Bites on the Bay: Waterfront Dining Around West Michigan

From lakes to rivers and bays, West Michigan has tons of restaurants with waterfront views.

We all have to eat. So why not do it on the waterfront? Sitting with friends and family while looking out at the water… something about it just feels right. 

Take Gilmore Collection restaurant Blue Water (5180 Northland Dr.), located near Versluis Lake. It’s fittingly named; the manmade lake’s waters are sapphire. Much like the food itself, the architecture, which was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, takes inspiration from the natural world. The menu’s unpretentious, offering perennial favorites like salads, sandwiches, and pizza. But whether you go for the margherita pizza or the Faroe Island salmon, you’ll find food cooked with care.

Another Gilmore Collection restaurant with a peaceful view is Bostwick Lake Inn (8521 Belding Rd NE), located in Rockford near Bostwick Lake. Its four-season deck overlooks sand-bottomed Bostwick Lake, which, at 221 acres, is the largest body of water in Cannon Township. Sit back and watch as people fish, swim, and boat; sure, they’re having fun, but they’re not having a smoked pork tenderloin, unlike you. Still, if you want to get closer to the water, you can take your cocktail down to the beach. Champagne by the water as the sun sets? There are worse ways to spend an evening.

Situated along the banks of the Kalamazoo River is Saugatuck’s The Southerner (880 Holland St.). Chef Matthew Miller named it after one of the first trains to link the south of the United States to the North. In the 1950s, many Appalachian people took that route in search of work in Michigan’s automobile industry, including Miller’s ancestors. Today, you can watch the boats drift by while you eat fried chicken, beans, and grits & greens.

Not just food but live music is on offer at Muskegon’s The Deck (1601 Beach St.), located at Pere Marquette Beach. There’s a show almost daily during the summer months. Even if music isn’t your thing, the location can’t be beat. As their website says, “We’re so close to the water you won’t be dry by the time you get here.” Soak up the sun and inhale the crispy Thai brussels sprouts and Nashville hot chicken sliders.

Also in Muskegon, Dockers Fish House (3505 Marina View Point) is a 500-seat restaurant overlooking Muskegon Lake. As it’s directly off the Muskegon Channel, you can even arrive by boat; staff will help you dock. The menu includes spicy crab poppers, a sort of upscale version of the fried poppers we all know and love, and, thank Poseidon, shrimp po boys. 

Also thrillingly close to Lake Michigan is Grand Haven’s Notos at the Bil-Mar (1223 S Harbor Dr, Grand Haven). Does its name sound like something from Conan The Barbarian? Absolutely. But there’s nothing barbaric about the Italian food on offer, which includes bistecca alla siciliana, spaghetti Bolognese, and, of course, tiramisu.

On Gun Lake, you’ll find Bay Pointe Bar & Grille (11456 Marsh Rd, Shelbyville) an award-winning restaurant with panoramic island and garden views, open for four seasons of lakefront dining. If you really want to make water a central experience, you can pull your boat right into Bay Pointe’s free dock, with built-in tie offs and fender guards. Bon voyage!

There’s also Rose’s on East Grand Rapids’ Reeds Lake, Linear Restaurant right along the Grand River, and Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant in Holland on Lake Macatawa. Regardless of your palate, you can find something to love in one of our many West Michigan waterfront restaurants. So throw on your best Hawaiian shirt or sundress, order a cocktail, and listen for the song of the sirens. Just don’t listen too hard, they’re angling to steal your brussels sprouts.