The first time I went to Pentwater was 1973. I was 14 years old. The town has changed some over the years, but what hasn’t changed is my family’s annual trek to the tiny town. While traveling to new places brings new adventure, traveling to the same location, especially a charming place, like Pentwater, year after year, has its appeal, too. So, you may be wondering, what do we do there?
This post is a list of activities that we have done in Pentwater. Some, we do every year. Others, we have done just once or a couple of times. Of course, this list does not list everything one could do in Pentwater. Just activities that we have enjoyed. I would also add, many of these activities could be labeled “generic vacation”, so even if you don’t go to Pentwater, you may get an idea or two for your next trip.
1. Go to the Beach
Okay, I am starting with the obvious one, so I won’t expand much on the topic. Just a note for newcomers: Walking into the state park is free; however, a pass must be purchased for those who drive in.
2. Walk the Channel
There is a beautiful channel which connects Pentwater Lake with Lake Michigan. There is a wide sidewalk which goes from Bridge street, down the channel and out to the pier where there is a tiny lighthouse. Many people fish along the channel or the pier. Boats, many of them quite elaborate, glide down the channel’s no wake zone headed out to the Lake. Dan and I used to walk the channel at the end of each day, somewhere around midnight. That’s been a few years, but I did enjoy each beautiful night.
3. Visit Channel Lane Park
At the end of Channel Lane, which is parallel to the channel, is Channel Lane Park. Right along the channel and the sidewalk sits a pavilion with three tables, each with three or four seats. There is an additional pavilion further back which can be reserved. Restrooms are available, and there is a small parking lot. Many eat a lunch or dinner there. Dan and I sit there and play Scrabble. Everyone wins with the spectacular view.
4. Walk to Town
The main modes of transportation in Pentwater are either walking or riding a bike. One can easily walk to town. I would guess “town” is about a mile long and contains a number of shops and restaurants. Ice cream abounds, and kids will love the “Cosmic Candy” shop.
5. Visit the Farmers’ Market
The Village Green hosts a “Farmers’ Market” on Mondays and Thursdays (10 am to 1 pm). Many of the vendors are the same year to year. There are wines, flowers, home made bakery items, honey, bees wax candles, home grown fruits and vegetables, goat’s milk soap and other items . Get there early as the best goes fast.
6. Attend the Thursday night Band Concert
The Village Green also hosts the traditional Thursday night Band Concert. To be honest, we don’t usually attend, but now that our extended family has little ones, we may check it out next year. I do know fresh popped popcorn is sold, so I better save room in my tummy as I just cannot pass by the smell of popcorn.
7. Watch the Sunset
A nightly ritual in Pentwater is to go to the beach each evening at sunset. There’s lots of activity on the beach as the day draws to a close. Benches are filled with family and friends talking and laughing. Others are throwing frisbees or playing catch on the sand. A few braves souls may take an evening swim.
Others are eating ice cream bought from the nearby beach concession stand which closes, not at a precise time, but rather with the sunset. Kids run around on the playground as their parents watch nearby. Youngsters and some not so young swing on the swings and look out to the lake as they go high in the sky.
Then, the moment comes when the last sliver of the sun disappears on the lake horizon, and at that precise second, people clap. I don’t know if people do that everywhere, but they do it in Pentwater. Every night, provided there is a sunset. Many people leave right after that, but some activities continue as the light of day dwindles down. Sometimes, though, the sky is at it prettiest point, a few minutes after sunset, and sometimes it is absolutely stunning.
8. Sit around the campfire
Once sunset is over, the campfires come out in the campground. We hosted two campfires this year. For those not in the campground, there is a “community” fire ring available (first come, first serve) near the beach.
This year, we played a game called “Blank Slate.” We had more players than slates, so a couple people played on teams, alternating writing on the slate. It was an easy game to learn and fun. Of course, this game can be played anywhere, not just around a campfire.
9. Climb Old Baldy
At the back of the campground is “Old Baldy.” Now, I’m not talking about a camper, but rather, a sand dune. One can choose to climb uphill or take the footpath one or both ways. I’ll never forget a moon set I saw one year on top of Old Baldy.
10. Take the Pentwater Water Taxi
One activity, which was new last year, I believe, is the Pentwater Water Taxi. This service is free to bring folks from one side of Pentwater Lake to the other, but the Taxi also offers two other outings. Every afternoon, there is a one hour history tour. A volunteer from the Pentwater Historical Society provides an informational tour, pointing out the vestiges of Pentwater’s past as the boat travels the waters.
