The Michigan Day Trip Tour, No. 1: Ottawa County's Kirk Park
*The Michigan Day Trip Tour is a series of posts all about the Great Lakes State and the many natural and physical wonders it contains. Most destinations included in the series are located within a two-hour drive of Grand Rapids, though some, like St. Ignace and the Soo Locks, are a little further. Hopefully, these posts will encourage you to go out and do some exploring of your own — or at least prove to be mildly entertaining. Enjoy!
In the beginning was the West, and the West was with Michigan, and the West was Michigan, and… this is starting to feel a little blasphemous, so let me just stop there. The important (and probably unclear) takeaway is that we begin The Michigan Day Trip Tour close to home — my home, that is — in West Michigan, right along the shores of the very greatest Great Lake.
There are plenty of beaches worth a visit along Lake Michigan, not the least of which would include those found in Grand Haven, but just south of there, tucked in between some absolutely gorgeous homes on Lakeshore Avenue, is a little spot called Kirk Park. This Ottawa County park, which is open year-round, contains 68 acres of beach, bluffs, and wooded dunes — and all within a 20-minute drive of downtown Grand Haven. Throw in a covered pavilion, a playground, and hiking trails, and what you’ve got is a recipe for a fantastic day along the lakeshore.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there is a small entrance fee to gain access to all that Kirk Park has to offer, but if you plan on coming back more than once, it’s probably best to buy the pass that allows you to visit as many times as you’d like throughout the season. The $15 or so that you pay in order to nab that pass won’t seem like much once you see what’s in store.
Less crowded than the Grand Haven beaches to the north, probably the best thing about the beach at Kirk Park is that its southern section is dog-friendly. Leashes are required anywhere in the park outside of this designated beach area, but once you step onto the sand there, Fido is free to go (and you won’t have to worry about glares from other beachgoers, either; they know the drill).
The only unfortunate thing about the beach, at least for the summer 2019 season, is that high water levels have shrunk the shoreline considerably, and there’s only so much room to maneuver.
That isn’t such bad news for those who love spending time in the water, but if you’re the type that likes to stretch out on the sand, you could be hard-pressed to find space to do so, unless you take the time to trek some ways up or down the shore.
Off the beach, you may want to check out the overlook, which sits at the top of a set of stairs you passed on your way to the big lake. At the top of those steps, you can find the overlook just off to the right, or head left to enter the hiking trail that loops around the entirety of the park.
Whether hiking or taking in the sights and sounds at the beach, you’ll no doubt work up an appetite at some point. That’s when you head back toward the parking lot and roll out the picnic blanket. Grills are available for use, as are a number of picnic tables. Simply find an open spot and get things fired up.
Alternatively, you could cut your trip to the park a little short and check out one of the fine dining establishments back out along highway US-31. Two readily available options are The Pipeline Smokehouse & Bar and, a little further north, The Stable Inn, a Western-inspired eatery serving American fare. Whatever you do in terms of food, though, make sure to find a spot to take in that beautiful Lake Michigan sunset.