With over two million visitors annually, Holland State Park is one of Michigan’s most frequently visited state parks. You may be familiar with Holland, situated in West Michigan, due to its famous Tulip Time Festival that occurs every spring. But, the fun continues into summer with building sandcastles on Lake Michigan’s sandy beaches, watching the sunset over the lake, and viewing the iconic lighthouse fondly referred to as “Big Red.”
Ottawa Beach Parks, which are county parks, divide Holland State Park into two sections. In this article, I’ll include activities in all three areas. In addition, a channel connects Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. So, Holland State Park offers lots of maritime activities. Here are seven of my favorite things to do in Michigan’s beautiful Holland State Park.
1. Get Out On The Lakes
The Ottawa Beach Marina, located on the west side of Lake Macatawa, just inside the channel to Lake Michigan and next to Holland State Park, is part of the County Parks system. Via the marina, you can use the channel to get out on Lake Michigan, enjoy the water, and even do some fishing. After a day of fishing, you’ll be glad to see that they also have a cleaning station. Kayaking is another fun activity to get you on the lakes.
You can also enjoy the water from afar, walk the pier or beach, and wiggle your toes in the sand. Be sure to watch one of the stunning sunsets over Lake Michigan. If you are a bit more adventurous, take a swim and relax on one of the sugar sand beaches.
Pro Tip: Marina Directions
From Holland, drive toward Holland State Park and go west on Ottawa Beach Road. The marina is on the left.
2. Go Fishing At Holland State Park
You’ll find several ways to get your fishing fix at Holland State Park. You can fish from your boat on Lake Michigan or Lake Macatawa. If you want to get out on the Great Lake but don’t have a boat, you’ll find charter fishing services to make it happen. You can also fish off the break wall if you can’t get out on the water. No matter how you approach it, Michigan has some of the best freshwater fishing in the country. Historic Ottawa Beach also offers several fishing piers.
The area offers a good variety of fish, so you’re sure to find one you’ll want to target for your next meal. You can find perch in both Lake Macatawa and offshore on Lake Michigan.
Lake Macatawa connects to Lake Michigan via the channel. While fishing in the channel, you might hook a walleye, bluegill, catfish, or a variety of bass. Unfortunately, you won’t find salmon or trout because Lake Macatawa isn’t very deep. However, you could catch trout or salmon if you go out on Lake Michigan.
Pro Tip: Track Chairs
Holland State Park offers two-track chairs for those with mobility challenges to get out and explore the park. These track chairs are electronic chairs that allow off-road type exploration. They efficiently handle up to eight inches of water, sand, trails, and even snow, making it easy to access places where typical wheelchairs couldn’t. They are available at no cost and you can reserve them on a first-come basis.
3. Explore The Dunes
Historic Ottawa Beach Parks include Mt. Pisgah, the Black Lake Boardwalks, and Lake Michigan Beach next to Holland State Park.
Mt. Pisgah Dune Climb And Boardwalk
The Holland Dune Trail provides access to Mt. Pisgah via a one-mile, out-and-back trail with a boardwalk and stairs. The trek to the top involves climbing 260 steps, where at the peak, you’ll be 157 feet above Lake Michigan, with stunning views of the lake and lighthouse. As you climb the stairway, you’ll find landings and periodically a bench. At the top, you’ll find seating allowing you to rest and enjoy the view. Unfortunately, you can’t access the beach via the Mt. Pisgah trail. Instead, use Ottawa Beach Road to make your way to the beach.
Black Lake Boardwalk West
The Black Lake Boardwalk West offers picnic tables, fishing docks, canoe, kayak access, and an entrance to Mt. Pisgah. The area is about 58 acres, which was once the site of the Ottawa Beach Hotel. You’ll find 750 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline and 2400 feet of Lake Macatawa frontage with wooded dunes.
Unlike the state park, Ottawa Beach Parks don’t have entry fees. However, you will need a Recreation Passport when you drive into Holland State Park.
Pro Tip: Parking At Ottawa Beach Parks
The parking lot has a two-hour parking limit.
