Lake Michigan's West Coast, Michigan

Living on Lake Michigan's West Coast

Iyna Bort Caruso

Twelve million people live along the shores of Lake Michigan, a body of water so large it’s sometimes referred to as America’s “third coast.”  Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the lake’s eastern shores account for most of the population. In contrast, the string of beach towns along the west coast of Michigan offers the quintessential small town lifestyle.

The state’s miles of Lake Michigan coastline encompasses century-old lighthouses, towering sand dunes and fiery sunsets. The town of South Haven, in fact, was once called Ni-Ko-Nong meaning “beautiful sunsets” by Native Americans. So justly proud South Haveners are of their remarkable sunsets that the exact moment is promoted every day of the year.

The area is a Midwest playground of outdoor summer festivals, small batch breweries and wineries. More than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms are part of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail.

The communities along Michigan’s coast are well situated as second-home destinations, all within about three hour’s drive from both Detroit and Chicago.

The city of Holland was settled by Dutch immigrants in the mid-19th century and the culture remains strong. The city has a Holland Museum, an authentic Dutch windmill and a brilliant tulip festival each spring--six million blooms strong.

North of Holland is Grand Haven, a community that dates back more than 300 years. Grand Haven is known for its pair of 19th century lighthouse, boardwalk that extends from downtown to the lake’s shores, harbor trolley and miles of bike trails. In 2016 Conde Nast Traveler named it to its 10 Best Places in the World to Retire.

The towns are quintessential Americana, yet each in their own way. Saugatuck is a top arts destination. Exclusive Grand Beach has three Frank Lloyd Wright homes. The deepwater port town of St. Joseph has been dubbed the Riviera of the Midwest with orchards, vineyards, a yacht club and a bluff that features some of the best vistas of the Lake Michigan. 

As a popular second-home destination, Michigan’s west coast has its share of lake frontage residences that take full advantage of views with protruding decks and covered porches. Property choices, however, are wide-ranging in both style and setting including homes on the fairways, set back on wooded acreage and in the heart of downtown.