Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Lake Michigan (Page 1 of 7)

Camping in Holland

Tulip field in front of windmill

Tulips in front of De Zwaan windmill

Tulip Time Festival in Holland is one of the most popular festivals in Michigan. It takes place at the beginning of May and with the cancellation of the festival in 2020, I had a feeling it would be an even bigger deal in 2021. In an attempt to beat the crowds, we decided to go the weekend before the festival began.

We decided this would be a great time to take the camper out for its inaugural trip for the 2021 season so with just a few weeks advance planning, I booked a site at Holland State Park. This park is very popular in the summer and with good reason. It has a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan with a view of the iconic Big Red Lighthouse and is relatively close to downtown Holland. The campground is made up of two sections, the most popular section is right on the beach (which was not yet open for the season when we visited) and the more wooded Lake Macatawa unit where we stayed.

Because of its popularity, this campground comes with some very strict rules. I had to sign a paper and hang it in the window of my camper agreeing to the 1pm checkout time. There was a sign in the office saying the visitors are not allowed and campers must keep their ID on them at all times in the campground to prove that you are allowed to be there. No alcohol is allowed in the campground at any time and rangers frequently drove around, looking into campsites to check. I’m sure these rules are necessary for peak season but the fact that the campground was only 25% full at the time made a lot of this seem a little intrusive and over-the-top. If I had a reason to be in the area, I would probably stay here again, but I wouldn’t seek it out when I’m just looking for a place to camp for a weekend.

Mini camper in front of dune

Our Runaway camper at our site at Holland State Park.

As I mentioned at the top, the purpose of this trip was to visit Windmill Island Gardens and see the tulips. It was pretty chilly this weekend and we even saw snow flurries Sunday morning, but most of the tulips were in the early stages of blooming. I always enjoy visiting the garden and photographing the tulips. If you are looking to see the sights in Holland, Holland State Park is a good base for exploration, but be aware that they do have a lot of rules and they do patrol and enforce them.

This year I knew there were going to be more people than ever camping and it was going to be challenging to get into the most popular campgrounds in the summer. I decided to book the busiest campgrounds (such as this one and Ludington) in the off-season and then try out some of the more under-the-radar spots when the parks would be the busiest. For the most part, I did make reservations about six months out, and with this methodology, I was able to get some really nice sites. I am excited to share those journeys with you!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Vineyard View

Vineyard on a Hill

Off Season Camping: Warren Dunes State Park

Lake Michigan Beach

Warren Dunes State Park is located in Michigan’s southwest corner. Its gorgeous beach (above) and the proximity to Chicago make it one of the most visited parks in the state. Even with 230 campsites, it is hard to get a site here in the summer. I had heard wonderful things about this park so once we had the camper, I was able to find an available site only a few weeks in advance in early fall.

Runaway Camper Our campsite at Warren Dunes

There are two parts to the campground at Warren Dunes, there is a large modern section with electrical hookups and modern restrooms and there is a smaller, rustic section. Even though we were able to get a site only a few weeks out, the modern campground was pretty full and I was surprised at how many tent campers were there with lows in the 40s. The sites were decently spaced apart and one of the things I liked the best was that even the sites in the inside loop had trees separating them. It is very common for Michigan state parks for the campsites in the inside loop to be in a big open field. This added privacy that all the sites had here was a great surprise. The biggest downside of this park is the road noise caused by the proximity to I-94. My site was pretty near the front of the park so it’s possible that it was quieter towards that back of the campground. If we were still tent camping, this would’ve been very annoying. Luckily, our little camper offers a little more of a sound barrier to the outside world than a tent.

One of the main reasons we chose Warren Dunes for this trip, besides the fact that I’ve wanted to check it off my list of Michigan State Parks =, is the proximity to many wineries on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the wineries in the area, except to say that we loved everything we had at Hickory Creek and the restaurant at Tabor Hill is a great spot nearby for lunch. Tabor Hill also has some hiking trails through their vineyards that are fun to check out! If you are looking for quality wine in the southwesternmost part of Michigan, those were two of our favorites!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updatedGear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Watching the Sunset

sillhouette at sunset

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset Watchers

Lake Michigan Sunset Watchers

Camping at Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park Sunset

After our journey across Lake Michigan, we made our home for the final night of our trip at Ludington State Park. Ludington is easily one of the most popular parks in Michigan, with the campground filling up six months out. With a beautiful Lake Michigan beach, a lighthouse, several inland lakes, a river for paddling or tubing, and miles of hiking trails, it’s no question why this park is so beloved.