4. Camp At Holland State Park
When we go to Holland State Park, a little over an hour away, we could make it a day trip, but with so much to do there, we can’t get in enough fun in only a day. So, we always try to spend an entire weekend, because we enjoy the evenings around the campfire. Holland State Park offers two large campgrounds, each with a different advantage.
Situated between Lake Michigan and the dunes, the modern beach campground has 98 paved campsites, and 31 have full hookups. The full hook-up is $45. Beach camping starts the first weekend in May and remains open through September.
Lake Macatawa Campground
The Lake Macatawa Campground has 211 campsites. Eleven have paved lots. Wooded sites are open from April through the end of October.
If you need more shelter and comfort than a tent and don’t have an RV, then the park’s cabins are a good option. Both the Whitetail and Beacon camper cabins feature fantastic views of Big Red and the channel. The cabins, with electricity and heat, sleep up to seven people in two rooms with bunk beds featuring twin and full mattresses. The places also include tables, chairs, a coffee maker, a microwave, and a refrigerator. They also have two assigned parking spots. If you plan to rent one of the cabins, you must bring linens and cookware.
You can reserve your site in either campground up to six months by booking online at MiDNRReservations.com.
Pro Tip: State Park Text Alerts
Sign up here to receive text alerts that notify you of events that may impact your visit. The texts will inform you of events such as closures, detours, and weather.
5. Visit The Pump House Museum And Learning Center
With so many outdoor attractions in the area, the Pump House Museum has changed it up as a significant cultural attraction. Today, the museum is central to the Black Lake Boardwalk, linking the Mt. Pisgah Dune Stairs, the Holland Harbor Fishing access, and Lake Michigan Beach, reachable through Holland State Park.
The Hotel Ottawa Complex once sat in this location. The Pump House is the only remaining building. In the 1980s, public water came to Ottawa Beach, and they no longer needed the pump house. Eventually, they turned it into a museum with exhibits explaining the local history and culture. One of their significant displays is Big Red: From Navigational Aid to Cultural Icon. Other exhibits include Water at Ottawa Beach: A Perspective on Changing Technology and Vintage Views: The Golden Age of Postcards and Holland’s Resorts.
Pro Tip: Admission
Admission to the Pump House Museum and Learning Center is free.
6. Photograph Holland Harbor Lighthouse
The iconic Holland Harbor Lighthouse, also known as Big Red, has guided boats from Lake Michigan for over 100 years. They built the original small square wooden lighthouse at this location in 1872 and created the structure that stands here today in 1907. Officially named the Holland Harbor South Pierhead Lighthouse, the gabled roof represents the area’s Dutch influence. In 1932, they automated the lighthouse. In 1970, the U.S. Coast Guard suggested they abandon the lighthouse, but a group created the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission to preserve and restore it.
You’ll find photo opportunities for this big red beauty from many different vantage points. That’s probably what makes it the most photographed Michigan lighthouse. First, stroll to the north pier via the wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, where you can get detailed close-ups for your portfolio. Then take an image from 157 feet above sea level on Mt. Pisgah, where you can reach the peak from the dune staircase.
Pro Tip: Lighthouse Tours
They aren’t currently offering tours of Holland Harbor Lighthouse.
7. Use The Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station
The State of Michigan introduced 30 electric vehicle charging stations in Michigan’s State Parks in 2022. One of those parks was Holland State Park. Located in the parking lot nearest the beach on the east arm, you’ll find two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations available.
When you reach Holland State Park, you will find plenty to keep you busy while your vehicle is charging. Plan to charge your EV while you’re spending time sunning yourself on the beach or eating a picnic lunch. Then, begin your trip home with a fully charged battery.
If you’re thinking of taking an EV road trip for the first time and you’d like some tips, check out 7 Things To Know Before Your First Electric Car Road Trip Adventure.
Pro Tip: Charging Your EV
The use of Holland State Park’s charging stations is free.
While you’re in the area, if you want to explore the town of Holland, Michigan, check out these articles: