Destinations: Harbor Club South Haven Now I Know Why St. Louisans Love Michigan So Much!

by J.B. Lester
Healthy Planet Editor/Publisher

St. Louisans have a love affair with Michigan. Everyone knows someone who vacations in the Mitten State. Other than living in Grand Rapids when I was a toddler and a brief trip to Mackinaw Island in my early 20s, I had not really experienced what Michigan has to offer. So when I got an emailed press release about a new “Green” resort development in South Haven, it picqued my interest. The next thing I knew, my wife Niki and I were guests of Harbor Club South Haven. We were housed in the Wildflower Cottage, one of their new EnergySmart® homes. Harbor Club is a 40-acre riverfront development in South Haven featuring residential homes, vacation rental cottages and a beautiful 110 slip marina. Lake Michigan is a short two block walk away.

The Wildflower Cottage is the prototype of the EnergySmart homes currently planned and being built at Harbor Club. It is available for rental, or as a home builder you can choose this eco-friendly design. Harbor Club has adopted the following Green Initiative:
“With the rising cost of energy and the increased focus on environmental responsibility in our everyday lives, Harbor Club has developed our green initiative program with the primary goal to offer affordable, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly homes to our homeowners. Harbor Club is no stranger to the eco-friendly movement. From the early stages of our development, we went to great lengths to respect and protect the natural integrity of the land. Our property includes preserved woodlands and wetlands, transplanted trees, native natural plantings and vast green open spaces. And now our green initiative applies this same forward thinking philosophy to our homes.

“With this initiative, we have redefined the way we build homes by applying eco-friendly principles to every step of the construction process. The design of each home, the way they are built and the building materials we use all reflect our increased focus on the environment. We have partnered with EnergySmart® Building Systems, a company that has created state-of-the-art construction techniques combined with the cutting-edge building materials.

“Homes feature renewable energy technologies, including geo-thermal heating and cooling, solar and wind power which reduce their carbon footprint and lower utility costs. Our homes are built to qualify for LEED certification and also qualify for federal tax credits.”

The Harbor Club property is indeed dedicated to preserving nature. Our first morning we were wakened by the gobbling of a rafter of wild turkey outside our cottage while a herd of deer munched down their bluegrass breakfast in the lot next to ours. A bright blue sky and billowy white fair weather clouds were the backdrop for a flock of Canada geese in perfect formation. We felt like we were staying in a nature preserve.

The cottage was a beautifully-appointed, 4 bedroom, 3 bath Arts & Crafts style home with all the creature comforts; t.v.s, fireplace, modern kitchen, etc. A real home away from home. And Green, too — an EnergySmart Home!

Just a short walk from our Harbor Club “Smart” cottage lies Lake Michigan with miles and miles of beautiful sand beaches, flittering shorebirds and lake cool breezes. We walked the beach south into the downtown of South Haven where we became curious tourists. If you like quaint, friendly lakeside hamlets with numerous shops and eateries to please about anyone on the planet, then South Haven is for you. It is the perfect picturesque postcard town with a beautiful harbor, sailboats and yes, a long pier and lighthouse. We felt like characters in a Norman Rockwell painting. And we loved every minute of it. Our walk through town included a stop at the famous Blueberry Store. Like its name implies, you can get anything blueberry here. (This is blueberry country.) I got some blueberry donuts (Yum) and a bottle of blueberry barbecue sauce for my brother, the gourmet cook. We checked out Ducy’s General Store, which is known for its rugs and wall clocks. There must be a couple thousand wall clocks and rugs in this historic four-story building. We found it oddly interesting as we explored its many staircases and endless rooms. Moving on… we then picked up some Olive Oil at the Olive Cart and a set of owl salt and pepper shakers for our daughter at one of the many gift shops. And to top it all off we had lunch at the very famous Clementine’s restaurant in the heart of downtown. This important piece of South Haven history offers a great catch-of-the-day (usually Perch) and they even brew their own craft beer. My kind of place!

And the trip would not be complete without a stroll along the Black River marina down to the Harbor and the long stretch on the pier to the iconic red lighthouse. Lake Michigan looms large from the pier, with gulls screeching and sailboats making their way into and out of the harbor. This is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. A bright and cheerful piece of Americana.

Anytime of year is a good time to visit South Haven and Harbor Club. We visited in late summer but this is a four season destination. If you are a boating enthusiast, this is boating heaven. But even for landlovers like us, Harbor Club has everything you need, sealed with a green kiss. This trip certainly showed us why so many St. Louisans love Michigan.

“South Haven is proud to be known as the ‘Blueberry Capital of the World’ because Michigan, and particularly Van Buren County, ranks as the nation’s leading producer of the crop,” states the South Haven tourist brochures.

“The 50th Anniversary Celebration of the National Blueberry Festival will be August 8-11, 2013. This four-day festival will be held in various locations in and out of doors in South Haven. Many events take place overlooking South Haven’s picturesque harbor, the 110-year-old Lighthouse and Lake Michigan.

“This is a very family-friendly event with activities for all ages to enjoy! Plus, most all events are free and open to the public.
“Top events are a Kids’ blueberry pie eating contest on Friday, top-tier free evening entertainment throughout the festival, blueberry pancake breakfasts, Saturday and Sunday, Blueberry Festival Parade on Saturday, Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday and Sunday, Downtown Sidewalk Sales, Blueberry Festival Cook Off, 5K Run/Walk on Saturday and Rotary Club Fly-in, Classic Car Show and Pancake Breakfast at South Haven Regional Airport.”

If you are looking for a great place to visit or to build that vacation or retirement retreat, just 6 to 7 hours from St. Louis, check out Harbor Club South Haven at www.harborclubsh.com or call 866-562-3630 to arrange a visit. You can also visit the South Haven website for area information at www.southhaven.org.

And enjoy the blueberries!