What to do in Saugatuck Michigan!
In case you missed it over on Instagram, Adam and I went on a quick weekend getaway to Saugatuck for our 1 year anniversary earlier this month. We had heard it was a cute midwestern town to visit, but both of us were totally blown away by how much we fell in love with it during our short time there. It may be a small town, but it is beyond charming. So if you were one of the people in my DMs asking for a full guide about what to do in Saugatuck Michigan – this post is for YOU!
Someone responded to one of my stories saying that Saugatuck looked like a midwest Stars Hollow and I don’t disagree – I kept joking that I was in a Hallmark movie the whole time we were there. It is absolutely beautiful, whether you’re walking along the water or down Butler Street.
There are tons of adorable local shops, great restaurants, breweries and wineries, hikes, and beaches. It’s also known as the Art Coast of Michigan thanks to it’s thriving art scene. We saw a musical cabaret at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts and perused multiple art galleries while we were there. How cool is that?!
On top of all of that, I absolutely LOVE that Saugatuck and Douglas are the most gay-friendly small towns in Michigan. I actually didn’t know this before we arrived, but as soon as we pulled in to town, Adam noticed a rainbow crosswalk. Then the piano player at the cabaret we saw talked a bit about how special this place means to him – and after that, we started noticing pride flags everywhere.
It turns out that Saugatuck/Douglas residents have welcomed LGBTQ visitors with open arms for decades. According to the LGBTQ page on their website, they are “proud of our reputation as a place where people from all walks of life can come and find themselves simply by being who they are.” Just as it should be ❤️
Where is Saugatuck?
Saugatuck, Michigan is on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago, depending on traffic. If you’re familiar with other parts of Michigan, it is 12 miles south of Holland and 45 miles west of Grand Rapids.
What To Do In Saugatuck Michigan
Get coffee at Uncommon Coffee Roasters
So many people told me to go to Uncommon, and it really lived up to the hype! It’s located right in the center of town and the coffee was amazing. I got The Mitten crafted cold brew (barrel aged nitro, cinnamon, maple) and it was delicious. Big fan!
Cross the river on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry
This chain driven ferry has been in use since 1838, and it’s the only remaining one in the whole country! It has 3 pullies that keep it in line as the operator uses the crank to get it across the Kalamazoo River. This is the easiest way to get over to Oval Beach or Mount Baldhead Park, too!
Hike up Mount Baldhead Steps
Mount Baldhead Park has a 1 mile loop trail that starts with a climb up 302 steps to Mount Baldhead. It is quite a workout, but the view of the river and Saugatuck from the top is beautiful. From there, you can keep going down a sandy path that takes you to Oval Beach. We opted out of continuing on because, while the walk down looked fine, we knew we would have to hike back up – and hiking uphill on sand is tough 😉 Plus, we were short on time and wanted to cram more exploring in. If you have tons of free time, I hear it’s great though!
Go to Oval Beach
If you don’t want to do the full hike to Oval Beach, don’t worry – you can also walk along Perryman Street after getting off the ferry (what we should have done instead of the steps 😂) or you can drive there. Oval Beach is the main beach in town with a sweeping shoreline and rolling dunes.
Try Ciders at Virtue Cider
I’ve been a fan of Virtue Cider for a while now, so I was SO excited to go to Virtue Farms and it did NOT disappoint. In case you’re not familiar with them, Virtue makes delicious ciders on their 48 acre farm in Fennville, about 15 minutes from Saugatuck. They have tons of outdoor seating on site where you can order a wide selection of ciders – a lot of which aren’t available in Chicago! Adam and I both got one of their flights so we could try 6 different kinds. Our favorite was pear – which luckily is sold at some smaller stores in Chicago! Wahoooo!
Go to other breweries and wineries
Along with Virtue, we also went to The Mitten Brewing Co which is located right in the heart of downtown Saugatuck. It’s a vintage baseball-themed microbrewery which sounded right up Adam’s alley – and we both really enjoyed it! Adam tried their Peanuts and Cracker Jack, described as a “peanut butter porter”… and it really did taste like peanut butter!
If we had more time, I’ve also heard wonderful things about Saugatuck Brewing Company, Guardian Brewing Company, Modales, and Waypost Brewery.
Peruse the Art Galleries
They don’t call it the Art Coast of Michigan for nothing!! J.Petter Galleries came most highly recommended so we prioritized going there, and we were so impressed. We really took our time looking at the wide variety of fine art. They also have a Wine Gallery that I want to go back to!
In addition to J.Petter Galleries, I’ve also heard wonderful things about Armstrong De Graaf (contemporary art), Amazwi Art Gallery (African art), and Button Gallery (an eclectic mix of artists).
Go Shopping Downtown
Shortly after looking at some gorgeous art outside of our price range, we stumbled into Saugatuck Gallery and purchased a beautiful painting for 50% off. (Tip: Their sign says “going out for business” not “going out of business” 😂) We also loved window shopping at Puddingstone, Landsharks, and The Christmas Shop!
