Holland’s Windmill Island Gardens {Michigan}

After exploring the Indiana Dunes National Park, we continued driving north up along Lake Michigan until we came to the charming city of Holland. Holland Michigan was founded by Dutch immigrants and continues to be home of one of the largest populations of people with Dutch heritage here in the states. While the city itself is lovely, most people who come to Holland have one place in mind to visit- Windmill Island Gardens.

Entrance to the gardens

Windmill Island Gardens offers visitors a look into the Dutch culture that they are so proud to be part of. Especially in the spring when they showcase their beautiful tulips everywhere, this is a very popular place to come. We bought our tickets at the small hut next to the parking lot before entering. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children aged 3-15. These gardens are dog friendly too so long as they are on a leash.

Upon entering the gardens the first place you come to is the old post house surrounded by flowers and adorned with green and white shutters. This is the main area of the gardens and has a movie that gives the history of the Dutch community coming here to Michigan and how they are working on maintaining that heritage. They also have a working post office inside so you can send postcards home from Holland.

The Post House

With a canal running through the center of the gardens they have recreated a bridge from the Netherlands that goes across the water.

We began our visit with a tour of the De Zwaan windmill. This 250 year old windmill was the last windmill to leave The Netherlands before they were all designated national landmarks. It is a working windmill that is still used to grind grain into flour.

De Zwaan windmill

The windmill stands at 125 feet. Wooden stairs take visitors up to the five floors of the windmill as they learn the different parts of how the windmill works. People in period dress provide information with demonstrations and information about the beautiful windmill.

We walk back along the canal where we noticed a line of bird house hotels that were all big enough to house at least 20 birds. Tulip chairs were set out as a fun gathering place for people. And tall trees were being carved into decorative tulips.

At the other end of the canal we found an Archimedes Screw that could be used to pull up the water from below as it came up the spiral shaft. It hard to say who enjoy this more between the adults and the child.

The gardens have a recreated Dutch street with a miniature windmill in place of a street sign. The small group of houses are colorful and interesting and give a small glimpse into the Dutch heritage.

The first of these homes has on display an intricately created small scale Dutch village. Every aspect has been painstakingly constructed and painted giving a wonderful overview of this imagined village.

In the next home is a large store that is filled to the brim with Dutch items. Need some wooden clogs, delftware, or treats to eat- they got you covered. They have a large collection of the beautiful Delftware that is so famous in the Netherlands. They also have rows on rows of wooden clogs in every size. They also serve a range of Dutch food items.

Along the street they have an old Dutch mailbox set up for visitors to mail their postcards from after they have gotten them stamped at the post house. The postal service stops here daily to pick up any outgoing mail.

These gardens are not large, but really a charming glimpse into a people who still carry a love of their homeland here by the Great Lakes of the states and it is easy to see why it is such a popular place to visit.

If you have enjoyed this heritage rich place, then you may also be interested in these places:

The Danish Community of Solvang – California

Rock City Gardens – Georgia

New Orleans – Louisiana

Thanks for coming along on this walk through the Windmill Island Gardens. May there always be wind in your sails and clogs on your feet.

24 responses to “Holland’s Windmill Island Gardens {Michigan}”

  1. I so enjoyed this post partly because of my own recent trip to the Netherlands and to the Zaanse Schans windmill village near Amsterdam. How wonderful that Michigan has its own Holland too! Hope you enjoyed a good Independence Day!

    • I thought of you and your trip to Amsterdam as I wandered through these gardens. Although it can’t quite compare to being in the Netherlands, it was a wonderful taste of it 🙂 Thank you, we had a great holiday weekend full of family and fun!

  2. What a cool place Meg. As someone who lived in The Netherlands for five years, I can confirm that there is genuine authenticity to the look and feel of the place. I find myself fascinated by the interior of the De Zwaan windmill, what an incredible structure and surely worth the admission fee alone. All the cutesy details made me smile, especially that excellent letterbox. How lucky Tess is that she gets all these cultural insights from her parents.

    • That’s really kind of you to say. We try to acquaint her with a wide range of experiences and then we see what sticks so to speak. The gardens were really fun and a great way to get a small taste of the Netherlands. The windmill though was absolutely the best part and we went up to each floor multiple times understanding the process they use. Although it did make me all the more desirous to see THE Holland. Thanks for reading Leighton, I hope you have a great week 🙂

  3. This kind of place is always intriguing, where emigrants have headed to a new life in a new world and then set about recreating their old one, or at least a replica thereof. Even, in this case, importing physical constructions to add authenticity. I understand entirely why familiarity is so appealing, but equally find it strange that there is a desire to rebuild your old life. Did you feel that clash when you explored this mini Holland, Meg?

    • I agree with that. It does seem strange to go seeking a new life but not fully invest in that new life while you are still so focused on recreating your old life. But at the same time because so many immigrants were coming to the US they naturally fell in with those that they shared a heritage with because that was the only way to really get established in a new place. I don’t know if you will have time while you’re in California, but you should check out the Danish community of Solvang that is kind of by Santa Barbara. It is another little pocket of people who recreated their homeland here in the states.

    • Sadly no, and I was so disappointed that it didn’t have a giant clog because the gardens would be all the better for it 🙂 It was a good taste of what to look forward to when I make it to the Netherlands.

  4. I love all the bright colors! Having your cards and letters post-marked from “Holland” reminds me of the small Alaska town of North Pole; another fun place to send cards from. Great post and beautiful photos!

  5. I may be biased (because I’m Dutch), but this looks like a fun place to explore. I love that they even created a canal that runs through the gardens. That’s neat that you got to go inside the windmill and learn about how it works.

    • I think you would really enjoy these.gardens, especially because you share that Dutch heritage. They really put their heart into creating a lovely place that reminded them of home. The windmill was our.favorite part. I hope you have a great day 🙂 Meg

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