South Haven, MI

By far my favorite western Michigan city! It has a beautiful boardwalk with shops, an Inn, restaurants, a my favorite coffee shop. We ate at Southaven brew pub. They had a menu labeled with gluten free options, which always makes my life a little easier!

After lunch and exploring the boardwalk, we headed towards the water. The marina is absolutely gorgeous. The park area was filled with people enjoying sunshine and many were having picnics. The entire vibe was so relaxing! At the end of the river they had a splash pad for kids and a shop with tourist shirts and accessories.

We walked up and down the streets and explored every shop. They had several antique stores and we really enjoyed walking through those. It brought up so many fun memories of our childhoods. This city had so much to offer!

That evening we watched the sunset at the lighthouse. Wow i honestly don’t know if i have ever seen a sunset so gorgeous. The beach and pier were packed with families, friends and photographers. I sure am glad i get to explore life with my wonderful husband!

Saugatuck, MI

What a cute small town on Lake Michigan! Very artsy area! We walked along the lake and stopped at an outdoor art exhibit and around the farmers market. We also walked their downtown area and went in all the adorable shops!

I found Mary Poppins

My husband found an area to hike. He heard the views at the top were amazing BUT you had to climb 200 steep stairs to get there. I thought he was nuts but of course I’m always down for an adventure. The stairs were intense but after a few quick breaks, we made it!!! The views were stunning and I’m so glad we did the hike up!

Holland, MI

Ok full disclosure this city was way bigger than i expected. Our hotel was located in an area of the city surrounded by many stores and restaurants. We were about 10 minutes from the lake. Our first evening there we went out to eat, at Boatwerks, and then headed to the lighthouse. This is one of the top attractions. The lighthouse is referred to as Big Red and sits at the entrance of the channel connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa. The beach area is the largest beach we have ever seen. It is surrounded by bike paths, marinas, fishing piers, a playground and many areas to have a picnic. The area is absolutely beautiful!

Boatwerks where we ate dinner

Traveling Gluten Free

I’m in the process of being diagnosed with Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. This requires me to be 100% gluten free for several weeks. This of course all happened within days of leaving for vacation and my birthday, but we were up for the challenge.

My first stop was the store to stock up on gluten free snacks. This was for traveling and also to carry with me during our exploring of the different cities. Always best to have stuff with you when you don’t know if there are any safe places to eat!

Oh the struggle is real!!!! No restaurant is truly safe unless they are dedicated gluten free. We did find many lake restaurants that had gluten free buns. For the most part, the servers had some knowledge of what gluten is.

Our first night we ate at Boatwerks. It was right on Lake Macatawa and the views were beautiful! I had a burger with chips. John had their perch sandwich and chips! The waitress didn’t know if the burger was safe but she went and asked the chef for us.

Our hotel offered breakfast which made at least one meal a day a little less stressful. I had eggs and yogurt and John had all the goods 😉. I’m pretty sure the sausage patty is not gluten free and i should have known better 🤷‍♀️!

Day 2 we found a restaurant on the boardwalk of South Haven. The brewpub had several gluten free options. I went with the chips & salsa and a gluten free pizza. It was honestly the most flavorful restaurant pizzas I’ve ever had. John had fish tacos! We sat outside under an awning and just enjoyed the hustle and bustle on the boardwalk! **the awning was blue which is why the photos have strange coloring!

I’m super grateful coffee is gluten free!! I was so happy to find my FAVORITE coffee shop had this cute little spot on the boardwalk!

For my birthday dinner we ate at Salt & Pepper. I found it based off reviews from Find Me Gluten Free. It was delicious!!! I had a Kobe Steak, loaded baked potato, and a side salad. John had boursin bacon corn chowder soup, a Kobe steak smothered in Boursin bacon and roasted red pepper. For dessert we shared a flourless chocolate torte! AMAZING!!

Day 3 we started out at a gluten free bakery and yep i had a brownie and chocolate chip cookie at 9am 😂!

