A haven is a place of shelter and safety, a place where one is protected from danger, a place of comfort. When that place occurs at the beautiful delta of the Grand River on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, it can be nothing else but Grand Haven. The quaint village of 10,000 year-round residents booms during the summer season, with boaters, tourists, and avid beach-goers flocking to the area.
Originally settled by French fur traders, the town became a shipping and trading center during the 19th century. This hub of commerce continued to grow, and two historic lighthouses — one from 1855, the other from 1893 — are a testament to this rich heritage. Today, the beacons are a signature image of Grand Haven, and among the most beautiful lighthouses on the Great Lakes.
The Coast Guard station that oversees all Coast Guard operations on Lake Michigan is located in Grand Haven. In 1998, an act of Congress officially designated Grand Haven as “Coast Guard City, USA.” Since 1937, the town has held an annual Coast Guard festival to honor the men and women who have served in the Coast Guard and celebrate their efforts. Today the 10-day festival attracts more than 300,000 people. Don’t miss a visit to Escanaba Park, named for the Coast Guard cutter Escanaba, which was based in Grand Haven and sunk by a German submarine during World War II.
In fact, Grand Haven’s calendar is packed with popular events. The annual Great Lakes Kite Festival in May show-cases tons of competitive kite flyers and their amazingly enormous kites. The Grand Haven Salmon Festival — held this year September 12-14 — coincides with the region’s seasonal salmon migration. The area is also one of the premier stops on the Great Loop, known for its safe places to tie up and excellent provisioning and repair services. The Grand Haven business district is within walking distance of many of the marinas. For provisioning, head to Fortino’s (114 Washington St, 616-842-0880), which has been providing Grand Haven with delicious fresh-roasted peanuts, beer and wine, gourmet meats, cheeses, and groceries since 1907. If you need to cool off with a tasty local brew, head to Odd Side Ales (41 Washington Ave, 616-935-7326), where you can sample the Peanut Butter Cup Stout, Java Chip Mint Stout, or Bloody Orange Wheat.
With its central location on Lake Michigan, Grand Haven is also the perfect launching-off point for cruises to other nearby port cities, such as Holland, Muskegon, and Ludington. They don’t call it “grand” for nothing.
Where to Dock:
- Grand Haven Municipal Marina (616-847-3478, grandhaven.org) is located downtown and has 54 transient slips, restroom and shower facilities, and a picnic area.
- Grand Isle Marina (616-842-9330, grandislemarina.com) is just a short walk from town, with more than 400 slips, an onsite service department, and a swimming pool.
Where to Dine:
- Morning Star Café (711 Washington Ave, 616-844-1131) Stop in for an array of homemade omelets, veggie quesadillas, and fluffy pancakes with pure Michigan maple syrup.
- Lucy's Market & Deli (133 Columbus Ave, 616-850-2665) A great stop for lunch, with terrific sand- wiches and locally famous pretzel rolls.
- Snug Harbor (311 S. Harbor Dr., 616-846-8400) A popular steak and seafood house that also offers some fantastic sushi, set right on the Grand Haven River.