Country lanes and lazy streams wind their way beneath a golden-red canopy in Michigan’s southwest corner. A 100-mile driving loop begins in Coldwater, where wealthy 19th-century merchants built their lavish homes. To the west, back roads crisscross farm country to pretty Victorian towns. In Coldwater, a walking tour takes you to more than twenty homes and buildings, where the city’s 19th-century elite adorned their mansions with gables, turrets and columns.
Take your time on a drive south around Coldwater Lake, where maples and oaks scatter colored leaves like confetti. US-12, an old Sauk trail and early stagecoach route, meanders west into Sturgis. Downtown, striped awnings shading storefronts and an old-time movie theater recall the 1950s.
Horse-drawn buggies share the roads, so take it slow as you head north into Amish country. Stop for fresh cider and wholesome farm produce at local farms or pick up fringed shawls and crocheted doilies at shops like Chupp’s Herbs and Fabrics.
Located in northeastern St. Joseph County on M-60, is the community of Mendon, home to several stately historic landmarks. Nine Amish districts surround the village, and antique and artsy-craftsy shops are located in the quaint downtown. Situated on the banks overlooking the St. Joseph River, canoeing is popular here and there are several landings dotted along the waterway. Area travelers will want to check out Arrowhead Cove Bed & Breakfast. This new addition to the region lodging options, offers beautiful lodging, great packages and full breakfasts served daily using produce from the on-site garden when available. The property also offers a number of nature activities including fishing, swimming, boating, biking, hiking, campfires, picnics, gardening, bird watching, as well as great views of the lake and wetlands, private forests, and farmland.
If you’re in the mode for a beautiful country-side excursion, venture out from Mendon and head west of town, where the drive passes the turn-off for the 1887 Langley Covered Bridge. This is the longest of Michigan’s few remaining covered bridges. In Three Rivers, bookstores, antiques shops and other businesses occupy beautifully restored Victorian-era brick buildings. Heading east, stop at Nottawa Fruit Farm and pick a fat orange pumpkin. An apple-caramel-nut pie baked by area Amish homemakers will make a tasty treat for family and friends to enjoy later.
For more information, visit River Country Tourism Council.