20 Best Things to Do in Saugatuck, MI

20 Best Things to Do in Saugatuck, MI

Welcome to the hidden gem of the Midwest - Saugatuck, Michigan.

Every corner of this town is brimming with its unique charm, from the picturesque waterfront to vibrant art galleries.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Saugatuck's allure will captivate you.

In this comprehensive guide, we've melded insights from locals and travelers to present you with a mosaic of experiences that define this remarkable place. While we've highlighted some must-visit spots, it's imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Nalani Dunlap, David Galdamez, Lacey Sterling, Georgia Fisher, Stephen Dunning, Jaimie Lott and Jay Pham.

Unwind at Oval Beach

Sunset at Oval Beach
Tim Fuller Photography / Shutterstock.com

I've lived by the shores of Lake Michigan for as long as I can remember, and I must say that the charm of the Oval Beach hasn't faded.

Tucked away in Saugatuck, it's a little paradise for locals and tourists alike.

Whether it's the middle of winter or the height of summer, Oval Beach continues to be a gem in our town.

One thing that sets Oval Beach apart from other beaches is it's gay-friendly.

All year round, folks from diverse backgrounds flock to our beach for swimming, sunbathing, and walking.

Oval Beach isn't just about the shimmering waters and the warm sand under your feet.

It's about the welcoming atmosphere, setting everyone at ease when they step onto the beach.

The beach is a dream come true for nature lovers.

Dunes that look like a master artist has sculpted them border the beach, and a nature area nearby is perfect for a quick hike.

If you're an early bird like me, get there anywhere from 10-11 a.m. on the weekends.

Sailing at Oval Beach
QaoQao4810 / Shutterstock.com

Trust me, the parking fills up pretty fast - a testament to how famous Oval Beach is.

The beach is a treasure chest for rock lovers.

It's a bit rocky in the water rather than sandy, which adds to the charm.

You can spend hours searching for unique stones, each different from the last.

You'll feel like a kid again, rummaging through the water for your treasure.

Even when it's crowded, the beach feels spacious.

There's plenty of waterfront for everyone so that you won't feel cramped even on the busiest days.

And here's a tip - the beach is breathtakingly beautiful at sunset.

You might need to pay a small entrance fee even close to sunset.

But believe me, it's worth every penny when you see the sun dipping into the horizon, leaving behind a sky splashed with pink, orange, and purple hues.

Pay a visit to Oval Beach and understand why it's one of the top 25 beach fronts in the US.

Take a Journey Back in Time at Country Store Antiques

There is something profoundly nostalgic about walking through the doors of Country Store Antiques.

Each item on display is a piece of history that tells a unique story.

The vast array of vintage records is a particular treasure, transporting you back to an era when music was a tactile, physical experience.

Likewise, the store is a labyrinth of yesteryear, with an impressive selection of postcards and antique paper goods meticulously filed away.

The presidential campaign memorabilia is an absolute delight for those keen on American politics.

The collection predominantly showcases items from Republican campaigns; beholding this tactile history of political times gone by is fascinating.

But what truly sets Country Store Antiques apart is the warmth with which each visitor is greeted.

Signs reminding customers of their value, irrespective of their purchasing decisions, replace the usual stern warnings against shoplifting seen in most stores.

This, along with the hand-picked treasures filling every corner, gives the store a unique, friendly atmosphere that makes it a joy to revisit time and time.

Each visit feels like a personal invitation into their world of antiquity, making it a must-see stop during any trip to town.

Go on an Adventure on the Saugatuck Dunes

Have you ever wondered how it feels to ride through the rugged terrain of a dune forest with the wind in your hair while absorbing a wealth of knowledge about nature?

Well, wonder no more. The Saugatuck Dune Rides is a thrilling experience you won't want to miss.

As someone who enjoys this ride repeatedly, I can tell you that every ride comes with its unique experience.

The open-air trucks give you a raw and authentic feel of the off-road trails; the drivers are not just skilled at navigating the terrain.

They're also excellent tour guides.

They highlight the lakeshore dunes, trees, and grasses along the trail, making it an educational experience.

