4. Outdoor Activities

There are quite a few golf courses in the area, and as an experienced golfer I can say that the value for money is excellent.  Benona Shores Golf Course (1 mile drive) is an executive 18-hole golf course owned by our neighbors. Don't let the "executive" tag fool you though, this golf course is very challenging from the back tees with 5 par-3's on the back 9 in excess of 210-yards.  The course is always in excellent condition with very nice greens.  Grand View Golf Course (15-minutes) is a moderately challenging regulation course with a signature island green (hole number 8).  They also have a driving range.  Old Channel Trail Golf Club (25 minutes) is my favorite course in the immediate area, 27-holes, a few with quick views of Lake Michigan.  The course is difficult from the back tees, particularly the Valley nine (Number 4 is a killer).  The pro there (Chris Cullen) gives excellent and reasonably price lessons and they have by far the best practice area around.  The Colonial (25 minutes) in Hart has a regulation 18-yard course and a par-3 nine, and the back-nine is particularly tough.  The Oceana Golf Club (20 minutes) is a relatively short course, but has quite tricky greens.  The  Thoroughbred (25 minutes) is part of the Double-JJ ranch complex - its probably the nicest/most difficult course in the immediate area, but is quite a bit more expensive than the other listed options.

For those willing to drive a bit there are several more-expensive but extremely nice offerings a bit further away: The Grand Haven Golf Club (45 mins), Hemlock Golf Club (45 mins), and Manistee National (1 hour) are a few.  By far the nicest golf experience you can have in Michigan (in my humble opinion) is at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course which is about 1.5 hours drive (and its a nice drive).  This beautiful course is a very challenging links track with basically every hole having some sort of view of Lake Michigan. Its quite expensive, but worth the experience.  There's also another top-10 in Michigan resort course about 1 hour 45 mins away, The Resorts of Tullymore and St. Ives.

There are three nice hiking destinations within pretty close driving distance: Ludington State Park (40 minutes) and Muskegon State Park (40 minutes) both have nice-rolling dune and woods type hiking trails.  Flatter and more forested trails can be found in the Manistee National Forest, with the nearest trail head about 30 minutes or so away near Hesperia.

Apparently, hiking is also allowed at Silver Lake State Park on part of the dunes, though I personally think hiking on the dunes would be rather tiring and hot, and there is not alot of foliage to look at!

Horse-back Riding
There are a couple of nice places to ride horses, our preferred place is the Rainbow Ranch which is only about 10 minutes drive. They have around 80 horses and offer group rides and also lessons.  They have over 300 acres of beautiful riding trails and they even let our 4-year old ride alone on his own horse (after some training, and attached by a lead rope to the group leader). Double-JJ ranch also has horseback riding.

Michigan's Adventure Amusement and Waterpark
Michigan's Adventure (30 minutes) is a large amusement and water park run by the Cedar Point Group. Shivering Timbers is probably the best ride there - its a very long wooden roller coaster, which may jiggle your brain loose. There are also a lot of rides for smaller kids, including a quite fun wooden roller coaster for 5-10 year olds called Zach's Zoomer.  The water park is a lot of fun as well.

Double JJ Ranch
Horse-back riding, golf, indoor waterpark and several other "ranch" type activities.


If you bring your boat or jetski, there are plenty of lakes in the area to try out.  Stony Lake (5 minutes), Silver Lake (15 minutes), Pentwater Lake (25 minutes), White Lake (25 minutes) and of course Lake Michigan are all close by.  Several of these have a channel into Lake Michigan, so you can combine both the big lake and a smaller lake into one trip.

Dune Rides and Dune Buggying

The Silver Lake State Park Dunes (15 minutes) is the only place in Michigan that allow vehicles on the dunes.  The 3,000 acre dunes are split into three roughly equal sized areas: 1 for Mac Dunes Dune scooters, 1 for the public to use vehicles on, and 1 for walking/hiking. Mac Woods Dune Rides are a pretty fun family experience. They last about 30-45 minutes and take you up and down the dunes in an adapted dune scooter that fits about 25 people.  There's a mild amount of thrill and you get to spend 5 or 10 minutes on a nice beach in the middle of the ride. For those who are a bit more adventurous, you can rent various types of jeeps and buggies in Mears, MI and take to the dunes yourself.  You can also buy a 15-foot tall dune flag, stick it on your station wagon, and drive it right up onto the dunes if you so please.  There is also a spot where you can try to "sand board" down the dunes (expect a mouth full of sand!).

