Picturesque Pentwater

Summer Events and Favorite Festivals

Founder’s Day: May
Ensign Sailboat Races: Wednesdays and Saturdays; May - September
Movies on the Green: Sundays (select dates); May – September
Blessing of the Dunes: June
National Asparagus Festival: June
Pentwater Venetian Illuminated Boat Parade: June
Explorer Guide Program at Charles Mears State Park: June - August
Pentwater Farmers Market: Mondays and Thursdays; June 5 – September 4
Music on the Commons: Every other Wednesday; June 14 – August 23
Civic Band Concerts: Thursdays; June 21 – August
Comedy Night: Tuesdays; June – September
Gallery Strolls: June – August
Live Blues & Jazz: Sundays & Wednesdays; July – August
Fine Arts & Craft Fair: July
Pentwater Ladies’ Classic Tournament: July
Homecoming Celebration: August
Whatever Floats Your Boat Regatta: August
Wooden Boat Show and Parade: August
Apple & BBQ Cook-Off Festival: September
Fall Fest Arts & Crafts Fair: September
Oktoberfest: October
Spooktacular: October

Don’t Miss...

Walk the self-guided tour Wonders of the Lake
Tour Pentwater Historical Society Museum
Fish Pentwater lake and the connected river
Stroll along the harbor lights as dusk approaches
Smell the roses at the Garden Tour of the Month
Bike around town from one of three bike share locations
Discover Pentwater Pathways mountain bike trails
Explore the Halcyon Nature Center
Kayak or SUP down the Pentwater River
Shop at the Brass Anchor Ships Store
Stay at the Hexagon House Bed & Breakfast
Play at AJ's Family Fun Center or Pentwater Mini Golf


Picturesque Pentwater

by Kim Racette
Just steps from both an inland and a Great Lake, Pentwater, Michigan offers historic charm in a resort setting.
Midway up the western coast of Michigan, tucked in the Pere Marquette State Forest between Silver Lake and Ludington, the village of Pentwater is the perfect place to spend the day, the week, or the entire summer. The serenity and natural beauty of this coastal village is on full display, and its easy-going atmosphere invites one to slow down and take a deep breath — to sit a spell. This historic port city knows how to roll out the summer welcome mat, with a fabulous shoreline, warm sand and plenty of activities for all ages. Beyond the beaches and the waters, Pentwater is also known for its vibrant music and art scenes, with jazzy tunes and creative works often heard and seen throughout the week by those exploring the village.

With access to Lake Michigan and the quiet harbor in Pentwater Lake, (originally Middlesex and later renamed Pentwater from “pent up waters”), the village was founded in 1867 by Charles Mears to ship lumber. Back in the day, the channel to the 500-acre Pentwater Lake was notoriously shallow, restricting access for many larger boats. Over the years the village (and channel depth) grew, notably as manufacturing, food processing and fishing centers flourished. Once the railroad steamed into town, Pentwater became a popular destination for families to meet and play. Today, it’s a premier destination for those traveling along the shores of Lake Michigan. 

The village is walkable to the shoreline, campgrounds, marinas and Village Square, making it the perfect day trip for those looking to kick back and relax, with plenty of family-friendly activities, shopping and eateries nearby. 

Beach it (or dock it)

Finding Pentwater by water is easy; the striped blue and white North Pierhead Light marks the gateway at one end of the beach. Situated near both the channel and village, Charles Mears State Park is the crown jewel of the area, with views of Lake Michigan and its turquoise waters. The Old Baldy sand dune anchors the space at the back of the park, with plenty of sand and shoreline for outdoor enthusiasts and watersports to take center stage. Activities at the park include beach volleyball, live concerts and, of course, breathtaking sunsets that set the sky aflame. The Village of Pentwater is nestled between the park and the protected shoreline of Pentwater Lake, offering the best of both worlds.

During the day, the Lake Michigan shoreline is dotted with anchored boats. If you plan to stay awhile, Snug Harbor Marina is a great place to dock with complete dockage and storage facilities in a spectacular setting. Heading into his 40th season, Snug Harbor Marina Owner Jack Witt, along with his sons, Jon and Andrew, consistently receive five-star recognition for the help they provide boaters. 

“[Boaters] are always surprised at the amount of help we give those who are docking,” Jack says. “We help handle lines, place fenders, lend shore power cords — whatever they need!” 

Snug Harbor Marina is a member of America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association, with 54 slips for boats 20 to 75 feet in length. This past year, the Witts added 12,000 square feet of indoor heated storage space, adding to its existing 18,000-square-foot indoor cold storage. Not only is the marina loaded with all the amenities boaters would come to expect (laundry, pet friendly, Wi-Fi, boutique, picnic area, boat repair, storage and fuel), it also adds to the picturesque charm found along this waterfront. 

“There is nowhere else I’d rather work than Pentwater,” Jack says. “It is a small, quaint harbor town with a pristine beach within walking distance to the marinas, and free of large commercial enterprises. It truly is the last unadulterated jewel on the east coast of Lake Michigan.” 

Jack also points out the village's walkability: “For boaters, it's unusual to dock and have everything they need so close by, including restaurants, gift shops and a grocery store. It’s very convenient.” 

Pentwater Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eva Gregwer explains that the accessibility is one of the things that people love about Pentwater. “Everything is close — no car needed,” she says. 

