Tucked away in the Southwest corner of Michigan is a vibrant agricultural region, where a wealth of produce is grown throughout the summer, culminating with the harvest of apples in the fall. From harbor towns to pastoral countrysides, you’ll find the scenic byways of this region alive with color and flavors just waiting to be discovered and tasted.
Your first stop is the South Haven Visitor’s Bureau office (546 Phoenix St., South Haven) in this quaint harbor town where you’ll stock up on brochures and guide books as you prepare for to tour Southwest Michigan. This route will take you through approximately 135 miles of orchards and country roads through Van Buren and Berrien counties in the heart of one of Michigan’s premier fruit growing regions. www.southhaven.org
Take Phoenix to Broadway (M–43/I–196–BL)), turn right and head 13 miles before turning left on 54th Street/CR–215 to your first stop: Schemenauer Orchards & Cider Mill (28120 CR–215, Bangor). This centennial orchard still uses the antique cider mill and apple–grading equipment. Many old tools and kitchen equipment are on display, offering a glimpse back to another time. Whether it’s fresh picked or u–pick, you’ll find a variety of apples growing here for your enjoyment. (269–427–8025)
Settle in for a leisurely 25-mile journey south toward Coloma, where you’ll find two family friendly farms: Grandpa’s Cider Mill (2730 Friday Road, Coloma) and Jollay Orchards (1850 Friday Road, Coloma). Grandpa’s Cider Mill offers a viewable operation where you can watch your cider being made. Kids enjoy the interactive cider press and receive a “Cider Diploma” at the end of their visit. Jollay Orchards has been perfecting the craft of growing apples since 1857. The knowledgeable "Orchard Experts" will help you find just the variety of apples that you’re looking for. During the Harvest Festival, hayrides, a haunted schoolhouse, caterpillar crawl, fishing pond, animal farm and cornfield maze make for a day of fun. Jump on a hayride heading to the u–pick orchards, or choose from the many apple varieties at the farm market. (269–468–3075) www.jollayorchards.com
Sit back and enjoy the ride through the countryside as you travel approximately 15 miles southeast to Tree Mendus Fruit Farms (9351 E. Eureka Road, Eau Claire). Follow Friday Road south and turn left onto North Branch Road, then right on Biastock Road for 1.5 miles. Turn left on Territorial Road for 2.2 miles and right on M–140 for 8 miles, before turning left on East Eureka Road. Considered one of the premier farms in Southwest Michigan, this 450–acre working farm, recreation area and nature preserve has welcomed visitors since 1969. More than 230 varieties of antique heritage apples can be found here, which were preserved and hand–selected by curator Herb Teichman from a collection of old–time varieties including Margil, Fallwater/Tulpenhocken, Holiday and Golden Russet, to name a few. Three types of country–good ciders are made here at Tree Mendus: Cherry Apple Cider, Dark Apple Cider and Heritage Apple Cider. One of the highlights is the opportunity to Rent–A–Tree (prices range from $20 to $150, depending on the size and variety). Here’s how it works: you pick a tree, the orchard staff performs all normal care (except thinning and harvesting), and in the fall, you come back to harvest your apples! (877–863–3276) www.treemendus–fruit.com
Now, it’s on to the city of the Four Flags and the Shelton’s Farm Market (1832 South 11th St., Niles). Travel briefly on East Eureka Road, and then turn right on Brush Lake Road for 1.2 miles to M–62 for 2.2 miles before it becomes M–140. Follow that for 10.4 miles and bear left on old US–31 for about 2 miles before turning left on East Main Street/US–12 BR for a half mile. Bear right on South 11th Street/US–12 BR until you end at the farm. From its humble beginnings in 1947, Shelton’s has steadily grown to become one of Michigan’s largest farm markets, featuring fresh apples and specially–blended apple cider. (269–684–0190) www.sheltonfarms.com
From Niles, turn left on the Pulaski Highway (US–12) west for 3.5 miles. Take the northbound ramp at US–31 toward Holland and follow that for about 10 miles. Take Exit 13/ Berrien Springs and travel for 6 miles. Turn right on East Snow Road and continue on Hills Road. Then, turn right on West Shafer Road to the 76–acre farm at Shafer Orchards (207 Shafer Road, Baroda), which has been owned and operated by the Shafer family for three generations. The orchards here are accessible by car, with a variety of u–pick apples. In the early season, you’ll find Mollie’s Delicious, McIntosh, Gala and Golden Supreme varieties. As the season progresses, you can find Empire, Jonathon, Jonagold, and Red and Golden Delicious varieties. (269–422–1972) www.parrett.net/~shafer/
You’re on the road again, heading northwest for just a few miles to Hillside Orchards (8198 Fleisher Lane, Berrien Springs). Turn right on Hartline Road and right on E. Shawnee Road. Next, turn left on Lauer Road, right on E. Lemon Creek Road, left on S. Scottdale Road, left on E. Hinchman Road, and finally left on Fleisher Road (a total of 5 miles). Here, you’ll find apples, apples and more apples – like Lodi, Earlimac, Earligold, Red Free, Rome, Idared and Empire, as well as the traditional Red and Yellow Delicious, Northern Spy, Paula Red and Honeycrisp. (269–471–7558)
Less than 10 miles away you’ll find Nye’s Farm (3151 Niles Road, St. Joseph). Head back to East Hinchman Road where you’ll turn right and then left on Lauer Road. Turn left on East Linco Road, right on South Scottdale Road for 4 miles, then left on M–139 briefly before turning left on M–63 to 3151 Niles Road This family farm has been owned and operated for five generations, dating back to the late 1800s. In the 1960s, an old hay barn was converted into a farm market, and Nye’s Apple Barn has been open every summer since. Check out the variety of apples available pre–picked or u–pick. (269–429–0596) www.nyesapplebarn.com
From there, your 28-mile trip north (M–63 to I–94 E, then I–196 N/US–31N to Phoenix Street) takes you back to South Haven. If you time it right, you can catch a spectacular sunset over Lake Michigan.
For more information about this region:
- Southwest Michigan Tourist Council