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Advice for a Day at the Beach

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

At the first glimpse of sunny skies, with temperatures predicted to soar to the low 80s, it was time to head to South Haven for our first summertime lakeshore day.

It took awhile to gather all of the necessary elements — beach chairs, beach towels, a Frisbee, a trashy novel and sunscreen. Then, the hardest decision — what to pack for lunch? Beverages were easy; state parks don’t allow any alcoholic beverages, so lots of water, ice tea and lemonade.

Easy was the word of the day, so we ordered fried chicken from Speedy Chick, a local Marshall chicken and fish take-out spot. I grabbed some tortilla chips and made some guacamole. On our way to get the chicken, we got some deli salads and a fresh watermelon. After icing everything down in the cooler, we were ready to go.

I love South Haven, because it is just a short car ride away. It has wonderful beaches and lots of great bars and restaurants, as well as a nice shopping street. This trip, though, was all about the sun, sand and water.

We already had our Michigan Recreation Passport (an $11 bargain), so we headed to the Van Buren State Park and Dunes about three miles south of town. If I had any camping skills, this would be a great place to pitch a tent or a pop-up for a weekend away. We, however, enjoyed one glorious beach day.

Van Buren State Park is approximately 400 acres of land located along the lake in the county of the same name. There are three big lots for parking and a short walk to the beach, past ample restroom and shower facilities.

The one-mile sandy beach was not too crowded, and we set up our chairs and towels close to the water. We navigated through the rocks at water’s edge and jumped in the slightly chilly water. The water was shallow and perfect for a splash fight. After a few minutes in the water, it was time to warm up in the sun. There is something so calming about being near a large body of water, watching the boats go by. I sat in my chair and cracked some light summer reading. Others in our group, being more athletic, decided to run up and down the dunes. Another group tossed the Frisbee. All of us worked up an appetite for our picnic.

While I remembered a knife to cut the watermelon, I somehow only brought four plates for 10 people. Luckily, fried chicken and watermelon can be eaten with fingers and a napkin. Potato salad was a bit tougher. And no lunch on the beach is complete with a little sand in the mix. After a leisurely lunch, a nap was in order.

The sun was getting a little low in the sky when we decided to pack up and enjoy an adult beverage in South Haven. Since we hadn’t planned ahead, we drove around until we spied Captain Lou’s right on the river, at the foot of the drawbridge. It had a great outdoor deck, and since the sun was still shining, we decided this was the place to finish up our beach day. They offer a classic bar menu with hamburgers and fried perch — and lots of ice-cold beer. We waited to get a seat, but it was worth it. After a day in the sun, we couldn’t stay until the live music started, but I’m sure it’s a great hang out spot.

What a great way to start the summer: sun, fun and sand in South Haven.

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