Wonderfully detailed Victorian and well-tended clapboard homes have survived from the early days, while tree-lined streets provide shady respite. There is a timelessness that invites taking a break mid-afternoon with a good book, especially for those who are staying in one of the stately bed and breakfasts. For those who prefer to shop during their free time, Hancock Street is the place to start. For those arriving by boat, there is a drop-off dock downtown at the end of 3rd Street, just steps to the shops.

Explore downtown

Parties in Pentwater often take place at The Village Green. It is the heart of town, with concerts hosted in the vintage bandshell, festivals and farmers markets galore. The “Pickin in Pentwater” event on Tuesdays is a must-attend for those with musical gifts — or for those who enjoy listening to music outdoors with a cool drink in hand. Many local restaurants also host live music during the week; Gull Landing is one of several (also check out Cottage Garden and Village Cafe & Pub) to dine like a local. Known for casual dining, Gull Landing is located downtown across from both the Municipal Marina and Snug Harbor Marina. Owner Diana Russell is a long-time resident who purchased the restaurant from her parents, who had started it 23 years ago as a hot dog stand. 

“Our deck is the largest outdoor bar in West Michigan,” Russell says. “Our Tiki Bar hosts the Bloody Mary Bar and Breakfast Buffet on the weekends with a great view of Pentwater Lake.” 

Gull Landing is also well-known for its live music on Wednesday and Sunday evenings; it’s a stop on the jazz musician circuit, including the Grammy-winning Paul Nelson Band. 

“I’ve had folks bring me thank you gifts when we open the deck, so they can get their mojitos and listen to jazz while they eat fresh walleye and perch,” Russell says.

Art and water often go hand in hand, and that is very true in Pentwater. The art presence sizzles throughout summer, with a steady celebration of artists and their work (often for sale). The Pentwater Artisan Learning Center is a hub, surrounded by a steady assortment of artists — both local and visiting — who come to create, share, mentor and sell. There is also an active arts council that hosts an art walk Thursday evenings. After attending the annual Fine Arts & Crafts Fair years ago (this year taking place July 14), artist Jilly Barnes relocated to Pentwater and opened Jilly’s Gallery downtown. 

“I was inspired by the beautiful scenery of this area and the art scene that was developing here,” Barnes says. “People who come here want to take home something to remember their time, and if it is something crafted locally that’s even better.” 

Meeting the artist and learning the story behind the art is also something both visitors and the artists enjoy, according to Barnes: “People instill in their kids a love for art; they like to make a connection while I do sidewalk chalk in front of the gallery. Add in the music that is often playing around town, and it’s just very cool.” 

Another popular artist meet-and-greet is the Gallery Stroll held the last Saturday evening of each month, with demonstrations, music, refreshments and great art for sale.

Take part in the festivities 

All season long this village hums with various activities (see “Favorite Festivals” sidebar), including the Pentwater Bike & Trike Rally, Spring Fest Arts & Crafts Fair, Venetian Illuminated Boat Parade at the Pentwater Yacht Club, the Blooming Arts Garden Walk and Oktoberfest; however, the Fourth of July Celebration is very special. Russell says that for a small town, Pentwater throws a heck of a celebration. 

“There is an hour-long parade that is really corny, but everyone loves it,” Russell says. Flags line the streets, high schools bands play patriotic music, and kids cheer as candy is thrown out by those marching by. “There is a great beer tent, music all day long and terrific fireworks. Pentwater, especially during these festivities, is the best of both worlds — tons of small town charm but in a resort setting with lots of amenities.” 

Pentwater Chamber of Commerce’s Gregwer says that there is also one event in August dog lovers won’t want to miss. Shake, Wag’n Roll presented by L.A.S.S.I (Local Animal Shelter Support Inc) starts with a morning pet stroll through town and on the beach, and then moves on to pet tricks, performances and agility training. There are also vendors and a silent auction, and all proceeds are used to benefit the shelters.
“Throughout the day people and their dogs are encouraged to join in,” Gregwer says. “The costume contest is very popular.” 

The largest festival of the summer will be the 88th Annual Homecoming Celebration, also taking place in August. This village that normally sees between 7,000 to 10,000 visitors during the summer months swells to around 12,000, all there to “come home.” This is one of the best hometown celebrations found in the Midwest, and with the theme “Taste of Pentwater” it is truly a taste of small town America. 

“Of course we have folks who return year-after-year for this event, but those who are just visiting for the first time will find it very welcoming,” Gregwer explains. “In this town, everyone is very friendly, and before people know it they’ve made friends here.” 

The list of activities runs from a teen dance and sand sculpting competition to a preseason tailgate party (be sure to wear your school colors), live concerts, horseshoe competitions and fireworks. Most activities are free to the public. 

“Some people come for the day and end up retiring here years later,” Gregwer says.

For those who enjoy a bit more laid back experience, events later in the season include the Wooden Boat Show in August, the Fall Festival in September and Oktoberfest. Often the waters are still warm but the crowds are a bit smaller. For many, this is their favorite time to be here, and those who drop anchor still have plenty of things to do and beauty to see. Fishing, biking the nearby trails and walking the Pentwater Wonders of the Lake are all activities that don’t require the summer sun. Come by boat and stay awhile in this charming West Michigan village.

South Shore JUN17