The best part is that there's always something to see regardless of the time of the year you choose to visit.

When I rode the dunes for the first time, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of it all.

As we scaled the peaks and plunged into the valleys, I couldn't help but marvel at the fantastic blend of adventure and tranquillity.

The forest part of the drive is breathtaking and easily my favorite.

There's nothing like the rustling of leaves and the scent of earthy woods to calm your senses after a thrilling ride.

But what has kept me coming back is the admirable conservation effort.

It's one thing to have fun, but it's even better when you know you're partaking in an activity that cares for the environment.

So, if you're looking for an adventure that combines fun, nature, and education, the Saugatuck Dune Rides is where it's at!

Discover Art at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts

There's something magical about the old pie factory turned creative community hub, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

Living in Saugatuck means I've had the privilege of visiting the SCA multiple times, and it's never failed to inspire and entertain me.

I remember the time I attended a performance of the Jersey Boys, and I was utterly blown away by the astounding talent of the cast and the sheer energy of the production.

But it's not just the performances that have me coming back repeatedly. The SCA is a place where art lives and breathes.

The exhibitions are always thought-provoking, showcasing the work of talented artists who offer unique perspectives of the world.

It's hard to ignore the charm of the building itself, a former pie factory that now serves as the perfect backdrop for weddings and other events.

The rain garden is a personal favorite spot of mine - an unexpected oasis that adds to the venue's uniqueness.

Moreover, the SCA also plays a vital role in our community by offering lectures and film screenings, creating a vibrant and culturally rich environment.

It's a place that always offers something new to explore and appreciate.

If you ever find yourself in Saugatuck, I highly recommend taking the time to experience the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

Explore the Tranquility of Tallmadge Woods Nature Preserve

There's nothing quite like starting your day with a trek through the picturesque trails of the Tallmadge Woods Nature Preserve.

Nestled between Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River, this preserve is my serene escape from city life.

My typical adventure starts with a hike from Mt. Baldhead, a short 0.5-mile trip to the trailhead.

As I wander through the forest, I am captivated by the symphony of bird songs echoing amongst the towering tree canopy.

The path is beautifully shaded, providing a cool respite even on the warmest days.

But the real highlight of my trek is the crow's nest. I am rewarded with an unparalleled panoramic view by climbing this unique vantage point.

On one side, the serene expanse of Lake Michigan extends as far as the eye can see, while the winding Kalamazoo River carves its way through lush greenery on the other.

Even in the heart of winter, the preserve doesn’t lose its charm.

I swap my hiking boots for snowshoes, and the forest transforms into a snowy wonderland.

Every crunch underfoot and the crisp winter air make the experience even more magical.

No matter the season, the Tallmadge Woods Nature Preserve never fails to astound me with its natural beauty.

It's an oasis of serenity and a testament to Michigan's breathtaking landscapes.

Experience the Natural Beauty at Mount Baldhead Park

Have you ever climbed 302 stairs just for the thrill of it?

Well, that's precisely what I do every weekend at Mount Baldhead Park.

This forested park offers a unique blend of steep steps leading to the summit and a sandy descent down to the beautiful Oval Beach.

Just imagine I park my car right in front of the stairs, where seating options are conveniently placed.

This is where my journey begins, climbing up the stairs amidst the lush greenery, with the heart-pounding anticipation of the beautiful view at the top.

As I climb, I take breaks, catching my breath and appreciating the surrounding nature.

When I finally reach the summit, I am always rewarded with the most exquisite view of the Kalamazoo River.

On a clear day, you can see people chilling in their boats, fishing by the boardwalk, or having a good time.

The descent is an entirely different experience.

It's a walk down a sandy slope at Oval Beach.

The sand beneath my feet and the cool breeze on my face make this part of my journey incredibly relaxing.

But the park offers more than just the hike.

A historic collection center along the riverside provides insights into how the bald head was earlier.

I usually end my day there, learning more about our local history.

Mount Baldhead Park isn't just a place for nature lovers.

It's a place for everyone.

