Michigan is a popular place for tourists, especially in the Midwest. The state offers a lot of greenery and many fresh water beaches for Midwesterners who are looking for a vacation not too far from home. One gem of Michigan, which ranges from completely unknown to some and very well-known to others, is the twin city duo of Saugatuck and Douglas. Located right off of Lake Michigan’s eastern coast, these small cities have much to boast about, no matter what kind of traveler and vacationer you are.
From art to delicious food, from beaches to quaint and quiet coffee shops for curling up with a book, Saugatuck and Douglas offer the entire package of vacationing, all wrapped up in the cuteness and welcoming feelings of their towns. Whether you’re driving down Center Street in Douglas or either Water or Main Street of Saugatuck, both towns instantly feel like you could settle into them for a long stint of relaxation and entertainment. Now, I have to completely honest: I am very biased when writing about this town. While other towns and cities I have written about I have only been to for a few days, these Saugatuck and Douglas were, and still are, a huge part of my life. I spent many summers getting ice cream at Charlie’s in Saugatuck and paddle boarding down the Kalamazoo River and many winters sledding down the snow-covered dunes with my cousins and admiring the festive lights making the cities glow during the holidays.
Now that you know my bias towards the loveliness of these towns, you can probably sense my knowledge of the town. I have given much advice about traveling in my past posts, but I cannot emphasize enough how great Saugatuck and Douglas are. Detailed below, I list out some of my favorite things to do and check out in these towns, all of which are a mix of popular and less-known attractions. For more general guidance, be sure to walk the main streets of each town, check out the many different shops, and go on a dune ride!
Oval Beach: This beach is located right off the dunes in Saugatuck. To get there, you must drive (or walk/climb if you’re truly adventurous) up a long and winding road. At the top, a sudden and beautiful scene Lake Michigan comes into view. In the summer, visitors must pay per car to access the beach, but it is very worth the money. Not only is the beach a lively and clean one, but the money also helps support the beach and the town as a whole. There are even bathrooms, a concession stand, and a park so that your beach getaway can last the entire day. In the off seasons, the beach is usually open for free and is a prime spot to watch the sunset.
Charlie’s Ice Cream: Located in downtown Saugatuck, this ice cream shop is one of the best in either town, which is saying a lot since there are many to choose from. Charlie’s offers classic, scooped ice cream in multiple different kinds of cones or a cup. Try out their Blue Moon, Superman, and Chocolate Peanut Butter (which aptly actually has peanut butter, not peanuts, like other brands try to get away with).
Ida Red’s: This small, cottage-style restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch only. They are well-known to both locals and most experienced visitors, so get there early or be ready to wait. If you’re in town during an off-season time, you may be able to get away with sleeping in and arriving around brunch time and only having to wait a bit of time. Everything at Ida Red’s is good, but pay special attention to their omelets, their whole-grain pancakes (which are so good they don’t even need syrup or butter on them) and their muffins which are homemade daily.
Chain Ferry: Located in downtown Saugatuck, the chain ferry operates during the warmer times of the year and takes passengers across the Kalamazoo River, just for a small fee. The chain ferry, aptly named, is operated by a chained that is cranked by the operator, pulling the entire vessel across, along with its passengers.
Star of Saugatuck: Also located in Saugatuck, this giant paddle boat takes passengers for a ride on the river out to Lake Michigan. It is a beautiful ride, especially in the summer, and they even offer ones around the time of a sunset. This is the only view that might beat the Oval Beach view of the sunset.
Mount Baldhead: This attraction is made up of about 300 steps to the top of a small mountain (or a large hill). If you’re looking for a workout and an amazing (not to mention free) overview of the city, this is the attraction for you.
There are many, many other options of things to do and see in these towns. Check out their newspaper, The Commercial Record, and always remember that art is a big deal in these towns, too. So be sure to look into exhibits, museums, and shops.