Welcome to Boating without Owning in West Michigan

Welcome to Carefree Boat Club of South Haven

South Haven History

South Haven is a lovely port city located on beautiful Lake Michigan with many public parks & beaches. The South Haven area is a 12-mile by 20-mile corridor located in Southwest Michigan along Interstate 196 on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Michigan Maritime Museum and the Center for the Arts are among the featured attractions. The Black River Harbor offers over 2,000 slips for transient, seasonal boaters. Dozens of golf courses, the National Blueberry Festival, unique shopping, antique shops, live theater, and arts & crafts fairs add to South Haven’s offerings.

Friday evenings in early 19th Century South Haven were filled with the hustle and bustle of horse and buggies, fruit wagons, and an endless stream of well-wishers rushing to meet the giant steamboats carrying travelers from Chicago and Milwaukee. Fringe-top surreys carried vacationers to over 200 of the finest resorts.

Founded in 1787 by Ottawa, Miami, and Pottawattamie tribes, the area was christened “Ni-Ko-Nong” which translates to beautiful sunsets. Pioneering times brought J.R. Monroe who founded the area in 1833.

Pioneer families came over the decades to settle with the opening of sawmills. This new industry made hotels, schools, homes, stores, and tanneries possible to exist on the banks of the Black River.

The choice lumber was shipped across Lake Michigan to ports in Chicago and Milwaukee and early steamers were built in South Haven shipyards. As lumber gave way, room for fruit growers opened up and soon peach, apple, and blueberry farmers made up the Michigan fruit belt.

Visitors came to the area for beaches and so much more!

Visitors came to the area for beaches, weather, entertainment, resorts, and an opera house. But it was in the ’20s and 30s when commerce exploded in the area. Horse and buggies made way for the automobile. In 1969 South Haven was crowned the World’s Blueberry Capital. This title is still held today.


Images Credit: South Haven History and More facebook group

South Haven's first lighthouse was made of wood. It was built in 1871. In 1903 it was torn down and replaced with the present day lighthouse that was made of steel.
In 1850 South Haven was discovered to be a very favorable location to grow peaches 🍑 Clark Pierce and S.B. Morehouse soon began planting seedling orchards. They were probably the first in the vicinity to plant the seedling fruit. Soon others in town began planting also. And by 1859 A.S. Dyckman was the first to set up a large orchard for commercial purposes.
This is an 1892 view taken high up from a water tower. It shows a great view of the mouth of the Black River out to Lake Michigan. You can see the newly built Columbus Hotel on the left. It's in the present site of the now drive-in parking lot of Huntington Bank. On the lower right is the J.W. Kenny department store, built in 1891. It was located on the site of the now South Haven Moore Theater. The store was the largest department store at the time that was located along Lake Michigan. Behind that was the Mackey foundry that produced stove works. John Makey also had a General Store at 431 Phoenix St. that was built in 1898.

Located on the Black River mouth a 5-minute boat ride onto Lake Michigan, South Haven is a charming vacation town located just off I-96 exit 41 Blue Star Hwy. Centrally located, we are just a quick walk away from shops, dining, and downtown fun for the entire family.