What to do in September? 9 fun ways to explore the Lakeshore

Editor’s note: This is a monthly feature to highlight what Ottawa County has to offer residents and visitors alike.

September brings the last throes of summer, offering Ottawa County residents and visitors plenty of interesting and engaging places to explore. This list includes options for everyone, regardless of age, ability, or interest.

The Pigeon River Quilt Trail features beautiful quilt patterns adorning barns and outbuildings, family homesteads, and public spaces.
Quilts and barns and trails, oh my

Take a drive on the Pigeon River Quilt Trail in rural Olive Township. Beautiful quilt patterns adorn barns and outbuildings, family homesteads, and public spaces. You’ll be amazed at one of Ottawa County’s best-kept secrets. Learn more about this fascinating piece of Americana at olivetownship.com.

The Nancy Anne is a 2017 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 419 sailboat, and is available for morning, afternoon, and evening sails. (Photo by Jim Norman)

Come sail away with me

Want the wind in your hair and the sun on your face? What better way to enjoy a beautiful September day than on the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. Capt. Pat Nowak, an experienced sailor, is at the helm of the Nancy Anne, a 2017 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 419 sailboat, and offers morning, afternoon, and evening sails. Want to check out the boat ahead of time? Check out nancyannesailingcharters.com or visit slip D35 at Yacht Basin Marina, at 1866 Ottawa Beach Road, Holland. 

Travel Back in Time

Start your driving tour at U.S. 31 and Waverly Avenue in Grand Haven. With roots going back to the 1700s, the historic River Road (the oldest byway in Ottawa County) follows the Grand River Greenway in north Ottawa County and the progression of the Grand Haven area’s regional civilization. Who knew that mastodon, giant beaver and bison once roamed this area? Or that the location of Grand Haven’s first lighthouse is now a parking lot? Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and spread a blanket at the Eastmanville Bayou Open Space, where in 1917 the headline of the Coopersville Observer declared: “THE BRIDGE IS DONE, NOW FOR SOME FUN — The Band Will Play, for Your Delight; Just Hike Out There And See The Sight.” Learn more at visitgrandhaven.com.

From the top of Mount Pisgah, you can look out over Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. (Photo by Mike Lozon)

A bird’s-eye view of Lake Michigan

Climb the 230 steps to the top of Mount Pisgah, just east of Holland State Park, where you’ll be 157 feet above Lake Michigan. You can look out over Lake Macatawa, the marinas, Lake Michigan, and Big Red, and best of all you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the boats on the big lake. Located at 2238 3rd Ave. in Holland. Check out holland.org for parking info.

For 30 years, the Critter Barn has offered immersive, hands-on experiences with animals.

Family fun on the farm 

What better place for kids of all ages to spend time than with the “critters.” You can get up close and personal with cats, cows, a donkey, ducks, geese, goats, hogs, sheep, a horse, turkeys, hens, and rabbits. For 30 years, the Critter Barn, in Zeeland, has been serving families with immersive, hands-on experiences for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. And stay tuned. There will be a “barn-raising” in the months ahead for a brand new Critter Barn location. Find out more at critterbarn.org.

The Holland Bowl Mill turns out an average of 800 to 1,000 wooden bowls per week.
Beautiful woodwork

One of only a handful of wooden bowl mills in the U.S. is located just north of Holland at  120 James St. The largest wooden bowl mill in the country, the Holland Bowl Mill, turns out an average of 800 to 1,000 wooden bowls per week. This fourth-generation family-owned business is known for its quality workmanship and unique offerings. And they offer tours of the mill from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Stop in their newly opened showroom for a glimpse of some of the most unique, masterfully crafted wooden bowls in the country. And be sure to ask how they went from making wooden shoes to wooden bowls. Get more information at hollandbowlmill.com.

The Grand River Park's sensory trail features a walk-through station. (Photo by Mike Lozon)

Grand River Park Sensory Trail

The Sensory Trail at Grand River Park is the brainchild of Eagle Scout Tas Stoetzner, of Jenison. At two listening stations, users can identify local birds and their calls. The Jenison park, at 9473 28th Ave., also includes a walk-through station, where users walk on pine cones, stones, wood chips, and logs, and learn to identify the difference in textures. Another favorite is the manual dexterity station, where kids can dig and find 15 hidden paving stones, each with a different texture. And finally, the yoga station helps users stretch their bodies while enjoying their surroundings. Learn more at miottawa.org.

Crane's in the City is located in downtown Holland at 11 E. 8th St.

Fresh from the farm

As fall begins to creep up on us, thoughts turn to apple-picking, apple pie, apple crisp, and apple dumplings. What better place to get your apple fix (or cherry or pumpkin) than Crane’s in the City, located in downtown Holland at 11 E. 8th St. With family connections to the well-known Crane Orchards, located south of Holland, this delightful restaurant/bakery offers not only a delectable selection of fresh fruit pastries, but also unique fruit-enhanced salads, sandwiches, and doughnuts. Definitely worth the trip. Get more information at cranesinthecity.com.

Hawks and dunes

Where can you watch hawks migrate and learn about sand dunes at the same time? The 114-acre Kitchel Lindquist Dunes Preserve, at 20001 Berwyck St. in Spring Lake. Hike through forested dunes and bare beaches on winding trails through interdunal areas and along the Grand River. And don’t forget your binoculars. In September and October, you’re apt to see large numbers of hawks heading south for the winter, especially if the wind is from the east. You also have a good chance of spying water birds — including ring-billed and herring gulls, and great blue herons. (Best viewing times are dawn and dusk.) And, if you can wait for winter, you’ll have a chance of spying bald eagles. For more information, visit visitgrandhaven.com 

Need suggestions for specific destinations or activities, check out these tourism resources for details:
Holland Area Visitors Bureau
Grand Haven CVB
Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

Sally Laukitis, Chair of the Michigan Travel Commission, recently retired as Executive Director of the Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. A longtime Holland resident, she can often be found exploring the county’s many dog-friendly parks and attractions with Tulip, her faithful Boston Terrier puppy. If you have an idea of something to do, email her at sallyjlaukitis@gmail.com

Read more articles by Sally Laukitis.