By Marie Havenga
If you’re not up for boating, biking or hiking, take to the streets for a scenic sampling of North Ottawa County viewscapes.
The road routes below will take you through rugged duneland, past historic sites and along some of the most “wow” factor waterways in West Michigan.
Two of our suggested tours begin at the foot of Washington Avenue in downtown Grand Haven – stop into the Chamber of Commerce building for brochures and maps – and the other launches from a main intersection in Spring Lake.
So gather up the family, pack a picnic and hit the road:
Grand Haven Route
From the Chamber of Commerce building at 1 South Harbor Drive, proceed southwest along Harbor Drive, soaking in the sights of the boardwalk and Grand River channel. You’ll pass the Coast Guard Station on the right and Tri-Cities YMCA on your left.
As the road curves left, continue straight into the fisherman’s parking area. Take a short walk toward the water for one of this area’s best views of the Grand Haven State Park and the lighthouses.
Continue south along Harbor Drive and turn left on Lake Avenue immediately after the fork in the road. You’ll catch a glimpse of rugged dunes as you pass quaint cottages in the Highland Park district before passing the historic Khardomah Lodge on your left.
A short distance ahead on your right, explore Lake Forest Cemetery for a view of hilly dune terrain and interesting graves. Recognize the names? Many of this area’s founding fathers are laid to rest here.
Continue along Lake Avenue. Lake curves around and turns into Second Street and crosses Washington Avenue.
Find a parking spot – you’re now in the downtown shopping and dining district, ripe for exploring.
Harbor Island/North Shore
This is the longest of our three drives (plan on a minimum one hour with stops) but it’s worth the time. From the Chamber building, head northeast on Harbor Drive past the Pere Marquette No. 1223 steam locomotive and the coal tipple.
Turn left on Third Street, proceed across the bridge, then left again when you see the signs for Linear Park.
Park and take a short walk along the waterfront for spectacular views of the Wharf Marina and the Grand River channel.
When you leave Linear Park, turn left and then left again when you see the signs for Harbor Island. The water views speak for themselves. As you exit Harbor Island, continue east, then turn left just before you get to the stop sign at U.S. 31.
You’ll cruise under the drawbridge along the Grand River, and resurface on northbound U.S. 31 on the other side. Head north on 31 about half a mile and take the Ferrysburg exit. Turn left at the stop sign, then left by the fire station at the flashing light (Northshore Drive).
You’ll come across Coast Guard Park about a mile ahead on your right – stop for public restrooms, a dune walk or to let your canine companions roam in the dog park.
North Beach Park is another mile ahead on the right where the road curves. This is a great spot for a picnic, with playground equipment and scenic views of Lake Michigan.
After your romp on the beach, continue south on Northshore Drive, pass the rolling Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve and end in the Fisherman’s Landing parking lot at the North pier. It’s the perfect time to stretch your legs and go for a stroll. Capture great photos of the lighthouse and watch salmon fisherman and recreational boaters motor through the channel.
Spring Lake Route
From the intersection of Savidge Street (M-104) and Fruitport Road, head north to the first Spring Lake Township Cemetery entrance on your right. You’ll pass by the prominent Savidge Family plot about halfway down on your left. As you exit the cemetery, turn right, then left on the first street to your left – Beach.
You’ll pass by historic cottage districts then encounter a stunning view of Spring Lake. Stop and dig your toes into the warm sand of Lakeside Beach at the curve where Beach turns into Lake Avenue.
After beach time, continue south on Lake. You’ll split the waterways and see spectacular views of Lloyd’s Bayou and the Grand River as Lake becomes Leonard Street.
If you continue east on Leonard Street, you’ll eventually reach Grand Rapids. Otherwise, turn left on 148th Street, then left on M-104 to return to the point of beginning.