South Haven, Michigan looks very familiar

September 8, 2017

South Haven, Michigan sits along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan.

It has beaches, looks over a broad expanse of water you can't see across, has a historic and still active lighthouse, started out as a port town that metamorphosed into a summer-resort town, and is divided by a major highway that brings hundreds of thousands of tourists in the warmer months.

Sound familiar?

South Haven is like a combination of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, and it shares the prosperity that other well-kept resort towns enjoy. It reminds me again of how important our tourism economy is and how critical it is that we cultivate our natural amenities carefully so people will continue to want to visit and live in our towns.

One more thing: South Haven is the western terminus for a beautiful bicycling and walking trail connecting the town with Kalamazoo about 40 miles to the east. The Kal-Haven Trail. One day in the not-too-distant future, there will be a fine bicycling and walking trail connecting the great trails of Lewes and Rehoboth with Georgetown and westward across Sussex.

The similarities continue. On Labor Day Monday, word spread quickly that strong westerly winds capsized a sailboat on Lake Michigan, within sight of South Haven's beaches. No injuries but lots of sirens. Racing emergency vehicles lit up the day with a few moments of excitement and perked the ears of tourists downtown lined up for ice cream cones and waiting for their names to be called for restaurant seats.

Yvonne at the front desk of the motel where we're holed up for a couple of days suggested we try a restaurant called Clementine's. "Their perch is supposed to be very good. Lake Michigan perch."

We wandered downtown and read their menu. It boasted that in 2016 Clementine's chefs served up 14 tons of pan-fried yellow perch. Have to give it a try.

Our bicycle journey to Traverse City continues. By the time sun set on Labor Day in South Haven, we had ridden a total of 890 miles. Traverse City, and Lake Leelanau to the north where we're headed, will put the first half of this trek at a little over 1,100 miles.

If the weather doesn't turn too cold on us, we're thinking about looping across Michigan and then into Canada at Port Huron toward Buffalo and Niagara. From there we'd like to cycle to Albany on the Erie Canal towpath. Then we will probably rent a van or pickup, take the bags off our racks, load up the bikes and head back to Lewes. That's the plan.

But as Mike Tyson once said, having a plan is great until that first punch hits you in the face. We will deal with what we have to deal with, keep on pedaling, and stay in positive territory. The good news is that once we turn east and south to make our way back home, we should have the predominant winds of fall at our backs.

  • Dennis Forney has been a journalist on the Delmarva Peninsula since 1972 and has been writing his Barefootin’ column for The Whale and then the Cape Gazette for more than 30 years. Contact Dennis at