South Haven is one of the official “Michigan beach towns,” as designated by the West Michigan tourism people.
These beach towns in Michigan are on the shores of Lake Michigan.
South Beach and North Beach are the main beaches of South Haven. These are also the most popular beaches in South Haven.
There is the iconic South Haven Lighthouse, and you can walk out to the end of the pier where the lighthouse stands.
South Beach is directly on one side of the lighthouse pier, and North Beach is directly on the other side of the pier.
More for your Michigan trip beyond South Haven beaches
If you’re interested in South Haven beaches, then you may also be interested in these things around Michigan:
- Muskegon State Park (map)
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (map)
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (map)
- Kitch-iti-kipi (the bubbling big spring of Michigan!) (map)
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park (map)
- Mackinac Island (map)
- Great Lakes shipwreck coast (map)
- Best places to visit in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (for VIEWS!)
- Headlands International Dark Sky Park (map)
- Saugatuck Dune Rides (map)
- Porcupine Mountains (map)
More South Haven beaches
Aside from South Beach and North Beach, the list below will take you along the South Haven coastline further north.
These are smaller beaches.
It is actually mostly like one big beach along the South Haven coastline.
Many sections of beaches are named based on the street the beach access is located.
👆 Location of Oak Beach.
Most of these beaches have their own paid parking lots for minimal walking from your car to the beach.
Otherwise, or if you don’t mind walking an extra minute or 2, then you can probably find free street parking.
No matter where you park in South Haven, be sure to pay attention to the signs when you’re parking!
Private property (including residences and vacation rentals) separate the beaches and beach access spots.
This of course means you shouldn’t be setting up shop and hanging out on the beach in front of these beachfront properties unless you’re staying there.
But it seems to be okay to pass by and go for beach walks in front of the beachfront properties as long as you keep moving.
So, you can make it a walk on the beach in South Haven! (Start at North Beach and walk north!)
Paying for beach parking
There are paid parking areas around the beach access spots. Once you park, you’ll look for the little payment station kiosk and make your payment that way. (Not all beach parking lots have a payment station.) Parking is listed as $10 per “trip.” It’s possible to get a $30 weekly pass. See more about beach parking.
Kayak rental or SUP rental at the beach
You can rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) at both South Beach and North Beach from SoHa Surf Shop.
Cost of rental starts at $20 per hour. If there’s no one manning the rental stand, you can call the shop and they will come to you.
Water levels in Lake Michigan
The summer of 2020 set records for high water levels in Lake Michigan. As a beach-goer, the high water level could be seen in the form of minimal sandy shoreline on the beach in some parts.
The South Haven beach pictures of Lake Michigan that you see on this page were taken in June 2020.
The boring Lake Michigan swimming “know before you go” safety tips!
Plus South Haven “beach rules”
Lake Michigan is a lake, but in some ways it can act like an ocean!
South Haven beaches don’t have any lifeguards, although there is talk about getting lifeguards in South Haven. (However it still seems unlikely that there will be lifeguards in 2021.)
Lake Michigan can be deadly. There have been many Lake Michigan drownings, including off the shores of South Haven beaches. There is a South Haven drowning reported as recently as September 2020, from swimming in Lake Michigan off of South Beach. It took a week to find the body in Lake Michigan.
Take care when you go swimming in South Haven!
And a few more signs that were posted around one of the Lake Michigan beaches of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The same applies for the South Haven beaches.
See more water safety tips from Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Things to know about beaches in South Haven. 👇
More below about the different South Haven beach access spots!
Here are some ideas for an Upper Peninsula road trip!
The most important places in the UP to know about are Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and the bubbling Big Spring of Kitch-iti-kipi.
Make it a Michigan camping trip to remember by going camping near Lake Superior.
Lighthouses are also a thing, so stop by one of the Lake Superior lighthouses (or many more!), like Whitefish Point and/or Crisp Point. You can also go to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to explore why Lake Superior has a reputation for being Shipwreck Coast and the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.
Many people don't make it over to the western part of the Upper Peninsula. But if you want to, you will want to know about Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Then, on your way back down south, you can make a detour to go to Mackinac Island (ferry required) or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. (Or, you can do these things on your way up north!)
Read the details: Best places to visit in the Upper Peninsula
Save the Upper Peninsula Michigan video playlist to watch on youtube later!
Let’s start from around South Beach and then continue onwards north up along the Lake Michigan coastline in South Haven!
Driving to South Haven
If you’ll be driving up from the south (like from Chicago), or if you’ll be driving across through Kalamazoo (like from the Detroit area), then set your destination for google maps as the blue stairs (kid’s corner – there’s a playground here by the way). You can find free street parking around here.
