Unexpected Michigan part 2: Holland and Grand Rapids

Holland, Michigan is a beautiful little college town, home to Hope College, Western Theological Seminary, and a state park on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Holland State Park campground was our next destination and our home for two nights.

Our friend Jeff works at Western and once we checked in and set up camp, we drove into the town to see Jeff and visit the campus where he works. Afterward we walked through town, ate great sandwiches and pizza for dinner, and treated ourselves to a bit of ice cream and fudge. The town has all the feel of a beach town, which of course it is. Not being from the Great Lakes region, it still surprises me that these lake shores feel so similar to the ocean beaches I’m used to on the East Coast, minus the salt water.

Thursday we had a relaxed morning, and I even managed to find the time and motivation for a morning run. (I would NOT recommend taking the trail toward Mt. Pisgah, which is just at the edge of the campground. It’s mostly steps. A lot of them. It sounds like a nice place when I read about it but it really wasn’t a good place to run.) Then we spent the afternoon on the beach.

This one just LOVES the sand. Really loves it.

Hanging out in the shade

The walk to the beach from the campsite was a little longer than we’d anticipated. But still it was nice to have it in walking distance, and the way was dotted with nice views and harbors. The extra time just meant that Peter had time for a little nap in the backpack carrier.

We had such beautiful weather, though maybe a bit windy, and the water temperature was perfect. I had expected Lake Michigan would be pretty cold, and I am not one who likes to swim in cold water, but it was really pleasant to swim out and splash in the waves. Well, I thought so anyway. Emelie was pretty intimidated by the waves, and despite everything we tried to help her play with them and get used to them, in the end she just wouldn’t swim. So we cut the afternoon short and walked back to a much smaller little beach area on Lake Macatawa, just across the street from our campground. Then our little fish was ready to have fun in the water too.

Thursday evening, we drove to Grand Rapids to have dinner with Jeff and his wife Gretchen. While the grown ups were catching up, Emelie and Peter had fun playing with their dog, Maury. After dinner we all helped take Maury for a walk around the neighborhood before it was time to head back to our little home in Holland.

So now I am able to answer my own question. Why Michigan? This was the first point in our trip when we were in a place we’d never been and able to slow our pace a bit and enjoy nature. Michigan has so much natural beauty to offer and, in our experience, an excellent state park system to help us experience it.

Campground Review: Holland State Park
Price: At $29/night, a little more than we’d hoped but still a great value. We reserved this one online ahead of time, so we also paid a small reservation fee. This park, like Brighton, also requires the $8/day or $29/year (for non-Michigan residents) “passport” so the total for 2 nights was $78.
Location: Beautiful. Views of Lake Macatawa across the street and a reasonable walk (15-20 minutes at our pace) to Lake Michigan, the beach, etc. Also close to Mt. Pisgah sand dune boardwalk. One disadvantage was that it was a lot closer to the main road than I had expected, so there was road noise, but nothing that kept us awake at night.
Facilities: Very nice bath/showerhouse with adequate facilities. Firewood available for purchase. We heard rumors of a camp store, but we didn’t see it and it wasn’t on the campground map.
Site description: Our site was mostly paved, with a small grassy area on the side. But we had a handicapped accessible site that I had chosen for its proximity to the bathrooms and playground. Most other sites were not paved.
Neighborhood: Very family friendly and there were several families with young kids camped near us. Varied clientele.
Comments: It may sound silly but there were these cherry trees that were, at the time we were there, dropping cherries all over everything. It was messy. We were very satisfied with the campground overall, but isn’t it funny how something so small can really bother you?

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