Inn at the Park

artistic rendering of west Michigan pike


Journey Through History: Exploring the West Michigan Pike

A Historic Route for the Modern Traveler

Nestled along the breathtaking shoreline of Lake Michigan lies the West Michigan Pike, a historic byway that has been captivating travelers for over a century. Developed between 1911 and 1922, the Pike was one of America’s first roads designed specifically for automobile tourism. Today, it stands as a testament to the pioneering spirit of early 20th-century travel and remains a beloved route for those seeking both adventure and relaxation.

The Birth of a Tourism Icon

The idea for the West Michigan Pike emerged during an era when automobiles were transforming the way people traveled. Before the Pike, the primary modes of transportation along the Lake Michigan shoreline were trains and steamboats. However, with the rise of the automobile, there was a need for a continuous road that would connect Chicago to Mackinaw City, opening the scenic beauty of Michigan’s west coast to a broader audience.

Construction of the Pike began in 1911, with the road being completed in 1922. Initially designated as M-11, the Pike was a modest road by today’s standards, consisting of just four inches of sand topped with four inches of gravel, and spread nine feet wide. Despite its simplicity, the Pike quickly became a popular route for vacationers from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana.

Scenic Stops and Historic Highlights

Traveling the West Michigan Pike today is like taking a journey back in time. The route stretches approximately 184 miles and is dotted with charming beach towns, each offering its own unique attractions.

  • Joseph: This picturesque town is home to the Box Factory for the Arts, an arts complex that occupies a former factory building. Here, visitors can explore studios, galleries, and a gift shop featuring locally produced art.
  • Holland: Known for its Dutch heritage, Holland boasts attractions like the Big Red Lighthouse and Windmill Island Gardens, where you can see the only operational Dutch windmill in the U.S.
  • Muskegon: This city offers a wealth of historical sites, including the USS Silversides Submarine Museum and the USS LST 393 Veterans Museum. Visitors can also enjoy outdoor activities at Pere Marquette Park and the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, where you can try luging in both winter and summer.
  • South Haven: Arguably our favorite… renowned for its beautiful inns and serene atmosphere, South Haven is a perfect spot for relaxation. Visitors can stay at charming places like the Inn at the Park or Waters View Inn, both offering a cozy, picturesque retreat. Don’t miss the National Blueberry Festival if you’re visiting in August, which adds a vibrant touch to this tranquil town.
  • Saugatuck: Known for its vibrant arts scene, Saugatuck features numerous boutiques, dining options, and the historic chain ferry that crosses the Kalamazoo River. It’s a small town packed with charm and cultural experiences.

A Modern-Day Adventure

In 2016, the West Michigan Pike was designated a Pure Michigan Byway, recognizing its historical, cultural, recreational, and scenic significance. This designation ensures that the Pike will continue to be preserved and promoted as a valuable part of Michigan’s heritage.

Whether you’re embarking on a day trip or a week-long adventure, the West Michigan Pike offers something for everyone. From relaxing on pristine beaches to exploring historic sites and enjoying local cuisine, this historic byway is a journey through time that provides endless opportunities for discovery and enjoyment.

Plan Your Trip

To make the most of your journey along the West Michigan Pike, be sure to plan your route and explore the many attractions each town has to offer. You can find more information and resources on websites like Michigan Beachtowns. So, pack your bags, fill up the gas tank, and set off on an unforgettable adventure along the historic West Michigan Pike. The road awaits!

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