St Joseph Michigan: 11 Reasons You Should Not Miss this Charming Lake Michigan Beach Town

st joseph michigan things to do

You’ll Want to Make St Joseph Michigan Your Next Family Adventure

Looking for that quintessential Lake Michigan getaway for your family?

I would argue St. Joseph has it all as far as iconic Michigan destinations are concerned. And it’s just an hour away from Kalamazoo!

St. Joseph, Berrien County, has some pretty great attributes – so let’s get to it, shall we?!


Why Choose St. Joseph Over Some Other Lake MI Beach Town?

Yes, St. Joseph Michigan is known for its phenomenal beach access at Silver Beach and Lions Beach, Whirlpool Fountain, the most majestic splash pad to exist in Michiganbut, St. Joe itself is so much more than its popular beach/beaches.

It’s a gold mine of

  • hidden gem spots
  • hiking biking and walking trails
  • great views
  • art
  • coffee
  • shopping

and the list goes on.

Downtown St Joseph Michigan
Shopping and restaurants are wonderful in Downtown St Joseph Michigan

St. Joseph Local Wisdom

Don’t just take it from me, ask a local.

Jen Ludwig, my personal tour guide and friend, calls St. Joseph home and she let us in on the secret spots the locals know about.

If you visit in the fall, be sure to hit…

Free Trick or Treating for the kids…

Hiking the trails at Sarett Nature Center or Love Creek in Berrien Springs…

Go a little outside St. Joe to the rolling hills of Baroda and Berrien Springs and you’ll hit Michigan’s own wine country. Pack a picnic to eat amongst the grapes at a locally owned winery, distillery, or brewery. The grapes are ripe and the air smells incredible this time of year.

As always, you can’t go wrong with a walk on the beach– just be sure to bundle up.”

In the spring, come for “March Mannequins” featuring real people posing as Mannequins in store windows!

Lake Michigan offers sugar sand beaches in St Joseph Michigan

St Joseph Michigan Things to Do

Get Familiar with St. Joe’s Layout

The streets of downtown St. Joseph are situated on a bluff overlooking the beach.

Excuse me while I gush about my favorite beach in Michigan for a minute (talking about Michigan beaches is like talking about our kids, right? You love them all equally and call them all your favorite. Each is unique with lovely and amazing attributes).

This is no ordinary beach. As you walk down the bluff from Lakeshore Boulevard (or head down the ramp – accessible,) you’ll find yourself in Lake Michigan beach paradise.

The stairs lead you directly in front of iconic Silver Beach Pizza, the Curious Kids Museum, the Silver Beach Carousel, and the much-anticipated crowd-pleaser, Whirlpool Fountain.

Continue west a few feet and you’ll officially be on the sand. Silver Beach spans the entirety of the downtown length, lending to lots of room for choosing your perfect spot for the day.

If you’d rather start on the sand instead of walking over from downtown, park your car at the bottom of the bluff in the Silver Beach parking lot for easy access to beachside fun.

Here’s a birdseye view of the St. Joseph / Silver Beach area:

11 Best Things to Do for Families in St. Joseph

01) Splash and Cool Off at Whirlpool Compass Fountain

Whirlpool Compass Fountain
200 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085

The Whirlpool Compass Fountain typically runs through the end of September but does undergo regular maintenance. Keep updated on its status on Facebook.

This is one of those places you just have to experience for yourself. The fountain is on a spray cycle. Every so often, the water cycle starts again – first with small water action from the water cannons lining the perimeter, culminating in a majestic display of water art.

The pictures are awesome, yes, but actually being under this mega fountain is something hard to explain! It’s awesome, thrilling, and fun for every age!

Whirlpool Compass Fountain in St Joseph Michigan

02) Play the Day Away at Silver Beach Center in St Joseph Michigan

Silver Beach Center
101 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085

The vastness of the beach at St Joseph Michigan is what draws our family in. If you visit during the fall, It’s not as busy during the fall months and in some cases, you could have the entire beach to yourself.

If you post up near the pier you’ll love seeing the action of fisherman, and fun shells that wash up. Or settle further down the beach by the playground and swings.

It doesn’t matter which spot you choose to spend the day at Silver Beach. The lookout points are beautiful and the sidewalk trail will lead you through the mini-dune and dune grass.

Sandy Beach at St Joseph Michigan
silver beach playground st joseph michigan
Playground at Silver Beach Center in St Joseph Michigan

P.S. Don’t forget to walk the pier!

St. Joseph Pier Lighthouse
St. Joseph North Pier, Saint Joseph, MI 49085

03) Take a Ride on the Silver Beach Carousel

Silver Beach Carousel
333 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085

(Temporarily closed due to Covid-19)

It’s hard to pass up a spin on one of the 40+ hand-carved horses from the early 1900s. My great aunt has a motto – “always take the carousel.” So, in honor of Aunt Beryl, when we first saw the Silver Beach Carousel we did just that!

Even better, this beautiful adventure spot gives the option to dress up in their provided props! You can wear a fun hat, pretend to be a horse, or whatever you find fun for your trip around the hand-carved loop.

04) Visit Curious Kids’ Museum

Curious Kids’ Museum
415 Lake Blvd, St Joseph, MI 49085

(temporarily closed due to Covid-19)

This little place is so much fun! It may be small but it packs a big punch of fun and our kids loved it! Everything in this place is interactive as well as a learning opportunity. Definitely worth the visit.

**You can buy a combo ticket if you’d like to play at both this and the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone venues.

Light board children's museum

05) Explore at Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone 

Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone 
333 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085

(Temporarily Closed due to Covid-19)

The Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone is located in the Silver Beach amusement park area of Silver Beach. It features traveling exhibits, a climbing tower lighthouse, a wave table, plus many others you can find in this link.