There is also a “sunset tour” which goes out to Lake Michigan for the sunrise. Kidding! Just making sure you’re paying attention! Of course, it goes out for the sunset. Be careful not to pick a cloudy or overcast evening. The History or the Sunset tour cost $10 per person. We have not taken advantage of the Pentwater Taxi; however, I am hoping to take at least the history tour next year. We are careful not to over schedule activities. After all, having an easy schedule is part of Pentwater’s charm.
11. Kayak the Pentwater River
Some years, I try to think of a brand new activity. So, a couple of years, we went kayaking on the Pentwater River.
12. Play Games
Dan and I love playing games: Scrabble, Farkel, Rummikub, Taboo, Password. I love Pictionary and Scattergories. The best part about playing games is the laughing that ensues.
This year, Danny gave Dan and I a new game: “Happy Accidents.” It is a simple, fun drawing game based on, my favorite, Bob Ross. The six of us played it, and it was easy and fun. Btw, do you know what Bob Ross did before painting?
13. Craft Time
One year Talia, my daughter, brought everything along for us to tye-dye shirts or socks. This year, she bought an indigo dye kit from Etsy, and we all made tea towels, shirts or hankies. It was fun choosing the pattern to attempt and later, watching how everyone’s project came out.
I would also note the campground hosts at Mears offer crafts and activities as well. For the kids, they offered rock painting and Bingo – which was very popular. In the evening, they offered adult rock painting, too. A white board sign at the host site announces these activities the day before. No cost. No sign up. Just show up.
14. Play Putt Putt
Just a bit up the road from Pentwater is “AJ’s Family Fun Center.” Here one can play Putt Putt, a yearly tradition on Dan’s birthday. There are also go-carts to ride and an arcade to spend some money in.
15. Baseball Day
One tradition we had for years, but no longer, is having “Baseball Day.” On one of the mornings, everyone would go to the local school yard, and we used the baseball diamond. We had kind of a home run derby where everyone got a chance to bat. Over the fence was a home run. I’ll never forget how happy Michael, my son, was the first time he got a home run. He had thought about it and practiced for a year. His Grandma even gave him a small wall plaque which said, “Aim for the Fence.”
I can’t mention “Baseball Day” without mentioning, my brother, Jim, who organized this event and brought all the bats, balls, and bases. Thanks for the memories and all the laughs, Jim, and may you rest in peace.
16. Ride the Hart-Montaque Trail
For bike riding, the Hart-Montague trail is nearby. The trail goes through several small towns and meanders by Christmas tree farms and asparagus fields.
17. Visit Ludington
There’s always at least one trip up to Ludington. Why? There’s an Aldi’s in Ludington! As well as a Walmart. Many Michigan’ers claim Ludington State Park as their favorite state park. There is a lighthouse you can tour in the state park. In addition, Ludington has a long, long pier at the city park. A couple times, we went to Ludington’s pier to watch the Badger go out. Yes, people really do do this. The pier gets crowded for this exciting event, so don’t be late!
18. Visit Silver Lake
Another nearby town is Silver Lake. Here, we have played Putt Putt. And in my younger, more adventurous days, we once rented ATV’s and went into Silver Lake State Park to ride the dunes with the rest of the crazies.
A much calmer tour of the dunes is offered by “Mac Wood’s Dune Rides” where everyone from cradle to crutches climbs aboard an open air trolley. The high point of excitement is when the trolley rides along the shore, and some folks get a bit splashed. You can decide how much of an adrenaline rush you want should you visit Silver Lake.
19. Visit the Pentwater Historical Society
In all my visits there, I have yet to visit the Pentwater Historical Society. Members of my family have visited though, and they report having enjoyed it. I have also heard the museum is expanding with a $400,000 addition. Sounds like I’ve been missing out, and this should be a 2022 New Year’s Resolution for me!
20. Make your Reservations for Next Year!
Now, before you leave, it’s time to think about next year. There is only one motel in Pentwater, but there are numerous houses for rent as well as bed and breakfasts inns. However, demand is high, and most make their reservations a year in advance. Dan and I stay in the campground, of course, so we have to wait until a cold day in January when we anxiously click on our chromebook, at the precise moment which is six months out before our arrival date, with the hopes we can do it all over again come July.