Mini-golf and Go-karting
Mears (15 minutes) - home of the Silver Lake State Park - is the most tourist-heavy place around.  The campgrounds there house lots and lots of RVs and campers, so depending on your taste for crowds and tourists, you may want to visit or avoid it altogether.  Mears is home to many kids activities though, including mini-golf, go-karting, bumper boats and video games.  There's a much more relaxed and less crowded mini-golf (though with less "windmills") at C's Extreme Ice Cream in Whitehall. They obviously serve ice cream as well, and charge something modest like $2 to play mini-golf.

Playgrounds + Ice-Cream + Food
There are three great locations that offer playgrounds, Ice Cream and Food all in one glorious location.  Stony Lake Store (5 minutes) serves Ice Cream and has a nice playground, softball field and basketball court across the street.  They also serve Pizza right from the store and there is the Stony Lake Cafe (breakfast, sandwiches, etc) and the Stony Lake Inn (full menu + bar) all in the same spot. You'll find something that doesn't exist that much anymore at the playground - a real merry-go-round.  Feel free to forbid your kids from using it, or alternatively see how many "G's" they can handle by spinning them at light speed.  The Whippy Dip serves soft-serve ice cream, hard-serve ice cream and your typical Dairy Queen type of food menu and has a sand bottom playground.  There's also a pretty cool remote control car track there, which is rarely if ever used.  The Country Dairy (20 minutes) has a very delicious menu of sandwiches, burgers, pizza, salads and home made dairy products (it's one of the major dairies supplying milk in the region). It also has a nice playground and toys and puzzles in the restaurant for kids to play with.

Petting Zoo
There is a wonderful petting zoo at Lewis Farm Market (10 minutes) in New Era. You've got the standard petting zoo herd - goats, sheep, rabbits, miniature ponies and the like. Each year they also seem to get more and more exotic animals - a mini zebra, camels, zebus, alpacas, and wallabees have been all added. They also have a bouncing pillow (think giant trampoline/bouncy house), a pedal car track, two very fast tube slides, a little train pulled by a tractor and a great market with home-made specialties and, of course, ice cream. In the fall they have a fun Halloween festival (though crowded) where you can buy pumpkins, go in a huge corn maze, try out a pumpkin launcher, take a hay-ride, etc.

Fishing and Canoeing
Salmon and Trout fishing in the local rivers is supposedly quite good (I don't fish myself) - popular rivers include the Muskegon River, the White River, the Pere Marquette and the Pentwater River, all in close proximity. There is inland lake as well as Lake Michigan fishing as well. I believe you can canoe most of these rivers.

Bike Trail

There's a 22.5 mile bike path from Hart to Montague that's a converted/paved ex-rail track.  It is pretty flat and goes through farm lands and a few wooded areas, as well as the local towns.  There's a stop at The Country Dairy for lunch and ice cream if you so choose.  You can pick up the trail in Hart (20 minutes), Shelby (10 minutes) or Montague/Whitehall (25 minutes).

There's a nearby place to float (5 minutes) down a creek in an intertube: Stony Lake/Creek.  You start at the Stony Creek store, and catch the very leisurely current down the creek into Lake Michigan. However,  a much more fun option is at Pines Point Campground (25 minutes) in the Manistee National Forest. The water is mostly shallow (knee-deep) and flows quickly through a beautiful forest-scape. The best part though is that the creek is an oxbow, meaning you can step into the creek, ride for about 20-25 minutes and then you will step out on the end of the ride and you'll be a short 100 yard walk to the same spot you started at!


Drive to the end of the driveway, turn left or right, and you'll be on one of the top cycling and motorcycling roads in Michigan.  The road winds through farmland and past beautiful lakes (Stony, Silver, Pentwater, etc) and north of Manistee and towards Arcadia you will have some beautiful Lake Michigan vistas.  You can ride all the way up to Northport on the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.

Fruit Picking
Should you be so inclined, there are U-Pick fruit locations around where you can pick berries and the like. Have a look in our dining section for places where you can buy your food, already picked, as I happen to prefer!