with up to 16 of your closest friends, then dock for cocktails on the patio at Retro’s Old Boat House. 730 Water St., 616-405-6688,

Take a Private Sunset Cruise

new buffalo

There’s nothing like a southwest Michigan sunset, and one of the best ways to see it is on the water. Book a 31-foot sailboat charter ($375) with New Buffalo Sailing Excursions for up to six passengers, bring your favorite playlists and booze (the captain will have coolers with ice and a Bluetooth connection), and kick back for a two-hour sail on Lake Michigan during the magic hour. 9 W. Mechanic St.,

Build Sand Castles With a Pro

Harbor Country

If you want to learn how to build a sand castle — or sand anything — there’s no better teacher than Janet Moore Schrader, a.k.a. the Sand Pirate. She’ll teach you to stack sand, cut stairs, and sculpt dragons, fortresses, or whatever else you fancy ($300 for two hours). The best part: She comes to you. Schrader focuses on Harbor Country, from New Buffalo up to Bridgman, but she’ll go farther north to a beach of your choice for an extra fee. 269-405-5772

Go for a Swim at Oval Beach


There are scenic beaches all along the shoreline of southwest Michigan, but if you have to pick one, look no further than the gleaming white sand of Oval Beach. Here your delightful long walks and jaunts into the waves come with fewer crowds and easier access to concessions and bathrooms than at the southerly beaches closer to Chicago. 690 Perryman St.,

Pick Cherries at Crane Orchards


Michigan’s fruit belt boasts thousands of acres of fertile farms, and Fennville is home to one of its oldest and best orchards. Enjoy six varieties of sweet cherries in June and July and seven different peaches in August. (Be sure to call ahead the day you’re planning to visit, as hours can vary.) But the tastiest draw may be in the bakery, where you’ll find fresh fruit pies (nab the apple crisp if it’s available!). There’s also a 20-acre corn maze ($7 for adults; kids 5 and under free) — just try not to think of Children of the Corn. 6054 124th Ave., 269-561-8651,

Send the Kids to Beach Day Camp

St. Joseph

Offered by Third Coast Surf Shop at New Buffalo Beach and St. Joseph’s Jean Klock Beach, this weeklong, half-day camp for kids ages 6 to 12 is a far cry from your average summer variety. It’s held entirely at the beach, where kids learn to surf, paddleboard, and skimboard. Camps fill quickly, so book well ahead (read: now). $215 for five days. 212 State St., 269-932-4575,

Photograph: Bradley Marshall/Ox-Bow School of Art

Experience Art at Ox-Bow


Programming at this school and artists' residency has traditionally been geared toward professionals and students. That changes this summer with Art on the Meadow’s reimagined lineup of one- and four-day workshops on everything from bronze casting to experimental photography (from $80; ages 13 and up). But even if you aren’t inclined to create art yourself, you can still experience it at Ox-Bow’s new public space in a nearby converted Presbyterian church (137 Center St., Douglas). In addition to displaying works for sale by Ox-Bow artists, the building itself serves as an ongoing exhibit for resident architect Charlie Vinz, whose projects include the Chicago restaurant Parachute and the Stony Island Arts Bank. If you’re in town July 9, don’t miss the inaugural benefit concert — curated by the Storehouse, a Galien-based events company run by Michael Slaboch, formerly the booker at the Hideout, and his wife, Penny Duff — along a stunning interdunal lagoon on campus. 3435 Rupprecht Way,

Photograph: Pedego

Explore Union Pier on an Electric Bike

new buffalo

Unveiled last May, the first 1.8-mile stretch of the Red Arrow Linear Park parallels the eponymous highway and cuts through the heart of Union Pier. The most fun way to explore this pedestrian trail? On an electric bike from Pedego Electric Bikes Harbor Country (from $50 for two hours), which also opened last year. Start at the trailhead in downtown Union Pier, then pedal — or not — south along the wide inland trail, which passes by local favorites Seedz Brewery (locally sourced beer!), Timothy’s Restaurant (seafood!), and Union Pier Social Club (bar!). 25 S. Whittaker Dr.,

Kayak the Kalamazoo River


For a more reliably peaceful paddle than you’re likely to experience on Lake Michigan, kayak the Kalamazoo. It’s protected from the wind and waves by a harbor and easy to explore with Running Rivers, an outfitter offering everything from one-hour rentals ($15) to six-hour guided forest trips ($55). 120 E. Center St., 616-218-5021,

Hike the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area


Southwest Michigan has loads of great hikes, but the 2.5-mile trail at this 173-acre land conservancy is a local favorite for an easy to moderate trek. Go early to beat the heat and loop through a sweeping dune ecosystem with pine forests, marshes, threatened cricket frogs, migratory terns, and rare interdunal wetlands. Oval Drive and Perryman Street,