My favorite things to do in Saugatuck, MI
Last week, I spent a few days on vacation in Saugatuck, Michigan, which was delightful! Since I also spent time in Saugatuck last summer and really loved it, I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite things to do there!
Where to stay
We stayed at “the Cottage on the Hill” last year, which I loved. It’s a 2-minute drive from downtown and a 10-minute drive from Oval Beach, but the real selling point is the lovely enclosed porch, which overlooks a big fenced-in backyard.
It wasn’t available this year, so we rented “Sunshine Cottage” instead. Sunshine Cottage is a very short walk from downtown, which was super convenient — we could walk home from dinner or from the house to an ice cream shop for a scoop of Mackinac Island Fudge in about five minutes. It also has a white kitchen with a sizable island that, when combined with the right linen shirt, makes you feel like a low-budget Nancy Meyers heroine.
I’m torn about which house I liked better; last year’s was bigger and comfier and cuter, but it’s a tiny bit further from downtown, and the roads you’d take into town are a bit less walkable. Sunshine Cottage is smaller and had some minor quirks (that definitely weren’t dealbreakers), but is still nice/cozy/clean/convenient. I’d recommend either one!
What to do
Oval Beach, on Lake Michigan, is my favorite thing about Saugatuck. It’s been rated one of the best beaches in the world (!!) by several different publications. It’s a fairly small beach but it’s never too crowded, even when it’s busy.
The sand is very soft and the water sometimes glitters in the sunlight. (By the way, the water in July 2018 was very cold, but it was perfect this time around.)
Retro Boat Rentals
Retro Boat Rentals is a very cute family-run place. You take your rental out on the Kalamazoo River for 90 minutes, where you get to see local wildlife (last year, we saw an eagle catch a fish; this year there were a lot of baby ducks) and all of the mansions that line the water. It’s a great way to spend a morning!
Since our trip last summer, they’ve added a bunch of outdoor seating and a kitchen/bar, so after our boat ride, we sat outside and had beers and snacks and a truly lovely time!
They also have these donut-type boats that look really fun (though, FYI, alcohol isn’t allowed on any of the boats).
The downtown Saugatuck area has lots of little shops, and you can easily visit most/all of them in an afternoon. I don’t think any of the shops stands out as, like, The One You Must Visit, but spending some time tooling around to all the different ones is definitely worth it!
There are a ton of other things to do in Douglas and Fennville (including wineries and antique stores and galleries), but because we haven’t had a ton of time there/have spent a lot of our time at the beach, I can’t speak to those!
You also don’t have to do much of anything, really! Saugatuck is so gentle and cozy, and is kind of built for easy bonding — you can make friendship bracelets, play games, or do puzzles, and not feel like you’re missing out.
Where to eat and drink
Saugatuck has a lot of restaurants, and I’m hoping to spend a full week there next year so I can check out more of them! (The Southerner is at the top of my list for the next trip.) But here are some of the places we’ve gone and liked:
Mitten Brewing Company
Mitten Brewing Company makes truly excellent pizza — we went there twice last year because it was so good. Their outdoor seating area is incredibly cute, but you can also get your pizza to go, and then eat it in the little park across the street, which is right on the river.
Uncommon Coffee Roasters
After Googling coffee shops in Saugatuck, I was drawn to this one because their Instagram is extremely gay. And I’m happy to report that the entire place is extremely gay! Overall, it feels like the best coffee shop in a college town — homey, earthy, vaguely alt. It has a huge wraparound porch and a beautiful backyard. There’s also a guy who does chair massages in the backyard area and only charges $1 a minute, which is a pretty fantastic deal.
This place sits behind the Ship-n-Shore hotel, so it’s not actually visible from the street. But it’s right on the water (you can see it in this photo) and the upper level offers a pretty great view. When we went for dinner, there was a live music act that was actually pretty good.
The Dunes bills itself as “the Midwest’s premier LGBTQ resort.” The website and even the interior make it seem, like, clubby(ish), but when we were there for karaoke night and it was incredibly…gentle and chill? We heard a lot of Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and the Beatles. (And also everyone who sang was pretty good?) But next to the TV displaying the karaoke lyrics for songs like “When I’m 64,” there was a second TV playing, like, a super-cut of random foreplay scenes from gay male porn, which was…quite a juxtaposition! Also, the customers that night were *literally* all men and it felt like a very gay male space in general, so that’s something to be aware of!
Speaking of LGBTQ experiences, there were a lot of Pride flags flying in Saugatuck, and I remember noticing last year in the big Saugatuck brochure/magazine that there were a lot of subtle (and not-so-subtle) cues that Saugatuck is queer-friendly. So that’s nice! That said, we definitely saw way more Pride flags than people of color in Saugatuck.
Oh, also! I spotted McLeod Farms peaches at the Holland Meijer, where they cost $1.29/lb. So if you live in Michigan, you should definitely look for them the next time you’re at Meijer. ✨