For lunch we ate at Red Robin. We hate eating at chain restaurants but i will say this place is really safe for gluten free. They have gluten free buns and a separate fryer for the fries. It was nice to know i could enjoy my meal without the worries of unsafe food.

For dinner we ate at Captain Lou’s on the river in south haven. They didn’t have many options so again i had a burger on gluten free bun and a salad. We ate there with John’s childhood buddy and his family. It was nice to hang out with all of them and watch the boats go down the river. We were right next to the draw bridge and Fisher was excited to watch it go up!

Finding places to eat was challenging, but we did it!!!

From the website celiac.org:

The terms non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) are generally used to refer to this condition, when removing gluten from the diet resolves symptoms, after testing negative for celiac disease and a wheat allergy. 1

Until now it was thought that people with NCGS/NCWS only experienced symptoms and did not have any intestinal damage. However, in July 2016, a team of researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, published a study confirming that wheat exposure in this group is, in fact, triggering a systemic immune reaction and accompanying intestinal cell damage.

It is estimated that the impacted population is equal to or even exceeds the number of individuals with celiac disease (the vast majority of whom remain undiagnosed).

Vacation time!

We are up and ready to head out of town. Well John and I….sorry Abby you have to stay with mom and dad!

We headed to Michigan from my parents house Monday morning! It was a beautiful morning and we were excited to spend the week out of town! We of course had to stop at one of the huge Cabela stores in Dundee, Michigan. John wasn’t kidding when he told me the store was large. It was the size of a mall 😂. I also couldn’t believe all the animal displays they had. Dick Cabela sure has hunted a lot of different species! The way they had them all displayed was so creative. I was blown away!

We of course had to stop at Tim Hortons before hitting the road again. How cute is this coffee shop???

We finally made it to the hotel and when i tell you we made it just in time, i am not kidding. As we were driving the last few minutes, the sky turned black. As we entered the hotel, the sky opened up. It was like a monsoon and oh my goodness so much lightning. I’ve never seen anything like it. We later found out that area was hit pretty hard and there was a lot of people without power. We were spared but yikes was it scary. So glad we were not driving during it!

Our Hallmark Honeymoon has come to an end!

Chapter 12….the final chapter

Ugh i am beyond sad this week is over. I thought places like this only existed in movies. The small towns. The lakes. The people. It was the perfect place for the two of us!

Some fun and unique things we noticed while being in this area up north. No one has wraps or rice on their menus. Blue Gill and prime rib is very common at most restaurants. Also many different types of burgers. Up north is definitely s beef area as it was rare to see grilled chicken on the menu. The main soup at the majority of the restaurants is tomato basil. We may be close to Canada, but we didn’t see any Canadian geese that are everywhere back home. The only seagull sighting we saw was at Sutton’s Bay. We never saw one gym or yoga studio. The sidewalks roll up at about 5pm. The restaurants/bars only stay open until 10pm at the latest. Strangely it is very difficult to find an outdoor store that sells bait and tackle. The news never talks about COVID. You don’t have the crime up there so they news is actually uplifting. They even do a hunting and fishing segment every morning.

Fast food and chain restaurants do not exists! It’s glorious. You want coffee? Go to the local shop? You want a meal? Find a local restaurant. You want pizza? Find a local shop (there arent many) and go pick it up. No one delivers and there is no door dash. You need groceries? You either go to a local market or you make a trip to traverse city. There isn’t curb side service so you better be prepared to get out of your car. There are no drug stores, just a local pharmacy in some towns. J

They don’t have any street lights, but rather they have a large bulb on a wire hanging over the road when there is a cross road. i also love that there are no car dealerships, large buildings or senseless and excessive amounts of plazas.

Grayling MI
His odometer hit 55555 and he was very excited

We are safely home. We are missing the simple way of life and looking forward to visiting again!!!! Thanks for joining in on our adventures with us. Any recommendations for similar destinations in the US?