Whether you prefer a rigorous workout or a relaxing stroll, a day at the beach, or a boating trip on the river, this park has something for everyone.

Take a Stroll Down Butler Street

Shops along Butler Street
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

There's something about Butler Street that makes your heart flutter with joy. It's been my morning walk route for as long as I can remember.

This charming little street in Saugatuck, Michigan, is a feast for the eyes and soul.

Surrounded by small-town charm, it's a bustling hub of unique shops, art galleries, and exquisite eateries, all nestled within beautiful historic buildings.

Every step on Butler Street is a memory in the making.

The pleasant aroma of freshly ground coffee wafting from Uncommon Coffee Roasters is enough to kickstart your day on a high note.

The boutique shops' eclectic mix of antiques and modern wares is a treasure trove for any shopaholic.

I often find myself getting lost in the world of whimsical wind chimes at The Butler Pantry or picking up a unique piece of jewelry at Bauble Bath.

Butler Street is also home to some fantastic art galleries. One of my favorites is the James Brandess Studios & Gallery.

The art pieces here truly depict the charm and beauty of Saugatuck and its surroundings.

And when the hunger pangs kick in after all that exploring and shopping, I head to The Southerner for their mouthwatering fried chicken.

The evening on Butler Street is pure magic.

For instance, the quaint street lights casting a warm glow on the brick pavements, the joyous restaurant laughter, and the soft lapping sounds of the Kalamazoo River nearby make it a picture-perfect setting.

Butler Street's perfect blend of small-town charm and lively ambiance is the heart of Saugatuck that pulses with life and happiness.

So, if you're ever in town, a stroll down Butler Street is a must.

Go Swinging at Ravines Golf Club

If you're ever in Western Michigan, looking for a place to unwind and enjoy a great game of golf, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better option than Ravines Golf Club.

This immaculate course holds an exceptional place in my heart.

There's something magical about driving through the forested course, with its lush green fairways and meticulously maintained greens.

The GPS on the golf carts is pretty nifty, making it easier for even the most directionally challenged among us to navigate the course.

I've also had the pleasure of attending a wedding reception at The Cottage, one of the beautiful venues at the club.

With a capacity of around 110 guests, it provided the perfect intimate setting for this memorable occasion.

The food was sublime, and the service was impeccable.

They took care of everything to the smallest detail, leaving us free to enjoy the celebrations.

But what sets Ravines apart for me is the tranquility it offers.

Whether you're playing a round of golf or celebrating a special event, you are wrapped in this serene environment, a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It's become my go-to spot whenever I need a break or want to entertain guests.

So, if you appreciate a good game of golf in a stunning setting or are looking for an exceptional event venue, I highly recommend Ravines Golf Club.

Discover Art in Unexpected Places at Amazwi Contemporary Art

Who knew you could stumble upon such a treasure trove of artistic brilliance right here in our little town?

One such gem is Amazwi Contemporary Art, a place that never fails to take my breath away each time I walk in.

Greeted by the riotous play of vibrant colors, I find myself pulled in by the various art pieces meticulously displayed around the space.

Each piece is unique; it's as if they're telling their own story. Take the bird statue made from driftwood, for instance.

It is a beautiful representation of nature's ability to create art from anything, even the discarded.

The studio doesn't just stop at home decor pieces. They also offer a wide range of jewelry that is as exquisite as durable.

I remember repurchasing a few pieces in 2021; their quality remains unmatched.

What's more, the variety of price points at Amazwi is commendable.

They've ensured that art is not just a luxury but something everyone can afford.

Now, every corner of my house has a piece from Amazwi, adding a splash of color and a dash of uniqueness.

As for me, Amazwi has now become my go-to place for gifts and home decor items.

The anticipation of what new, delightful piece I might discover on my next visit keeps me returning.

If you are an art enthusiast like me or looking for unique pieces to jazz up your space, I highly recommend visiting Amazwi Contemporary Art.

Enjoy Peaceful Strolls at Coghlin Park

Once the work week wraps up, nothing feels better than taking a slow, leisurely walk through Coghlin Park.

It's the place that makes you feel right at home, no matter how you identify or who you choose to love.

