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

st joseph michigan things to do

You Can Make St. Joseph 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.

Its a gold mine of

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

and the list goes on.


Local Gems

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

Jen Ludwig, my personal tour guide and friend, calls St. Joseph home and she hipped us to the gem 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!


Get Familiar with the Layout of St. Joseph

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 Saint 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!

St Joseph Michigan Family

02) Play the Day Away at Silver Beach Center

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

The vastness of this beach is what draws our family in 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.


silver beach playground 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!

Here are some favorite food & coffee suggestions:

Bound For Freedom (coffee) This is such a special spot. It’s a gift shop/boutique spot to find great items from all over the world but they offer coffee and other drinks as well.
404 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085

Cafe Tossi (food and coffee) for crepes and mouth-watering pastries.
516 Pleasant St, St Joseph, MI 49085

Clifford’s Coffee Canal (food and coffee) is loved for its rooftop view where you can eat, drink, and gaze at the canal leading into Lake Michigan.
619 W Main St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Lark’s Barb-B-Que – trust me, it’s legit!
174 W Main St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Mosaic (food and coffee) is sweet, to say the least. They offer food, coffee, books and more, read on for more about this gem of a spot.
38 W Wall St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Silver Harbor Brewing Company, which was very kid-friendly according to KZOOKIDS writer, Amy. “The restaurant had a full kids menu, goldfish crackers to snack on before dinner, crayons, and Wikki Stix to keep them occupied.”
721 Pleasant St, St Joseph, MI 49085

South Bend Chocolate Company (coffee and treats) – You may just want to visit this place just for the smell of it. The chocolate, treats, coffee, and more.
300 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085

Watermark Brewery in Stevensville a recommendation from Jen, “is super family-friendly with provided outdoor lawn games and family-style seating with great drinks and food.”
5781 St Joseph Ave, Stevensville, MI 49127


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. Some of the places we love visiting most are:

Bound For Freedom is one of our must-stops every time we visit St. Joe. They carry unique items from all over the world. The owners themselves are artists and it shows in their building.
404 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085

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 is a book store and gem-finding thrift shop.
38 W Wall St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

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.

Some favorite options among those are:

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



Book the Perfect Place to Stay in St. Joseph

Now, where to stay?

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

From Airbnb’s to camping or glamping, happy choosing!

Find a St Joe Vacation Rental

Find a St Joe Hotel

Click the button below.

St. Joseph Lodging

Camping or Glamp 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

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!

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