We bought a small, used motor home late last fall and decided immediately where we wanted our first camping trip to be.
It seemed the perfect place—unbeatable scenery, lots of activities, good restaurants and according to several national publications, the best freshwater beach around.
At 8 a.m. on a cold and windy November day, six months prior to our desired camping dates, we booked a beachfront site online for Kite Festival weekend at Grand Haven State Park in West Michigan.
And began counting the days.
Now that the trip is in our rear-view mirror, I’m still counting—the Top 10 reasons to camp at Grand Haven State Park.
1. Friendly folks
After we drove the short route from Spring Lake to Grand Haven and backed our loaded RV into site 157, we were greeted by friendly campsite neighbors.
Folks next to and across from us welcomed us and shared their RVing adventures—one couple had just sold their house two days prior. They planned to camp in Grand Haven for the weekend, then near their native Ionia, Michigan, for the rest of the summer prior to heading south for the cold months.
The couple next to us, Mike and Judi Mazurek, are members of the Friends of Grand Haven State Park Board, a group of volunteers dedicated to enhancing and enriching the park.
They helped add amenities such as the ADA ramps that allow wheelchairs to reach the water, new drinking fountains and bike racks. Within the next two years, they plan to add a new campground playground and more trees.
2. Amazing festivals
We basked in the sunshine under colorful kites, but there are many more summer activities on the horizon like Coast Guard Festival weekend, Salmon Festival and more.
The show kites—everything from huge animal kites to aliens and lighthouses—hung like trophies in the sky while the competition ring to the south amazed us and our guests with kite movements choreographed to music.
Majestic and magical, for sure.
3. A great place to celebrate
We celebrated my daughter’s fifth birthday on Sunday and, even with a busy festival going on, our guests were able to park in the campground overflow lot. Keep in mind guests do need a recreational passport to park there, though.
We ordered pizza from Domino’s and although the delivery driver mistakenly went to the state park instead of the campground entrance as directed, campground attendants confirmed that it is OK to have pizza delivered directly to a campsite.
The kite festival provided the perfect backdrop to our outdoor beach celebration.
4. Fun for the kiddos
Even without a kite festival, there’s plenty for the younger set to do. And best part is, it’s all free.
We had a couple of my daughter’s preschool friends out to the campground. The beauty of this is, even without a recreational passport, the parents were allowed to drop off the kiddos at our campsite. They just couldn’t park.
Lainey and her friends Lilly and Cayden made sand angels, sand castles, dug to China, buried themselves, played in the shallows of Lake Michigan, frolicked on the playground and lastly, flew kites. The kiddos even got to see a freighter enter the Grand Haven port after spotting it far offshore and tracking its voyage inland.
The next day, another preschool friend and her family happened upon us as they strolled across the beach. The little ones played in the sand for hours, allowing the adults to relax and watch the sky show.
5. Sensational scenery
The chronological scenery show at the Grand Haven State Park Campground goes something like this—fresh morning light sparkling on the sand, charter boats shuttling down the Grand River channel into Lake Michigan, kites lofting overhead in the afternoon breeze, families building sand castles and picnicking and alas, the evening….
That’s when the beach comes alive. People stroll in from all directions to catch the star of the show—the evening sunset.
On our visit, a photographer had her model strike various poses in front of the setting sun. Nearby, two teenage boys played Frisbee. An elderly couple strolled hand-in-hand from the south toward the pier. A group of 20-something girls ran in, giggling and sharing smiles.
A sailboat crested the pier head. I grabbed a photo as it passed directly in front of the setting sun.
Shortly after sunset, the catwalk lights begin to glow, casting a far-reaching reflection across the water toward the sand.
And then, a grand finale—a full moon rising over the trees.
Ahhhh. Life was made for moments like this. To savor.
6. Lively night life
I’m not talking about the bar scene, although Grand Haven is known for a few great hot spots in that department, too.
I’m talking about the after-hours entertainment at the beach—glowing campfires.
You’ll need to bring your own fire pit container. They’re not provided. But campfire wood is available for a nominal fee.
We were treated to a special show Friday night as we sat around the campfire with friends—a freighter leaving port.
7. The boardwalk
I’m a boater, so during warm weather I typically moor along the wall, then stroll the boardwalk to area restaurants or ice cream shops.
It’s rare that I bike it.
But we brought our bikes with us to the campground and my daughter and I spent a pleasant evening riding through the campground then on the boardwalk.
I must say, it’s beautiful both from the water and from land.
8. The Musical Fountain
Although we didn’t make it down to watch the fountain show Friday or Saturday night, we could hear it from our campsite.
Just hearing the music seemed to serenade in the season of summer.
And with free nightly shows Memorial Day through Labor Day, it’s another great reason to camp at the Grand Haven State Park Campground.
9. Singing Sand
Although sand is constantly getting tracked into RVs at the campground, there’s something super relaxing about grabbing a beach chair, sitting down, kicking off your shoes and digging your feet into the warm sand.
It’s like a foot massage and a spa for the soul, all wrapped into one.
10. Lake Michigan
This is the reason we all came, right?
Lake Michigan provides a glass-like mirror at night reflecting pier lights, a playground for kids during the day and when the winds kick up, a soothing sound by which to fall asleep.
As the foreground for evening sunsets, the Big Lake is clearly the star of the show and the main reason the 48-acre Grand Haven State Park and Campground exist.