The air of acceptance here is palpable, and the sense of community is fantastic.

Moreover, the park has a calming view of the water, a sight I never tire of.

The ebb and flow of the waves is a gentle reminder of life's rhythm and the natural beauty surrounding us.

It's the ideal spot to clear your mind and find relaxation, especially if you're someone like me who genuinely appreciates being near the water.

What's more, the park's spaciousness never fails to impress.

It's never too crowded, and there are always benches available.

It gives you room to breathe, walk, or enjoy a quiet moment amidst the bustling city life.

And when hunger strikes, you're in luck.

Coghlin Park is conveniently located near some of the best eateries in town.

After a peaceful walk, you can quickly grab a bite and satisfy any shopping cravings.

The landscape is well-maintained and adds another reason why this area is a favorite spot for many.

It's hard to describe how much Coghlin Park means to me.

It's a vibrant community hub that celebrates diversity, a place of peace and tranquility, and a constant reminder of the natural beauty of our town.

Check Out the Saugatuck Chain Ferry

The Saugatuck Chain Ferry is one of those hidden gems that should be on every visitor's must-see list when they come to Saugatuck.

Trust me, the unique charm of a hand-cranked ferry ride across the Kalamazoo River is not something you want to miss, especially if you're planning a day trip to Oval Beach.

Leave your car behind and get a taste of simpler times.

Watching the ferry operators turn a giant wheel to pull us across the 100-yard stretch of water, all for just three bucks, is something out of a storybook.

It's fascinating, fun, and one of the last hand-cranked ferries left in the United States. How's that for a bit of history?

During the summer season, from Memorial Day until Labor Day, the Saugatuck Chain Ferry becomes an indispensable part of our daily routine.

It's the easiest and most scenic way to traverse the river without driving to the nearest bridge.

And the best part? The ferry drops you off just half a mile from Oval Beach.

I have lost count of how often I've enjoyed a leisurely walk along the road, surrounded by wooded dunes and the occasional sighting of deer and wrens.

In Saugatuck, we believe in enjoying life's simple pleasures, and riding the chain ferry is one of them.

It's an exciting throwback to the past that adds character to our town.

Plus, it offers the best views of the river and lets you enjoy the town's beauty in a relaxed, unhurried manner.

So, hop on and join us for a unique Saugatuck experience.

Spend the Day at the Dorr E. Felt Mansion

Exterior of Dorr E. Felt Mansion
rossograph, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One sunny afternoon, I strolled through the sprawling lawns of the Dorr E. Felt Mansion.

The aura of history and elegance radiating from the mansion is truly spellbinding.

For instance, the intricate architecture and lovingly preserved interior make this place a living testament to the past.

Photographers and couples would be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque locale.

I've had the privilege of seeing the mansion come alive during weddings - the library, the beautiful lawn, and every corner of this venue is a photographer's delight.

Even as a local, the beauty of this place never ceases to amaze me.

Speaking of weddings, the team managing the Felt Mansion is simply phenomenal.

On numerous occasions, I've seen them turn wedding dreams into reality with their timely and professional approach.

From planning to execution, their attention to detail and commitment to service are truly unmatched.

If you love a good spooky story like I do, the Felt Mansion has something for you,, too.

The mansion is rumored to be haunted, adding an air of mystery and thrill for visitors. They even host ghost tours, which were quite an experience.

So whether you're planning a big event or just looking for a unique local experience, the Dorr E. Felt Mansion never disappoints.

Unveil History at Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum

Taking a stroll down the heart of our town, I often find myself drawn to the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum.

It's a walk down memory lane, a piece of our collective past captured in artifacts and stories.

Nestled right across Mount Baldhead, the museum's view is breathtaking; the Kalamazoo River flows gently along the beautifully manicured gardens.

Before stepping into the museum, I usually pause to take in the view and the peace it brings.

The museum's new exhibit, "Cold War | Hot Towns," caught my attention this year.

I felt like stepping back into Saugatuck in the 1950s, 60's and 70's.

It's fascinating to see the origins of the radar tower atop Mount Baldhead, a symbol of a time long past.