As I mentioned in my last post, it was late by the time we finally got our car off the ferry. We stopped for dinner and ice cream at House of Flavors and by the time we made it to the park, the sun was setting. There is something special about watching the sun go down on those dunes along Lake Michigan. The sky really put on a show for us that night.

It began to rain early the next morning causing us to get a late start. We were going to hike to the lighthouse, but by the time we finally got going, it was about time for us to check out. Oh well, just an excuse to get back to one of our favorite Michigan state parks!

As I mentioned above, this park is really hard to get into. We got lucky and were able to book this site about a month in advance. The Beechwood campground was scheduled to be closed in 2020 for a bathhouse renovation. Because of COVID, the DNR got a late start and decided to open the campground up for the season, allowing us to get a site only a month or so in advance. The downside of that, of course, is that the bathhouse at this campground was very outdated, but for only one night, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Beechwood is open for reservations for 2021 as well, so they must have decided to put that plan on hold for now.

One thing to note about camping at Ludington (and many Michigan state park campgrounds, honestly) is that all of the campgrounds are pretty much located in a big open field. The sites on the inside of the loop are pretty small and lack privacy. The sites on the outside of the loop back-up to woods and dunes giving them much more privacy. The inside loop is great if you are camping with a group and reserving multiple sites, if it’s just you, try to get an outside site. You will feel much less cramped.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our summer road trip, check out my Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Ludington State Park Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Manitowac Light

Manitowac Lighthouse

S.S. Badger

Ludington Pierhead Lighthouse

Ever since our first trip to Ludington, I have wanted to take the S.S. Badger car ferry across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin. But, at $131 per person round trip (not including a vehicle), it was always too expensive for us to justify for a short trip. Not to mention, without a vehicle, there is not much to do in Manitowac, Wisconsin on the other side of the lake. Well, this summer’s road trip allowed us to finally be able to justify the expense of this experience.

Deck of the S.S. BadgerThe S.S. Badger is a historic steamship car ferry offering service from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowac, Wisconsin. Built in 1952, the Badger is the last coal-fired passenger ship operating in the United States and is a National Historic Landmark. Originally built to move railroad cars across the lake, in the 1990’s the Badger transformed into a passenger ferry for cars, RVs, and commercial trucks. Running from May to October, the Badger takes about 450 trips across the lake each year. The trip takes about four hours and is a good way to relax and enjoy the beauty of the great lakes while immersing yourself in history.

In a year without cruising, this was a good way to get a little bit of that cruise experience, laying in a deck chair watching the water. They were even playing trivia and bingo inside. It was easy to forget that we were on Lake Michigan and not in the Caribbean.

Taking a trip on the S.S. Badger fit in perfectly with this trip and I am very glad that we did it, but I’m not itching to do it again. The four-hour crossing is long and waiting to get our car probably took an additional hour. It was late by the time we got into camp that night. Nowadays, there is a faster (albeit more expensive) option that runs from Milwaukee to Muskegon in only two and a half hours. If you’ve never taken the Badger, it is an experience I highly recommend. Just pack your patience and make sure you have nowhere to be that evening.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out our Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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S. S. Badger Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Lake Michigan Wake

Lake Michigan Wake

Looking Back on Door County

Rock in Water at Sunset

During our time in Door County, we kept comparing it to our favorite Northern Michigan destinations like Traverse City and Leelanau. Both Leelanau and Door County are peninsulas jutting into Northern Lake Michigan. They both are dotted with parks and lighthouses. Both are popular summer destinations with a winery scene.

Door County has the wineries and the food but one thing it is missing is the accessibility of the water that surrounds it. A few of the towns on the Door Peninsula have a downtown on the water but it just didn’t feel the same as on Leelanau. We drove to Northport, on the tip of the peninsula, and all that was there was a line of cars waiting for the ferry to Washington Island. Northport at the tip of Leelanau is home to Leelanau State park with a lighthouse, campground, and hiking trails.

Maybe my love of Northern Michigan is clouding this judgment, but I just don’t think Door County lives up to what I was hoping it would be. It is a beautiful place and I would definitely like to go back when things are back to normal and take the ferry to Rock Island, but its not a place that I feel like I have to rush back to. If you are in Wisconsin or the Chicago area, it is a beautiful place to visit. Is it worth it for someone from southeast Michigan to make the trek around Lake Michigan to see it? I’d say save the milage and go to Leelanau instead.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our summer road trip, check out the Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Door County Pinterest Graphic

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