Rent a Retro Boat
When I discovered Retro Boat Rentals, it was only a few days before our trip and they only had their pink boat available. Was it fate?! Maybe!! We kept laughing at how funny it was that tall Adam was driving a small pink boat, but it was such a cool experience. We went right at the end of the day, so it was really romantic to cruise along the river while watching the sun set over the water. Swoooon! You don’t need a boating license, but you only go about 3 mph and they give you a tutorial before you go. Highly recommend!
Get tickets to Saugatuck Center for the Arts
If there is a show at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts when you’re there, grab some tickets! We saw a cabaret-style show with 2 wonderful singers and it was such a treat!
Dance to live music at Wally’s
After the show, we were walking back to our bed and breakfast looking for a place to get a nightcap, when we heard a band. We turned the corner and saw a crowd at Wally’s Bar & Grille, so we decided to go check it out. Fast forward about an hour and we were dancing and singing along with the locals, a few drinks deep. SO FUN!
Treat yourself to ice cream
We went to Charlie’s Round The Corner Ice Cream on our way back from the show (before we danced at Wally’s) and were blown away by their huge assortment of flavors. Just be aware that they give HUGE portions!
Get a pie at Crane’s Pie Pantry
We ran out of time to really explore Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant and Winery, but we did make sure we made time to stop buy to pick up a pie on our way back to the city and now we can confirm that they are INCREDIBLE. 10/10 recommend the apple crisp. WOWZA.
Restaurants To Try In Saugatuck
Since this was a quick weekend, and we ate at our Bed & Breakfast and Virtue Cider, I don’t have a huge list of my own suggestions. That being said, I got a ton of recommendations before we went, so I’m including those below for you, too!
Pennyroyal Cafe & Provisions
Pennyroyal Cafe is a popular restaurant by Chef Melissa Corey (Chopped winner!). We only had time to go for breakfast, but the Harvest Muffin was legitimately the best muffin I’ve ever had in my life. It has apples and carrots and zucchini… OMG. Based on that, I’m already dying to go back and try their dinner menu next time!
Mermaid is waterfront bar and grill specializing in seafood. We sat outside overlooking the docks on the river and enjoyed coconut shrimp, mussels, and an amazing piece of fresh walleye. So good!
Phil’s Bar & Grille
Phil’s Bar & Grille is a staple for the locals in Saugatuck. They’re known for their Broasted Chicken, but they have a pretty expansive menu beyond that. We especially loved their Perch dinner.
Before going over to Phil’s we tried to get in to The Southerner but the wait was really long – although Phil’s had a long wait too, so the joke was on us 😂. That being said, we have heard wonderful things about this restaurant from Chef Matt Millar (James Beard Finalist) so it’s definitely on my must list for next time!
Grow Cafe + Bistro / The TRAP
Another must for next time is Grow Cafe + Bistro and the TRAP, both owned by a husband and wife team. Grow Cafe serves American contemporary brunch and lunch during the day, and the TRAP is a Middle Eastern inspired evening bistro next door.
Farmhouse is a farm-to-table deli that uses locally sourced ingredients. This was a highly recommended place to pick up sandwiches before going to the beach!
Coast 236 serves “coastal-inspired fare infused with unexpected detail.” A friend of mine told me that it is really creative and delicious, almost like a Chicago restaurant but at a way better price 😉 We didn’t have time to go here, but after hearing that review and looking at their menu, I have a feeling I would LOVE it!
If you’re looking for upscale bar food with a beautiful view of the river, check out The BARge!
Everyday People Cafe
Everyday People Cafe, located in Douglas, has a menu of small plates/tapas with seasonal outdoor seating and live jazz music on some nights!
Wine lover? Check out Borrowed Time for unique wine and chef driven small plates.
Bowdies Chophouse is the place to go for a steak dinner in Saugatuck – and I’ve heard the potatoes are not to be missed!
Where We Stayed Saugatuck
Judson Health Colonial Inn
Of course, there are other lovely places to stay in Saugatuck – but we stayed at Judson Health Colonial Inn and LOVED IT. First of all, the location couldn’t be better. It’s located right on Butler Street, so you can walk to everything located downtown. When we pulled up to the gorgeous white house, we were greeted by one of the Innkeepers and their dog, Jimmy. We offered us wine (for me) and local beer (for Adam) and we sat and chatted about the town, his recommendations, and their inn. While it was originally built in 1837, they recently renovated it to incorporate modern amenities, while still maintaining it’s history and charm.
In addition to the location, charm, and our beautiful room, we especially loved the breakfast they prepared for us on the front deck. It started with homemade lemon poppyseed bread and ended with a spinach omelet with latkes and fresh tender salmon. I still can’t get over how good it was! If you’re looking for a place to stay during your next visit, I highly recommend checking their availability. You won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to Saugatuck? Let me know if I left anything out in the comments!
PS. You might also like My Hill House Nap Dress Review!