What makes the museum more engaging are the stories.

Stories of people who lived through the wild weekends that used to shut the town down, stories that make Saugatuck what it is today.

Entirely free of charge, though they welcome donations, this museum is a treasure trove of our town's history.

But it's not just about the past.

This place constantly reminds us how far we've come and where we're headed.

I often spend hours in the museum's fun store, rummaging through a collection of unique items and memorabilia, each telling its own story.

Every visit, I discover something new and fascinating about our town.

So next time you wander around, don't forget to enter the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum.

Discover Serenity at Wade's Bayou Memorial Park

On any given day, you might find me gently pushing my kayak into the calm waters of the Kalamazoo River right here at Wade's Bayou Memorial Park.

The air is filled with the lively chattering of various waterfowl - swans, geese, and sometimes even a brave duck.

One of the best things about living here is watching the seasons change reflected on the water's surface.

Whether it's the vibrant greens of spring bouncing off the ripples or the fiery hues of autumn dancing on the waves, it's a sight that never fails to soothe my soul.

There's something quite magical about this place, something that goes beyond the natural beauty.

It's a living gallery, a haven for local artists to display their outdoor artwork.

Every walk through the park reveals a new masterpiece, each as unique and captivating as the last.

It's a shame, given how much the park has to offer. If only more effort were put into maintaining it, I'm sure more people could share the tranquil beauty I've come to cherish.

Unwind at Douglas Beach Park

It's the place that always feels like a haven - the peaceful retreat that is Douglas Beach Park.

Nestled in the heart of my hometown, it's my go-to spot for a tranquil beach experience.

Arriving at the park, the anticipation of the descent first captures my attention.

The seemingly endless steps, varying in width, length, and steepness, serve as a gateway to the beachfront.

It's a worthy challenge that rewards you with the sight of the gentle waves lapping against the shore and the feeling of soft tan sand cushioning your feet.

The beach park is modest in size, but this quality gives it a sense of seclusion and calm despite the limited parking spaces.

And it's not just the silence that draws me in.

The amenities - bathrooms, picnic tables, and grills - make it a perfect spot for a lazy afternoon of grilling and picnicking.

Once on the beach, the pebbled shoreline calls for a pair of water shoes.

It's a familiar routine - finding the flattest rock and attempting to skip it across the water's surface, only to be defeated by an oncoming wave.

It's a momentary disappointment that's quickly forgotten when you gaze out at the vastness of Lake Michigan, momentarily tricking your mind into thinking you're in some exotic locale.

Even in the peak of summer, the lake can be deceptively cold, but a quick dip of the toe reassures me that it's warmer than it appears.

Splashing in the water and playing beach games, the time slips unnoticed.

Suddenly, the sun dips lower, and it's time to return home.

The ascent up the stairs is a workout, yet a fitting end to a day spent at Douglas Beach Park.

It's a reminder of the journey it takes to reach something beautiful, just like this hidden gem in our town.

Despite the effort, you'll leave with the sound of the waves in your ears, the feel of the sand in your shoes, and a heart full of memories.

Every time I walk into Water Street Gallery, I'm blown away by the beautiful art pieces.

Their passion for art is contagious; they are always eager to share their knowledge with visitors.

Each shopping and buying experience is not just fun but also educational.

The gallery is a treasure trove of creativity, and I find myself always discovering something new with every visit.

It's always a challenge to leave without a new, eye-catching piece to add to my collection.

Whether you're an art enthusiast or a casual visitor, you'll feel comfortable and welcome here.

If you haven't yet, I highly recommend visiting to see what's new at Water Street Gallery this season.

Seeing what new pieces they've added to their collection is always exciting. I am looking forward to seeing you there soon!

Final Thoughts

There's never a dull moment in Saugatuck. Whether you're an art lover, a nature enthusiast, or just looking for a relaxing beach day, this place has it all.

There's something unique and magical about this town that keeps you coming back for more.

Whether you're here for a day, a week, or a lifetime, Saugatuck, Michigan, promises an enriching and delightful experience.

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