Lake Michigan’s influence produces uniquely favorable growing conditions throughout a region dubbed "Michigan’s West Coast." Along this route, which is just less than 70 miles, you’ll find farm markets and fruit stands on virtually every corner of the back roads through Kent and Ottawa counties.
This tour starts in the most obvious location – the Coopersville Farm Museum (375 Main St., Coopersville), just off I–96 in Ottawa County. The 12,000–square–foot facility is open year–round and displays rotating agricultural related exhibits, contrasting old versus new, and showcases the John Deere collection of Ed Hanenburg, the man behind the museum. (616–997–8555) www.coopersvillefarmmuseum.org
The first farm on the tour is Gavin Orchards (16495 40th Ave., Coopersville), about 3 miles away. From the Farm Museum, head east on Main Street. Turn right onto East Street, left on E. Randall Street (which becomes Arthur Street East, after just 1 mile), then turn left on 40th Avenue for a little more than half a mile. This family farm has existed for almost 30 years and features about 80 acres of semi–dwarf–bearing trees. During the fall, you’ll find apples, cider, caramel apples, crafts and much more. (616–637–6472) www.gavinorchards.com
Enjoy your trip through the countryside as you head to the Vince Brown / DK Orchards (18203 8th Ave., Conklin), just 6 miles away. Travel north on 40th Ave., and turn right on Cleveland Street East for 2 miles. Next, turn left on 24th Street, then turn right at Roosevelt for another 2 miles. Finally, turn left onto 8th Avenue. This family oriented, working farm offers wagon rides for u-pick strawberries in mid-June, as well as wagon rides for u-pick peaches between late July and mid-August. U-pick blueberries are available around July 4, too. (616–899–5400)
Now it’s on to Dietrich’s Harvest Basket (17485 Apple Ave., Casnovia), one of the featured farms in the Kent Harvest Trails, which offers special tours and events on weekends throughout the fall. Head north on 8th Ave. for about 1 mile. Turn right at Wilson, then left on Kenowa Avenue NW for about 8 miles, and then left at M–37, which becomes E. Apple Avenue. Dietrich’s offers horse–drawn wagon rides and picnic areas, as well as a petting zoo, corn maze and spider web climb. They also sell a large variety of apples, perfect for an afternoon snack or for making scrumptious pies and sauces. The Country Store is well-stocked with fall decorating items, too. (616–675–5384)
A fun time awaits you just 5 miles down the road at Fruit Ridge Hayrides (11966 Fruit Ridge NW, Kent City). Head east on E. Apple Avenue toward M–38/S Newaygo Road and take a slight left on M–37/M–46. Then, turn right on Fruit Ridge Avenue NW. This 125–year-old farm provides horse–drawn hayrides through the woods and orchards, as well as pony rides, a pig train, fire engine rides, farm animals and a huge 15–acre corn maze. Homemade donuts, cider, goodies and a picnic area are available. Fruit Ridge also offers wheelchair accessible wagon rides. Open weekends in September and October. (616–887–5052) www.fruitridgehayrides.com
Families love the Country Basket (1185 9 Mile Road, NW, Sparta), just 8 miles away. Head South on Fruit Ridge Road for 1.5 miles, and then turn left on 13 Mile Road NW for about 2 miles. Next, turn right on M–37 for 4.5 miles before turning right at 9 Mile Road NW. In addition to the u–pick apples, you’ll find a maze, straw barn, petting farm, cat house, and picnic area. The Farm market offers cider, hot fresh donuts, caramel apples, popcorn, jams, jellies and honey, as well as homemade crafts. (616–785–9896) www.schwalliers.com
You’ll find fresh–squeezed, award–winning apple cider at Hill Brothers Orchards & Cider Mill (6159 Peach Ridge NW, Grand Rapids), which has been family owned since 1843. Head east on 9 Mile Road NW toward M–37 S. Turn right on M-37 S. After a couple miles, turn right on 7 Mile Road NW, followed by another right on Peach Ridge Ave NW. In addition to apple cider, Hill Brothers Orchards & Cider Mill also offers jams, jellies, apple butter, handcrafted soaps, cookbooks and apple gadgets. (616–784–2767)
Don’t miss Ed Dunneback & Girls Farms (3025 6 Mile Road NW, Grand Rapids), a third–generation farm that has been operating since 1925. Travel south on Peach Ridge Avenue NW for less than 2 miles and turn left at 6 Mile Road NW. This historic barn offers a variety of apples, as well as bakery and seasonal items. If your timing is right, you may even see a cooking demonstration. (616–784–0058) www.dunnebackfarm.com
Continuing in the neighborhood, you’re off just a couple miles again to Robinette’s Apple Haus (3142 4 Mile Road NW, Grand Rapids). Head east on 6 Mile Road NW toward Peach Ridge Avenue NW, where you’ll turn right and then right again at 4 Mile Road NW. This 125–acre century–old fruit farm has offered a true pick–your–own–fruit experience for generations. A 1800s gift barn has Christmas decorations, floral arrangements, fine collectibles and original West Michigan artwork and distinctive gifts. Horse–drawn hayrides are offered in the fall, and a 5.25–mile route serves mountain bikers and cross country skiers alike. Robinette Cellars winery opened in 2006, which features Barzilla’s Brew hard cider. Apple wines are also a favorite. The bakery and lunch stand offers a full menu of mouth–watering items. (616–361–7180) www.robinettes.com
Celebrate a century of farming at Moelker Orchards & Farm Market (0–9265 Kenowa Ave. SW, Grand Rapids). Head west on 4 Mile Road NW. Turn left on Fruit Ridge Avenue NW, and then right on 3 Mile Road NW. Drive for about 5 miles, then turn left on Wilson Ave. NW. Next, turn right on Hall Street SW. Finally, make a left at Kenowa Avenue SW. They have been growing quality fruit on their farm on the bluffs overlooking the Grand River since 1907. The Farm Market features fresh cider, pure honey, Michigan maple syrup, jams, fruit butters and salsas, baking mixes, country crafts, and of course, a variety of apples. On Saturdays in October, enjoy horse–drawn wagon rides through the orchards. Moelker's is the place for great family fun with first–hand farm experiences. (616–453–2585) www.moelkerorchards.com
Apple growing is a long–standing tradition at Wells Orchard (9009 Kenowa Ave., SW, Grand Rapids), which is located nearly next door. Just jump back on Kenowa Avenue SW and head south for less than half a mile to your destination. Wells Orchard was founded by Louis S. Wells in 1919, although his wife’s family had been farming the area since 1858 and raising fruit commercially as early as the 1880s. Louis also grew up in a farming family and graduated from Michigan Agricultural College. A third–generation now manages the business, which offers not only a variety of apples, but a corn maze, fall decorations and a selection of honey, jams, pies and apple gift boxes. (616–453–3927) www.wellsorchards.com
Your trip rounds out as you head back to Coopersville for one last stop at the Farm Museum, or perhaps a ride on the Coopersville/Marne Railway, or a local historical museum tour to see the tribute to the town’s most famous resident — Del Shannon. Head north on Kenowa Avenue SW and turn right at Riverbend Drive SW. Turn left at M–11/Wilson Avenue SW following M–11/Remembrance Road NW until you merge on I–96 W via the ramp to Muskegon. Take Exit 19 toward Lamont/Coopersville, then turn right at 48th Avenue S. Make a left at Ironwood Drive and then a slight left at E. Randall Street. Turn right at East Street and back left onto Main Street.
- Michigan’s West Coast
- Fruit Ridge Country Markets
- Kent Harvest Trails