Muskegon Adventure & Wonderland Distillery: 11/7/2020
In this blog post, Andrew and I will be traveling to a classic Pure Michigan beach to enjoy one last warm beach day this fall. We will be sharing our beach adventure along with our trip to Wonderland Distillery. If you’re interested in lighthouses, sand between your toes, and exploring a brand new local distillery, then continue reading to learn more!
Many of us midwesterners are loving this brief period of summer-like weather. With the nice weather in mind, Andrew and I knew we should take advantage of it and head to the water and it was well worth it! Pere Marquette Beach is roughly 45 minutes from Grand Rapids, making it a reasonable day trip while offering plenty of time to enjoy the waterfront.
Pere Marquette Beach is located on the north end of 2.5 miles of the city beachfront. Parking along the beach is $5 during peak seasons (there was no fee when we visited in November). There is plenty of parking along the beach as well as additional parking down the road at Margaret Drake Elliott Park. Most of the parking is paved, minus some over-blown sand and there is a sidewalk that borders the parking lot and the beach allowing for handicap access.
During peak season the beach has a snack shack that is open near the restrooms and is reasonably priced (Andrew and I visited this beach over the prior as well, prior to the start of our blog). There is also a cute restaurant and bar located on the beach called The Deck and offers lots of outdoor seating on old pontoon boats adding to the relaxed lake vibes. The beach also has a playground, picnic tables, and volleyball courts. All of these fun summer activities were closed for the season when Andrew and I visited this time but from our summer trip, I can tell you that it was a popular place for a family beach day!
Pere Marquette Beach is also a great place for water activities including paddle boarding, kayaking, jet-skiing, and kite-boarding. The beach shack offers rentals for a variety of beach equipment. However, I am unsure about pricing as it was closed for the season when we were there. The channel between the two piers creates a great cove for lake recreation and we were able to watch close to 20 people kitesurfing and kiteboarding.
One of our favorite things about this beach is that there are two lighthouses within walking distance! The Muskegon South Breakwater Light was built in 1931 and the Muskegon South Pierhead Light was built in 1903. Both lighthouses are located out on large piers into lake Michigan (Breakwater Light) and along the Muskegon River (Pierhead Light). The main lighthouse, the Pierhead Light, originally operated with a 4th order Fresnel lens which was able to project light 6 miles out into Lake Michigan. The existing light replaced the wooden rearrange beacon light in 1903, utilizing the original lantern room from the previous 1870 lighthouse structure. Tours of the 48ft are available during peak season and information can be found at https://www.muskegonlights.org/visit/tours/
Walking out to the Breakwater light involves walking down a large pier that narrows about halfway out. On a calm day, you can safely walk all the way out to the light and many fishermen utilize the pier. However, on a wavy day, it can be a bit dangerous as the waves come up and over the pier. This was the case when Andrew and I were there and for our safety, we chose not to walk to the end. So please be cautious when walking to the lighthouse and step carefully as the pier can be slippery when wet.
The South Pierhead light can be accessed by walking through the pedestrian walkway between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) stations. You follow a marked pathway through a fence, past the Coast Guard boats, and up onto a walkway bordering the Muskegon River. Once on the walkway, you can view the lighthouse, the river, the NOAA station, and read multiple informational plaques. Although this walkway is often more sheltered due to its location, still watch your step as it may be slippery if wet.
After walking around and enjoying the sites Andrew and I were able to set up a visit with a local distillery owner as he shared his passion for small business, sustainability, and locally sourced materials. So sit back and relax as we head to Wonderland. Wonderland Distillery that is!
Wonderland Distillery was created after 3 friends bonded over their love for dark spirits in 2018. The name Wonderland was inspired by the Michigan license plate with the inscription ‘winter, water, wonderland’. The owners strived to capture the beauty of their home state and all the amazing things it has to offer. Muskegon was chosen as the site for this new distillery as it is literally the owner’s backyard as they grew up in Muskegon.
The distillery officially opened its doors on October 21st, 2020. Wonderland is located across the street from the Great Lakes Marina on Lakeshore Drive. The Great Lakes Marina is home to the Lake Express. The Lake Express is a Lake Michigan ferry that travels from Muskegon, MI to Milwaukee, WI. This location makes Wonderland Distillery a prime location for those visiting Muskegon for a few hours or a few days.
Andrew and I were lucky enough to sit down and talk to one of the founders, Allen Serio, and the general manager, Josiah Gentry. Speaking with both of them it was evident that Wonderland embodies their love for small businesses and locally sourced ingredients. If you like sustainability like me! Get ready to be even more excited about visiting this distillery.
Josiah talked about how Wonderland is fully committed to following the “tip to tail” idea of using every part of an animal or every part of a fruit or vegetable. He spoke to me about how they use leftover pieces of fruit for garnishes on cocktails or as seasoning within their food products so that every piece of the fruit is used to its fullest.
Allen discussed how vital it is to him that Wonderland uses locally sourced ingredients so he is not only creating fresh products but also helping out others within his community. He also discussed with us how he has partnered with other local businesses to not only promote Wonderland distillery but to support fellow small businesses as well. Wonderland has partnered with Lumbertown Coffee Company and Soap Dude Cosmetics to make some unique products that are for sale at their shop. Now for the best part…. The drinks!!
Josiah spoke of his plans to continue to expand the menu by adding one new cocktail or beverage per week. He spoke about how Allen has created the perfect environment for total creativity as himself and all the bartenders are able to experiment and form new cocktails whenever inspiration strikes them. So what types of beverages does Wonderland have? Check out their current menu below!
Not sure what to try because everything looks amazing?! Well, I would totally recommend the Sweater Weather as it is the perfect fall cocktail that is competed with a candied apple garnish that is to die for. Andrew and I also lived their gin and tonic as it is made with real organic sugar. Not feeling something alcoholic? Check out Wonderland’s mocktails which continue to offer their superb flavors without the addition of spirits.
One of the best additions that Wonderland has to offer is its canned cocktails as you can bring the flavors of the distillery home with you. This is also a great option during the COVID-19 pandemic as you can drink the beverages you love at home while supporting a local business. I guarantee that you will be greeted by a warm and friendly face even behind their masks when you go for your own visit.
Thanks for reading and check out our vlog to learn more about our Muskegon adventures and see some pretty funny bloopers!