10 Hours in Grand Haven, Coast Guard City USA, As Told in 10 Photos

 Grand Haven's iconic pier stretches out into Lake Michigan on a sunny Saturday afternoon

Grand Haven's iconic pier stretches out into Lake Michigan on a sunny Saturday afternoon

When it comes to Michigan's east and west coasts, there's really no contest in my estimation: the west coast, the one that hugs Lake Michigan for miles and miles, is the better coast, hands down. From Sturgeon Bay to the Leelanau Peninsula, from Sleeping Bear Dunes all the way down to Benton Harbor and beyond, it would be pretty difficult to go wrong. Of all the places you could visit along the west coast, however, you could do much, much worse than Grand Haven.

Known as Coast Guard City USA — due to its being the first city in the country to earn the designation — Grand Haven is an über popular beach town about 35 minutes outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan's second largest city. Home to Grand Haven State Park and its iconic red lighthouse, as well as a couple other public beaches, the city is practically a summer paradise.

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending an entire Saturday in Grand Haven, and as the photos below will show, it was certainly time well spent.

First, Coffee, but then...

 Following my initial stop at  Aldea Coffee , which shares space inside The Armory with  Grand Armory Brewing Co ,  The Armory Art Center , and  Righteous BBQ , I hit Washington Avenue, where, to my delight, the Grand Haven Art Festival was in full swing. Though the thought of taking home a mixed-media piece that was half map, half painting was tempting, I didn't end up purchasing anything. At least my eyes had a lovely time window shopping, anyway.

Following my initial stop at Aldea Coffee, which shares space inside The Armory with Grand Armory Brewing Co, The Armory Art Center, and Righteous BBQ, I hit Washington Avenue, where, to my delight, the Grand Haven Art Festival was in full swing. Though the thought of taking home a mixed-media piece that was half map, half painting was tempting, I didn't end up purchasing anything. At least my eyes had a lovely time window shopping, anyway.

 Sandwiched between the art festival and a stroll down to the riverfront was some more coffee and a bite to eat at  Jumpin' Java  — a coffee house celebrating 20 years in downtown Grand Haven this year. When we did finally head over by the water, the clouds decided to come out for a little while, but we still had these magnificent vessels to peer at.

Sandwiched between the art festival and a stroll down to the riverfront was some more coffee and a bite to eat at Jumpin' Java — a coffee house celebrating 20 years in downtown Grand Haven this year. When we did finally head over by the water, the clouds decided to come out for a little while, but we still had these magnificent vessels to peer at.

 Mid-afternoon, it came time for something healthy and nutritious, so it was good that we happened to stumble upon  EZ Nutrition , a shake and smoothie shop off North Harbor Drive. The super friendly staff explained that we had to fill out a little card and that we would get both a smoothie and a shake that somehow complimented each other (don't ask me how). I went with some mango and orange-flavored drinks and didn't ask any further questions.

Mid-afternoon, it came time for something healthy and nutritious, so it was good that we happened to stumble upon EZ Nutrition, a shake and smoothie shop off North Harbor Drive. The super friendly staff explained that we had to fill out a little card and that we would get both a smoothie and a shake that somehow complimented each other (don't ask me how). I went with some mango and orange-flavored drinks and didn't ask any further questions.

A Bicycle Built for Two

 The clouds had not yet ceased by the time we rented a tandem bicycle from  Sun Sports Rentals  ($25 for two hours), a rental place situated very near EZ Nutrition that rents out kayaks, canoes, mopeds, bicycles, paddle boards and jet skis, among other items generally used for outdoor recreation. One of our first pit stops while riding the tandem — my first time, mind you — was to get a cute little shot of the black train engine you see here. Right next to the GTW Railroad Coal Tower, the  Pere Marquette 1223  is a steam locomotive on permanent display in Grand Haven.

The clouds had not yet ceased by the time we rented a tandem bicycle from Sun Sports Rentals ($25 for two hours), a rental place situated very near EZ Nutrition that rents out kayaks, canoes, mopeds, bicycles, paddle boards and jet skis, among other items generally used for outdoor recreation. One of our first pit stops while riding the tandem — my first time, mind you — was to get a cute little shot of the black train engine you see here. Right next to the GTW Railroad Coal Tower, the Pere Marquette 1223 is a steam locomotive on permanent display in Grand Haven.

 Our tandem next took us across the Grand River by way of the North Third Street bridge and onto the trail in  Linear Park , which runs along the South Channel from the bridge to the power plant. The end of the trail, which is not very long at all, gives you this view back across the water.

Our tandem next took us across the Grand River by way of the North Third Street bridge and onto the trail in Linear Park, which runs along the South Channel from the bridge to the power plant. The end of the trail, which is not very long at all, gives you this view back across the water.

 We made our way to the beach at  Grand Haven State Park  eventually. The day we were in town, there happened to be a gigantic soccer tournament going on. A woman we passed on the beach said there was something like 400 teams participating. Something tells me there would be that many people at the beach in Grand Haven whether there was a huge sports tournament going on or not...

We made our way to the beach at Grand Haven State Park eventually. The day we were in town, there happened to be a gigantic soccer tournament going on. A woman we passed on the beach said there was something like 400 teams participating. Something tells me there would be that many people at the beach in Grand Haven whether there was a huge sports tournament going on or not...

 A selfie on the tandem bike — though you can't really tell we're on it — before returning it to Sun Sports in the late afternoon felt mandatory. Once we'd hopped off for good, it was over to  Porto Bello  back on Washington Avenue for dinner. Porto Bello, as you might have guessed, is an Italian restaurant. As you might not have guessed, it is housed within an historic piano factory.

A selfie on the tandem bike — though you can't really tell we're on it — before returning it to Sun Sports in the late afternoon felt mandatory. Once we'd hopped off for good, it was over to Porto Bello back on Washington Avenue for dinner. Porto Bello, as you might have guessed, is an Italian restaurant. As you might not have guessed, it is housed within an historic piano factory.

 Heading back toward the beach after dinner, I had to stop and get a snapshot of this fountain near the riverfront — a perfect summer scene. Strolling along  Grand Haven's historic harbor  offers plenty of other sights and sounds as well, not to mention a decent selection of shops and restaurants. People or boat watching is never a bad way to while away some time, either.

Heading back toward the beach after dinner, I had to stop and get a snapshot of this fountain near the riverfront — a perfect summer scene. Strolling along Grand Haven's historic harbor offers plenty of other sights and sounds as well, not to mention a decent selection of shops and restaurants. People or boat watching is never a bad way to while away some time, either.

A Parting Shot

 The pier at Grand Haven State Park is  undergoing some renovations  right now, which is why the catwalk is noticeably absent from this photo. I don't think it takes anything away from the beauty of the scene, but don't take my word for it — get out there and see for yourself.

The pier at Grand Haven State Park is undergoing some renovations right now, which is why the catwalk is noticeably absent from this photo. I don't think it takes anything away from the beauty of the scene, but don't take my word for it — get out there and see for yourself.

-LTH