Sundays in our house are family days. Sometimes we stay home to play. Other times we venture out. Last Sunday, our family spent the entire afternoon in Harbor Country, Southwest Michigan’s tourist hotspot. You know, home to the marina and Redamaks in New Buffalo, Red Arrow Roadhouse in Union Pier, Greenbush in Sawyer, and all the sophisticated art galleries in between.
At first, our original Sunday plan centered on my son wanting to try out the Welter Folly golf lessons at Journeyman Distillery, but our plan soon stretched into an adventurous afternoon of fun.
While there are so, so many ways to spend family time in the Harbor County, this is how our family Sunday-ed south of our normal stomping grounds.
Welter’s Folly Putting Green (at Journeyman Distillery)
Did you know Three Oaks has a Scottish-inspired putting green? Neither did I until I saw a Facebook post advertising an offer I couldn’t resist: free (yes, I said FREE) golf lessons for kids ages 7-15 at the Welter’s Folly Putting Green. Behind the old feather bone factory, now Journeyman Distillery, is a sprawling 30,000 square feet 18-hole course.
Welter’s Folly course, however, should not be confused with your typical mini-golf. This course, a microcosm of a Scottish links course (minus the deep bunkers), has a full 18 holes, complete with impressive mounds with mean breaks.
The golf pro instructor introduces young golfers to the basics of putting with step-by-step instruction and then students putt around on three manicured practice holes, working on their short and long putts while trying to read the greens.
It’s the perfect spot for young golfers to gain confidence with their game and parents to try artisan spirits while watching from the side in Adirondack chairs. When lessons are done, families could even try out the course for themselves. Adults are only $9 dollars and kids 12 and under are free.
I know what you’re thinking: you’re spending a late Sunday morning with your kid at a distillery? But Journeyman is all about family fun with a healthy dose of Sunday spirits.
it was a great start to our family day.
My son worked up an appetite after golf lessons, so the two of us were on the hunt for a quick bite to eat before our family bike ride. While we would have loved to eat at the Staymaker Restaurant inside of Journeyman, we didn’t have time. My husband was on his way with the girls to meet us for a bike ride.
Hudson and I walked into downtown Three Oaks and spotted Froehlich’s Bakery. I was first attracted to the outdoor European-style patio, situated neatly with tiny round tables and French cafe chairs. Through their window, I spotted a chic market pantry where they sell homemade preserves, sauces, and tea towels with clever sayings. Sold.
My son ordered a plain grilled cheese. It was all the yums—all cheddar-ry and lots melty. I may have had a bite (or half the sandwich) and it was delicious, indeed. The lunch menu was small, as they have moved the bulk of the deli options across the street to the new location, but it still satisfied our need for a quick meal. And the bakery items, by the way, looked delicious. From pink macaroons to fat chocolate chip cookies adorned with a pretzel, the sweets were enticing.
Later that week, I returned to downtown Three Oaks and tried out their new restaurant across the street, Froehlich’s Kitchen and Pantry. You guys, you must go. The food was fantastic. And the market and beverage boutique alone is worth the visit. I mean, any place where I can buy both artesian salad dressing and cat pillows has my shopping heart.
Chikaming Township Park and Preserve
With two kids who love to bike and explore new pathways, we are always on the hunt for new (yet safe) places to ride. The Chikaming Township Park, tucked along Warren Woods road, was a perfect third stop on our Harbor Country tour. What I love most about this park is that it’s mostly untouched–void of play structures or big buildings–and quiet. Very serene. We were there on a Sunday afternoon for roughly an hour and a half and did not cross paths with anyone, despite the four vehicles in the parking lot. This 263-acre park is open enough to explore, bike, and hike freely without the busyness of other Harbor Country hotspots.
Because my middle daughter has just learned to ride her bike, she’s not ready for off-road trails. However, she was able to ride along the dirt road path that winds through the woods and prairie and reaches a pavilion. Once at the pavilion, you are able to walk or continue riding a short distance along a paved path to the quiet 5.3-acre lake and lookout deck. It seemed to be the perfect spot for fishing or a picnic.
While my husband rode bikes with the big kids, my youngest and I chose to walk the mowed paths carved into the prairie. We, too, ended up at the lookout spot along the lake.
My husband and 7-year-old son wanted to test their fitness and ride the mountain-bike trails, new to the park. So, my daughters and I wished them luck (and plenty of endurance) and planned to see them in New Troy for the Strawberry Shortcake Social with my dad.
As the girls and I set off for our next stop, we watched the boys’ bikes disappear into the woods on a skinny dirt path.
Infusco Coffee Roasters
I needed a mid-afternoon pick-me-up after our long walk around the nature preserve. And Infusco Coffee Roasters in downtown Sawyer was on our way to our final stop. Infusco serves the most delicious cold brew coffee one can get. Nitro-infused. Cold. And from a tap. You heard me. A foamed head and all. So good.
If we go on Tuesdays, my girls love to watch the beans roll around the big roasters behind the glass windows. Unfortunately, the roasters rest on Sundays (as they should), but my kids still love to peer into the room where all the coffee magic happens. The sitting area is perfect for a kid coffee date, too–lots of open space and long benches for the little ones who like to explore.
New Troy Community Center
We ended our Harbor Country afternoon at the 2nd annual Strawberry Shortcake Social in New Troy. New Troy is technically not a part of the eight-town Harbor Country, but it certainly deserves a heavy nod of respect and a visit by locals and tourists alike. Out of all the Harbor Country towns, I think it is the most well preserved, quintessential small town– one main street dotted with a white, tall-steepled church, a post office, an old elementary school, quaint homes, and Molly’s Corner Store (bonus: delicious polish deli inside!). Mostly untouched by big city money or second-home owners, New Troy looks much the same as it did when I was a kid.
New Troy has been best known as The Center of the World or for the Old Mill on the Galien River or for the restaurant The Old Mill Run (anyone remember the $1.00 taco basket? The best!). According to Weesaw Township, New Troy is even home to one of the last camel-back concrete bridges in Michigan (now a nice walking path).
Today, New Troy may be best known for its revival of the old New Troy Elementary School. Today it is known as The New Troy Community Center. Indeed, the community center has become the heart of the town. Residents and visitors come to practice yoga, borrow and buy books, peruse eclectic flea markets, and attend lively community events.
On Sunday, July 7th, The Friends of New Troy, local residents who established the community center, hosted a strawberry social. And let me tell you, the strawberry social was as charming as you would dream it could be. Thick country shortcakes with strawberries and whip cream. Root beer floats (my kids’ favorite). Ice tea and lemonade bar. White tents and checkered table clothes. A jazz band. And a collection of locals–my dad one of them.
It was the all-Americana end cap to a Sunday in Harbor Country with the family.
It’s no wonder Harbor Country is unique in all ways. With a healthy balance of local flair, high culture, and natural escape, it’s a great place for Southwest Michigan locals to explore and vacationers to stay.
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