But more importantly, this can be a perfect intro to South Haven! You will get amazing views of Lake Michigan from above! You can walk along with views of Lake Michigan, you can stop for a seat on the bench to take in the Lake Michigan views, or you can bring your own chair and find a spot along here to read a book and glance up to see Lake Michigan!
After you’ve taken in the views of Lake Michigan, you can then take the blue stairs down and you will end up at South Beach.
Aside from taking the blue stairs to get to South Beach, there’s also a pretty big paid parking lot for South Beach too.
There is a concession stand at South Beach, along with bathroom facilities.
You might want to stop by the Van Buren Street Lake Michigan overlook.
This is another spot that would be a great intro to South Haven. You can see more views of Lake Michigan from above. You can also take the Van Buren Street overlook to get down to South Beach.
You might want to stop by the South Haven lighthouse.
From South Beach, you can walk on the lighthouse pier.
Getting from South Beach to North Beach
There is the Black River that separates South Beach and North Beach, and it’s not possible to go directly from one beach to another along Lake Michigan.
You’ll drive a little “inland” to get to North Beach. You can stop for a walk along the river trail.
You’ll drive across the Dyckman Avenue drawbridge, and you can also stop by the Michigan Maritime Museum right by the bridge. You can also stop by Captain Lou’s restaurant (menu + reviews) for riverfront outdoor seating that’s also located by the bridge.
👆 Dyckman Avenue bridge across the river
👆 Captain Lou’s
This is the South Haven beach that has the most amount of sand that goes back from shore. It’s kind of like Channel Beach in Muskegon State Park, or Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon.
You’ll find a concession stand and bathroom facilities at North Beach.
There’s paid parking available right along the beach.
From North Beach, you can also walk out onto another pier that will take you to a smaller light. From this pier, you can see the main South Haven lighthouse across the river.
Once you’re at North Beach, you can also start walking north to go for a long walk on the beach! (Passing by the beaches next up on the list!)
Now for the following beaches, they are located off of North Shore Drive. This a main road. The beach access is pretty much directly off of North Shore Drive for each of the beaches. You can likely find free street parking on North Shore Drive.
Beach access at the intersection of Woodman Street + North Shore Drive
There’s a small parking lot at the Woodman Street Beach, and you can get to the beach from the end of the parking lot.
Beach access at the intersection of Dyckman Avenue + North Shore Drive
There is a paid parking lot at the Dyckman Street Beach.
There’s a boardwalk to a Lake Michigan overlook, and then you’ll go further down to the beach.
Packard Park Beach
Beach access at Packard Park on North Shore Drive
Packard Park is a small park that has an open space and a few picnic tables. You’ll also find regular bathrooms here along with a changing room.
Packard Park has a paid parking lot. From the parking lot, it’s a few steps to get to a Lake Michigan overlook, and then you’ll walk further down to get to the beach.
Beach access at the intersection of Oak Street + North Shore Drive
There’s a small parking lot at the Oak Street Beach. There’s no kiosk here to pay for your parking, so you’ll need to already have a South Haven beach parking sticker. Otherwise, you can find free street parking near Oak Street.
You’ll take a trail from the parking lot to get to Lake Michigan.
Beach access along North Shore Drive
The Newcome Beach doesn’t have a dedicated parking lot. You can find free street parking on North Shore Drive near the path to Newcome Beach.
There’s a public trail from the main road for Newcome Beach access. You’ll take stairs down to get to Lake Michigan.
The beach access to Newcome Beach was closed when I went in June 2020.
For reference, if you walk from North Beach to Newcome Beach it will be around 1 mile one way. So it’ll end up being about a 2 mile round trip walk. I did not do the South Haven beach walk, but I do believe there is sandy shoreline the whole way.
There is another Lake Michigan beach access a bit further up, the small 1st Street Beach (in Casco Township), but the parking situation didn’t seem to be all that great. You can walk there, though! (By foot along North Shore Drive from the direction of Newcome Beach would be easiest.)
And that’s a bit about some of the Lake Michigan beaches in South Haven!
Explore more of Lake Michigan:
- Muskegon State Park (beach, lighthouse, hiking, camping)
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (sand dunes, beach, hiking, camping)
- Clay Cliffs Natural Area (Leelanau Peninsula hiking to Lake Michigan overlook)
- Grand Traverse Lighthouse (Leelanau Peninsula lighthouse)
Explore more of the Great Lakes:
- Circle the Upper Peninsula road trip
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (cliffs, sand dunes, beach, hiking, camping)
- Lake Superior beaches
- Lake Superior lighthouses
- Shipwreck coast
- Great Lakes camping
- Porcupine Mountains State Park
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park
HAPPY LAKE MICHIGAN BEACH TIME IN SOUTH HAVEN!