**You can buy a combo ticket if you’d like to play at both this and the Curious Kids’ Museum venues.

Children's museum water play

06) Grab some Food & Coffee

When you visit a place with a local and that local is a foodie, you’re in for a treat.

Thanks to Jen we’ve found some delicious places you’ll adore. But my guess is that you’ll end up finding something on your own as you walk through the streets. St. Joe is not lacking in yummy food!

Favorite Food & Coffee Spots

  • Bound For Freedom | 404 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085 | gift shop/boutique spot with coffee and other beverages
  • Cafe Tossi | 516 Pleasant St, St Joseph, MI 49085 | crepes and mouth-watering pastries
  • Clifford’s Coffee Canal | 619 W Main St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 | rooftop view of the the canal leading into Lake Michigan
  • Lark’s Barb-B-Que | 174 W Main St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022
  • Mosaic | 38 W Wall St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 | food, coffee and books
  • Silver Harbor Brewing Company | 721 Pleasant St, St Joseph, MI 49085 | very kid-friendly according to KZOOKIDS team member, Amy. “The restaurant had a full kids menu, goldfish crackers to snack on before dinner, crayons, and Wikki Stix to keep them occupied.”
  • South Bend Chocolate Company | 300 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085 | chocolate, treats and coffee
  • Watermark Brewery | 5781 St Joseph Ave, Stevensville, MI 49127 | a recommendation from Jen, “Super family-friendly with provided outdoor lawn games and family-style seating with great drinks and food.”


07) Eat at Silver Beach Pizza

Silver Beach Pizza
410 Vine St, St Joseph, MI 49085

So iconic it gets its own shoutout.

Nearby, you’ll find the famous Silver Beach Pizza (located in an old Amtrak depot at the beach, this is a super spot for great pizza.) It’s easy to grab a pizza from their to-go ordering booth.

They even give the kiddos a small piece of pizza dough to keep them occupied while you’re waiting for your order.

08) Shop the Unique Shops (boutiques, craft coffee, thrifting, etc.)

The St. Joseph area is known for thrift and shops! They are located all through the downtown strip but also tucked away throughout the city. They also hold an antique show every year. But the city also has plenty of boutique shops and the beloved beach town stops as well.

Favorite Shops

  • Bound For Freedom | 404 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085 | artist-owned shop featuring unique items from all over the world
  • ESS (formally 6 Degrees) Resale Store | 205 W Main St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022
  • Everybody’s Everything | 1523 Niles Ave, St Joseph, MI 49085
  • Mosaic | 38 W Wall St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 | book store and gem-finding thrift shop
Bound-For-Freedom St. Joseph

09) Watch the Sunset 

Is there anything like a Lake Michigan sunset? There are multiple places to watch the sunset along Lakeshore Drive in St. Joseph and along the Benton Harbor strips.

One of our favorite spots is at Lookout Park across the street from the Holiday Inn.

Holiday Inn
3019 Lakeshore Dr, St Joseph, MI 49085

10) Enjoy Southwest Michigan’s Wine Country

The wine flows when you visit St. Joseph area!

You’ll find local orchards, and wineries tucked throughout the area and as Jen mentioned, many will let you pack a picnic to eat on their grounds.

Learn more about Southwest Michigan’s Wine Country.

11) Get Active on Hiking, Biking & Walking Trails

This area is not lacking in some of the most gorgeous Hiking, Biking & Walking Trails for Michigan families.

Favorite Trails

  • Grand Mere State Park | 7337 Thornton Dr, Stevensville, MI 49127
  • Sarett Nature Center | 2300 N Benton Center Rd, Benton Harbor, MI 49022
  • Love Creek Nature Center | 9292 Huckleberry Rd #9736, Berrien Center, MI 49102
  • Warren Dunes State Park | 12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer, MI 49125
  • Jean Klock Park | Jean Klock Blvd, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Where to Stay in St Joseph

Now, where to stay?

No worries, everything you need to book the perfect getaway is right here.

From VRBOs to camping or glamping, happy choosing!

Find a St Joe Vacation Rental

When you book a St Joseph Michigan vacation rental, your family will have room to spread out. You will also be able to cook your own meals, and, if you’re lucky, find a few special amenities that hotel lodging doesn’t offer.

Find a St Joe Michigan Hotel

Click the button below.

Camping or Glamping at the KOA

Go Camping or Glamping at The Coloma / St. Joseph KOA Campground.

Deluxe cabins include a full-size bed, as well as a bunk bed in the bedroom. There was also a futon in the living room – it can sleep six, ideal for families needing extra space.

It has everything needed for a comfortable stay, including your own bathroom with shower, AC, utensils, and kitchen table.

Helpful appliances included a mini-fridge, coffee maker (with coffee), stovetop, mini television and hairdryer.

Along with rustic campsites, this KOA location also offers luxury camping tents!

St. Joseph KOA - Camping Tent

KOA Campground Amenities include:

  • Giant jumping pillow
  • Beautiful pool and hot tub
  • Playground, pond, horseshoes, gaga ball and nature trails
  • Bucket train for kids
  • Mini-golf
  • An indoor clubhouse for less than perfect weather days, general store, basketball court, volleyball court, free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, & a dog park
  • Banana bikes available for rent
  • Special events are held on certain weekends throughout the summer and fall, including ice cream socials on the weekendsSt Joseph KOA Camping -Bounce Pillow

Fall in love with St. Joseph Michigan

So, you ready for your St. Joseph trip, or is St. Joe already one of your go-to spots each year? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Leave a comment letting us know what you love about the Berrien County area and what should be added to this list of greatness in one of the most beloved beach towns in Michigan.

Happy travels!

More to Explore in Michigan

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