Growing up, I would go on Sunday drives in my grandfather’s shiny Cadillac down the brick streets of Ionia and through the winding country roads outside town. Sometimes we would stop at a farmer’s stand in the summer, and he would give me a peach to sample. My grandfather would always buy a dozen ears of fresh-picked sweet corn for dinner.
In between back-seat battles with my brother, I took in the changing landscape and witnessed the subtle shift of the seasons.
Cut to 2019. Sunday night after my brother, sister-in-law and their kids headed back to Grand Rapids, I went along with my parents for a ride. We drove up North Shore Drive by Lake Michigan and then caught the sunset and North Beach Park.
I began thinking about the simplicity of the Sunday drive, and how it can transform into other activities depending on your surroundings.
For example, another version of the Sunday drive is the after-dinner boat ride up the river, or down the river to the channel to Lake Michigan or into the main body of Spring Lake. On a calm summer evening you can see swans, geese, herons, otters, turtles and ducks along the river.
The beauty of the Sunday drive is it can take you wherever you want, however you want to get there.
Some parks in Ottawa County that offer great trails, picnic areas, swimming and sunset watching spots in the area include:
P.J. Hoffmaster Park, 6585 Lake Harbor Road, Norton Shores — P.J. Hoffmaster State Park is set on over 3 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and dunes. It has a 297-site campground, visitor center and hiking trails. There is also a dune stairway that goes up to an observation deck with amazing views of the Big Lake.
North Beach Park, 18775 North Shore Drive, Ferrysburg — At North Beach Park, you can grill out and then climb the dune stairs that overlook Lake Michigan. If you’re having a bigger party, you can reserve a picnic shelter.
Grand Haven State Park, 1001 S. Harbor Ave.,
Grand Haven — Grand Haven State Park’s beach is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan while taking a walk along the pier. It’s a great place to have a picnic, too.
Rosy Mound Natural Area, 13925 Lakeshore Ave.,
Grand Haven Township — Rosy Mound is in the Great Lakes dune system that offers a 0.7-mile hiking trail to the Lake Michigan shore. The park features a dune boardwalk trail as well as stairs that lead to some awesome views of the dunes.
If you’re in the mood for a drive, be sure to check out other West Michigan parks like Aman Park. At Aman Park, which is just outside of Grand Rapids, you’ll find trillium. What is special about trillium? It’s a protected wildflower in Michigan that only blossoms from late April to early June. The address is 0-1859 Lake Michigan Drive N.W., Grand Rapids.
About the writer: Carrie Brown is a freelance communications professional and writer who lives in Spring Lake. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she won the Avery Hopwood Award for Poetry.