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St. Joseph Area Beaches, Parks, Bike Routes, Trails & More





Since the late 1800s, St. Joseph has been a tourist destination in Southwest Michigan. Silver Beach Amusement Park attracted visitors from Chicago, Milwaukee, and other far away places for many years. The park featured a rollercoaster, ferris wheel, bumper cars, carousel, and penny arcade. When the park closed, Berrien County purchased the property, and Silver Beach County Park still attracts visitors to the area with its spacious, sandy swimming beach. The pristine beaches at Tiscornia Park, Lions Park and Jean Klock Park are also favorites with locals and visitors.

Other attractions in St. Joseph include the Curious Kids' Museum, Heritage Center - Fort Miami Heritage Society, Krasl Arts Center, St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse, and Whirlpool Compass Fountain. Boaters and fishermen enjoy the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan, and shoppers of all ages enjoy visiting the unique boutiques and stores in downtown.

Silver Beach County Park & Silver Beach Center

Just west of downtown, Silver Beach County Park is a terrific place to cool off on Lake Michigan. The park has a long, sandy swimming beach that is a favorite to relaxing and catching some rays. It's also a superb spot to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. Several beach volleyball courts, playground equipment and concessions are located at the park.

Shadowland Pavilion is on the north end of the park, close to the St. Joseph River. The pavilion is used for concerts and can be reserved for family gatherings.

The park is open from May through September. To park you vehicle at the park, you will need to purchase a daily entry pass or an annual pass. Pets are allowed on the park's sidewalks and must be on a leash.

A short walk from the beach, kids can enjoy a ride on the Silver Beach Carousel. The historic carousel and its beautifully-painted ponies are located inside the Silver Beach Center at 333 Broad Street. Silver Beach Center also contains a museum that remembers the history of the Silver Beach Amusement Park, a fun-filled place that entertained visitors from 1891-1971.

More Beaches and Parks

  • Tiscornia Park is a photogenic spot on the north side of the St. Joseph River, and many visitors like to cool off at its pristine Lake Michigan beach. The park has a picnic shelter on the south side of the parking area, and there are restrooms near the entrance to the beach. St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse is accessible from the pier that runs along the edge of the park. The pier is a favorite spot for fishing on the St. Joseph River.

  • Jean Klock Park is north of Tiscornia Park in Benton Harbor and features a long swimming beach on Lake Michigan. The nice beach is popular during the summer, and there are three large parking areas at the park. Family reunions and other gatherings use the large pavilion at the center of the park, which has easy access to a playground and restrooms. There are several benches at the park for visitors to enjoy the gorgeous view of the lake and sunset. There is an entry fee for guests who enter the park in a vehicle.

  • Lions Park is southwest of downtown St. Joseph. Picnic areas, playgrounds and restrooms are just a short distance from the beach on Lake Michigan. The Howard Family Recreation Path provides convenient access to the park for cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Lake Bluff Park provides some of the best views in the St. Joseph area. Perched on a bluff west of Lake Boulevard, the park has several benches with great views of Lake Michigan, Whirlpool Compass Fountain, and Silver Beach County Park. The park hosts the St. Joseph Farmer's Market from late spring to early fall.

    Several monuments and statues are located at Lake Bluff Park. The Maids of the Mist fountain is one of the oldest at the park, dating back to 1872. A sculpture of poet Ben King, who was born in St. Joseph in 1857, is located on the south side of Lake Bluff Park. An historic cannon and other monuments honor local veterans and heroes.

    The paved path through Lake Bluff Park is very popular with dog-walkers and joggers. The path angles down a hill on the north side of the park and can be used to access the Howard Family Recreation Path.

    There are stairs at Lake Bluff Park that lead to the bottom of the bluff and the Amtrak Station. Whirlpool Compass Fountain and the Silver Beach Carousel are also nearby.

  • Upton Arboretum offers a peaceful setting on the St. Joseph River. Old-growth trees provide welcome shade during the summer, and several sculptures add to the beautiful scenery. The Howard Family Recreation Path meanders through the park, and a short pier offers a nice spot to fish on the St. Joseph River.

  • Kiwanis Park is a popular recreation area on Pearl Street. Skateboarders like the challenging ramps and curls at the large skate park near the entrance, and the dog park is a favorite with furry friends. A baseball diamond, basketball court, and horseshoe pits are located at the park. A picnic shelter is available for gatherings, with a large playscape nearby.

  • Milton Park is a relaxing spot on Niles Avenue, with a picnic area and several benches. A nice playscape on the north side of the park is a favorite attraction for kids, who enjoy its multiple slides and climbing apparatus. A short walking path circles around the rectangular park.

