One Day Trips: Southwest Michigan 

Fall is in the air and the trees start to change colors, more and more people are taking trips to see the scenery. Southwest Michigan is the perfect day trip for those who live in NWI and Chicago Southland.  It isn’t too far away and the environment change makes the journey feel just like a vacation. 

No matter what you are looking to do in Southwest Michigan, you’ll be able to find it. After enjoying an easy and beautiful drive up, you can enjoy a number of outdoor activities. Water sports like fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking are very peaceful in cool weather. You can also enjoy a variety of sports on land including hiking and golf. 

Getting There 

Our day trip begins early. Our first stop of the day is at the State Line Rest Area on 94.  This popular stop is known for its clean restrooms and many brochures about the latest happenings all over the state. After our brief pit stop, we jump back into the car and head towards Saugatuck. 


Scenic Downtown Saugatuck 


Just about 2 hours from the state line, Saugatuck is located on the water. The small town boasts many quaint shops and restaurants that take advantage of the lakefront.  


We decided to visit the downtown area first, and quickly start making our way through art galleries, craft shops and boutiques. Being a gourmet cook, one of the main things I was looking for was rare spices. I find a boutique shop that carries Mexican Oregano, Turmeric and Hungarian Paprika. They also had fresh maple syrup and pure vanilla. A few more stops, and few more items and it’s time for lunch. 

Hungry from all our walking we stop and grab a quick bite at one of the many boutique restaurants. Then, we were off to our next destination! 


South Haven: A Great Rest Stop 


Our next stop was in South Haven. We chose to rest at Sherman’s Ice Cream, where we enjoyed some of the best frozen treats in the area. Since Blueberry season is over, I opt for the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream, my all-time favorite.  My friend chooses Blue Moon, I just laugh with her, as her tongue turns blue.   This was a great layover on our way to St. Joseph. 


Exclusive Viewings at Garden on the Bluff 



Lake Cliff Gardens is a hidden gem. It is hard to spot, but after passing it once, we find our way.  The owner,  Barbara Weirich, greets us and shows us where to park. For the next few hours, we feast on the many gardens she has planted along with her artwork and her husband’s sculptures that dot the property.  We see their meadow and gorgeous black and white garden that highlights many starkly-colored plants. 


The decor at the Garden was sublime. A frog greets us at the pond garden and we are delighted with our own images as pass over the bridge that has a mirror reflecting back at us.  We found a little table and chairs sets at the end of a pathway that made a great resting spot. 


We then made our way through the Oriental Garden, with plenty of authentic Asian plants. Next, we walked through the bluff, known for its beautiful glass rock garden, amazing sculptures and relaxing   chairs. The last garden we ventured through was the tropical garden where most every plant thrives only very far south. Each year, the staff and owners dig up the plants and fill four semi-trucks to safely store them in the greenhouse nearby to keep them out of the freezing air. The greenhouse is also the starting place for thousands of seeds each spring that are transplanted into the gardens once the last chance for frost has past each spring. 


Shopping in Southern Michigan 


Inspired from seeing all of the plants, we make decide to make a stop at the Sawyer Garden Center. This store has a wide variety of plants. The prices were very affordable and we found everything we wanted.  Sawyer Garden Center also has a large gift shop and a very large gourmet food section. 


Our next stop was the one we looked forward to the most: St. Julian Winery. We were greeted and offered several wine samples. All of the samples were great and it was hard to make a selection. The wine that I purchased will last for a long time. 


The tranquil environment allowed us to relax a little bit before going to a livelier location, the Four Winds Casino. We only stayed for a few hours, but we were able to play our favorite slot machines. After a leisurely feast at the buffet, we are ready to head home, but are eagerly awaiting our next trip!