  • Dickinson Park and Wells Field feature baseball diamonds that are used for area little league games.

  • Whittlesey Park is home to the John and Dede Howard Ice Arena. The ice rink is open from Thanksgiving through mid-March. It's an open-air facility with an NHL-sized ice surface and a peaked roof. Outdoor temperatures can sometimes effect the ice surface on warm days. The rink is used for youth and adult hockey and can be rented for private gatherings. Open skate hours are offered on most days, but times vary. Season passes and rentals can be purchased from the city clerk at City Hall. For fees and open skate times, see the City of St. Joseph's web page about the ice rink.

  • Lookout Park is on Lakeshore Drive on the south side of St. Joseph, near Hilltop Road. The park is a great spot to watch the sunset or catch a glimpse of Lake Michigan. It's a great spot for picnics.

  • On the eastern shore of the St. Joseph River, Benton Harbor has two parks, Riverfront Fisherman's Park and Charles Yarbrough Park, that offer scenic views, picnic areas and playgrounds. Both parks are favorites with area fishermen who cast their lines from shore.

Whirlpool Compass Fountain

Nothing brings out the kid in everyone more than running through cool streams of water on a hot summer day. Located next to Silver Beach County Park, Whirlpool Compass Fountain is a free, fun attraction for visitors of all ages. It opened on September 5, 2009, and has been a fun spot near the beach ever since. The interactive fountain has an 150 splash pad with numerous water cannons and fountains that spray at regular intervals. The fountain is open daily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the spring and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the summer.

St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse

One of the most recognizable landmarks in the St. Joseph area in St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse. Located on the north pier at the mouth of the St. Joseph River at Lake Michigan, the cast iron red and white lighthouse building is capped with a black painted lantern room. A second smaller light is located a short distance away, at the end of the pier. Both structures were built in 1907 and feature their original Fresnel lenses.

The lighthouse is easily viewed from the south at Lions Park and Silver Beach County Park and from the north at Jean Klock Park. For a close-up view, visit Tiscornia Park, where you can get great photos of the lighthouse from the beach and also access the pier for St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse. You can easily walk to the lighthouse from the Tiscornia Park's parking lot, following a path to the pier and then walking towards the end of the cement pier. Do not walk on the pier during a storm or when Lake Michigan is rough.

Trails & Bike Routes

You can enjoy the waterfront scenery and travel between parks, attractions and other locations using the trails and bike routes in the St. Joseph area.

The Howard Family Recreation Path is a scenic route that connects Upton Arboretum, Silver Beach County Park, Whirlpool Compass Fountain and Lions Park, providing views of the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan. The wide, paved trail is approximately 1.5 miles long and can be used for walking, jogging, and biking. The free parking lot at Lions Park can serve as a good starting point for the trail.

The paved walking path at Lake Bluff Park is very popular and provides spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Silver Beach area. On the north side of the park, the paved path splits and part of the path descends down the bluff to Water Street and the Howard Family Recreation Path. Due to the amount of foot traffic at Lake Bluff Park, cyclists should ride on the outer edge of Lake Boulevard to reach downtown, rather than ride through the park.

Using the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street at Port Street, you can access a paved trail along M-63 that crosses the St. Joseph River and goes northeast to Klock Road. The paved trail can be used for walking, jogging, and biking. You can go west on the trail along Klock Road to reach Jean Klock Park and then circle back to the trail at Klock Road. Along M-63, the paved trail has a spur that goes west along Momany Drive. The paved trail stops at Marina Drive, so you can either walk/jog on the sidewalk or ride your bike on the outer edge of the road along Marina Drive to reach Tiscornia Park.

For magnificent views of the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan, the piers at Silver Beach County Park and Tiscornia Park are recommended for casual strolls. Barefooted beach visitors often walk along the concrete piers, and you'll also find that the two piers are popular spots for local fishermen. You can reach the pier at Silver Beach County Park using the path from the parking area or from the beach. The pier at Tiscornia Park is accessible from the parking area via a walking path, and you can walk to the lighthouse at the end of the pier. Do not walk on the piers during storms or when the waves on Lake Michigan are extremely rough.

Cyclists can use a series of bike routes to ride two miles from Hilltop Road to downtown St. Joseph. The route offers views of Lake Michigan and charming old houses. Starting at Hilltop Road, ride on the bike lane along Lakeshore Drive and go north. The name of the road changes to Main Street. At Lake Boulevard, turn left and ride on the bike lane along Lake Boulevard towards downtown. The bike lane will end at Park Street, and you will need to ride along the outer edge of Lake Boulevard til you reach downtown. If you turn left at Park Street and continue riding along the outer edge of the street, you can ride to Silver Beach County Park on Lake Street.

A shorter, curvier bike route on Miami Road in St. Joseph winds its way south from May Street to Napier Avenue. You can ride on the bike lane along the outer edge of the road. The route is approximately three-quarters of a mile long.

Boating & Kayaking

The St. Joseph area is a boater's delight, with Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River providing plenty of opportunities for fun on the water.

Public boat launches in the two cities are located close to each other on opposite sides of the St. Joseph River.
  • St. Joseph's City Boat Launch is on Marina Island, which is east of downtown St. Joseph. The launch has multiple ramps and a large parking area. A picnic shelter is located east of the parking lot. A daily launch fee is available at the launch facility. A season pass can be acquired from the city clerk at City Hall.

    To get to the launch, take W Main Street to Anchors Way and turn right. Drive south about a quarter of a mile and turn left on to Anchors Court. The entrance to the facility will be on the right. Port-a-pots are located on the south end of the parking lot.



  • Benton Harbor's Boating Access Site is on the east side of the St. Joseph River on Riverview Drive. The multi-ramp boat launch facility has a large parking area, with restrooms nearby.

St. Joseph's West Basin Marina is located on the north side of the St. Joseph River, east of Tiscornia Park. The municipal marina offers 74 seasonal boat slips and 20 transient slips, accommodating boats between 30 and 50 feet in length. The marina offers pumpout service, laundry, showers, fuel, and a free shuttle to downtown during business hours. West Basin Marina also offers winterization and seasonal storage. To make a reservation, visit the Michigan DNR web site or call 1-800-447-2757. The St. Joseph River Yacht Club is located on the south side of the marina.

There are several private marinas along the St. Joseph River and Morrison Channel. Pier 33 Marina, Harbor Isle Marina, and Brian's Marina are located on Marina Island, which can be accessed from W Main Street.

Fun on Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River isn't limited to big boats. Paddlers can enjoy a day on the water too. Kayaks can be launched on Lake Michigan at Lions Park. The water's edge is a short distance from the parking area.

Fishing

Anglers can challenge themselves by sportsfishing on Lake Michigan or enjoy a relaxing day fishing on the St. Joseph River when visiting the St. Joseph area. During the spring, Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River are prime spots to catch coho, chinook salmon, brown trout and steelhead.

St. Joseph and Benton Harbor have several parks along the St. Joseph River that make it easy to fish from shore. The Lake Michigan piers next to Silver Beach County Park and Tiscornia Park are favorite spots for fishing on Lake Michigan and at the mouth of the St. Joseph River. Upton Arboretum is a quarter of a mile inland and has a small fishing area. Riverfront Fisherman's Park and Charles Yarbrough Park in Benton Harbor are on the western shore of the St. Joseph River, a little less than a mile from the mouth of the river. Steelhead, salmon, walleye, brown trout, and pike are just some of the freshwater fish that fishermen can catch in the area.

If you want to experience a fishing adventure, several charter fishing services are located in St. Joseph. Big Bird Charters, My Mistress Charters, and New Addition Charters offer visitors a fun day of fishing.

A Michigan fishing license is required to fish on Michigan lakes and waterways, and you can get a license at Broadlow's Fishin' Hole (1127 Main Street), BJ Sports (4298 Niles Road), or other bait/sporting goods shops in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. You can also purchase a fishing license online at the Michigan DNR E-License web site.

More About St. Joseph

St. Joseph has a vibrant downtown with an eclectic variety of shops, restaurants, and businesses. Clothing boutiques and specialty retailers are within easy walking distance of downtown parking lots on Lake Boulevard. Eateries and bars are nearby, and if you like live music, Czar's 505 Club features national and local acts.

St. Joseph Farmer's Market brings the best fruits and vegetables from area farms to Lake Bluff Park on Lake Boulevard. You'll also find flowers, pastries, homemade items, and more. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays from early June to early October and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays from early June through August.

One of the best places to take kids in Southwest Michigan is the Curious Kids' Museum. The interactive museum lets kids get a hands-on experience, teaching them about science, technology, history and culture.

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center on Main Street features thought-provoking exhibits, historical collections about the St. Joseph area, and a research library.

The St. Joseph/Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library is an engaging community institution that hosts reading programs, movie nights, kids activities and much more. The library encourages lifelong learning with a family-friendly environment.

Southwest Michigan Tourist Council is an excellent resource for finding entertainment and businesses in St. Joseph and Southwest Michigan.










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