Saugatuck Michigan Explored: Plan Your Trip
We’ve got a confession to make: we’re in LOVE with Saugatuck, MI.
With windswept, sandy bluffs overlooking an ever-changing and always beautiful Lake Michigan, who can blame us?
Saugatuck and neighboring Douglas are friendly spots, and the beautiful settings in these west Michigan beach towns seem to keep everyone in a perpetually good mood.
Whether it’s the amazing art scene, the award-winning beaches, or the endless opportunities for outdoor activities, Saugatuck puts a smile on our face every time you visit.
You’re Going to Want to Visit Saugatuck…
Saugatuck, MI is one of those places you have to see for yourself: make a quick turn off the scenic Blue Star Highway and suddenly you’re in the middle of one of the most charming spots in Michigan.
If you’re seeking the perfect vacation spot that combines beautiful beaches and art galleries and a perpetually fun beach town atmosphere, Saugatuck and neighboring Douglas, MI are two spots you need to check out.
We like these spots, tucked away in quiet Allegan County in southwest Michigan, for a day trip, weekend getaway, or a longer vacation (you can check out our post on the best places to stay in Saugatuck, complete with map, here).
Whether you’re looking for an upscale getaway or budget travel; whether you’re a married couple with kids or single and ready to mingle, you’ll find it in Saugatuck.
We’re sharing our favorite things about Saugatuck, as well as a Saugatuck beach map with our favorite beaches in the area below.
Read on to discover WHY we consider Saugatuck, Michigan, one of the top beach towns in Michigan.
Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
Oh, did we forget to mention wine tasting?
Saugatuck is located on the smack-dab in the middle of the southwest Michigan wine trail, and those primo grapes are made into some very delicious wines, which you can sample at local wineries. You can read more about Michigan wineries in our Ultimate Guide to Michigan wineries.
Why Visit Saugatuck and Douglas?
For decades, visitors from Michigan, Chicago and beyond have traveled to this tiny spot; a perfect spot for family vacations or a weekend getaway cozily tucked away off the Blue Star Hwy and surrounded by sandy dunes and blue waterways.
Sandwiched between some of Lake Michigan’s most popular tourist spots: St. Joseph and Grand Haven, Saugatuck more than holds its own when it comes to beautiful beaches.
This must-visit spot is home to so many unique features, from world-renowned beaches to a top-rated arts community to acclaimed restaurants and wineries, that it’s hard to know here to begin identifying them all.
This is Midwest living – and vacationing- at its best.
About Saugatuck and Douglas
Saugatuck and Douglas just may be the best little beach towns in the country, and they take that role seriously, attracting visitors from across the globe.
Both downtown historic districts are quaint and charming, a mix of respected art galleries, fine dining and shops.
Douglas is located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River, a stunning natural setting with opportunities for kayaker and paddleboarders.
Saugatuck, in the sandy dunes along the Lake Michigan coast, is equally charming and offers never-ending outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, beaching, dune buggy-riding and much more.
From dining al fresco and enjoying a craft beverage on Butler Street (the main street in Saugatuck city), to going back-in-time at the Saugatuck Douglas historical museum to simply relaxing on a bench in Coghlin Park and watching the boats in Saugatuck Harbor, there really is something for everyone in Saugatuck and Douglas.
Exploring Saugatuck and Douglas: Twin Cities
We’ll start by telling you that Saugatuck and Douglas, “twin’’ cities separated from each other by the Kalamazoo River, are some of Michigan’s most popular destinations for travelers, with good reason.
It’s inviting spot: along with never-ending Lake Michigan beaches, there’s charming and artsy downtowns lined with unique shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries.
Both comfortable and high-end accommodations abound, offering visitors an opportunity to explore this beautiful area set on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River.
It’s also home to some of the prettiest natural beaches, including world-renowned Oval Beach, acclaimed as one of the best beaches in the world by Conde Nast Traveler.
Saugatuck is known for…
- Home to stunning Oval Beach, with an impressive pedigree of awards from such noted media outlets as Condé Nast Traveler, who named it one of the “Top 25 Beaches in the World” and National Geographic Traveler, who dubbed it a “Top Freshwater Beach in the US”… truly one of the prettiest beaches in the state
- Named one of the “Top Five Art Towns in America,” this vibrant arts community supports and appreciates the arts by bringing revolving exhibits, live concerts, and showings of independent films to both Saugatuck and nearby Douglas Michigan
- The quaint, historic downtown shopping district featuring shops, galleries, restaurants and boutiques that swells with visitors during the summer and fall months
- The towering freshwater coastal dunes of Saugatuck State Park, with a sweeping Lake Michigan shoreline and sandy dunes over 200 feet tall
- The Saugatuck Chain Ferry, the only remaining chain-driven ferry in the country.
Saugatuck, MI Weather
Saugatuck, MI weather is typical Michigan: cold and snowy in the winter and delightfully warm in the summer.
Expect temperatures to range from 70 F to 80 F during the day from June-September. During the summer months, mornings and evenings may be cooler; typically lower 70 – 60 F.
Lake Michigan Sunsets in Saugatuck
The flaming sun sinking into Lake Michigan on a clear evening from a Saugatuck beach is a beautiful sight, and Saugatuck’s wide-open beaches are a perfect spot to watch the show.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of the dunes, watching the brilliant sunset send orange and yellow light beams across Lake Michigan is truly memory-making.
Grab a towel or blanket and head for the beach in the early evenings and enjoy.
Saugatuck Beaches and Parks: Best Michigan Beaches
Use the Saugatuck Beach Map
Some of the best beaches in the country can be found in Allegan County, Michigan, home of the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas as well as Saugatuck township. Saugatuck’s amazing Lake Michigan coastline includes many parks and public beaches, some secluded and others brimming with activity.
Use the Interactive Saugatuck Beach Map above to find your perfect Michigan beach.
The Best Beaches in Saugatuck, MI
Beach, Swimming, Restrooms, *Steep stairs
Beach, Swimming, Dunes, *VERY long staircase
Beach, Swimming, ADA and Wheelchair Accessible *Voted one of Conde Nast Traveler’s “TOP Freshwater Beaches,” Restrooms, Concessions
Pier Cove Beach
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Beach, Swimming, Restrooms, *Long hike to beach ( .6 miles)
West Side County Park
Beach, Swimming, Restrooms, Pavilions, Playgrounds, Picnic Areas
ADA and Wheelchair-Accessible Beaches in Saugatuck, MI
Discover Oval Beach: Voted Prettiest Beach in the World
Beautiful Oval Beach has a wooden walkway at the north end of the beach that extends to the shoreline, and restroom facilities are ADA-accessible as well.
With its low bluffs that lead down to a wide, soft beach stretch into a crystal clear Lake Michigan, Oval Beach lends a subtle feeling of privacy- even on a crowded day.
Dog-Friendly Beaches in Saugatuck, MI
None of the beaches in Saugatuck allow dogs, however, some nearby beaches in South Haven and Grand Haven do allow dogs.
The closest dog-friendly beaches to Saugatuck are located in South Haven and include:
- Deerlick Creek Beach
LEASHED DOGS ALLOWED ON BEACH
- Hagar Shores Roadside Park
LEASHED DOGS ALLOWED ON BEACH
Downtown Saugatuck Shopping
Historic downtown Saugatuck Michigan, with its myriad upscale boutiques offering everything from the latest in pet wear to high performance sporting goods, centers around Butler St.
It offers a fun resort feel, complete with fudge and ice cream shops, charming eateries and coffee shops, and spots for sampling local wines and craft beer, Michigan summertime staples.
Lovely Village Square Park, also downtown is a beautiful spot to relax and take in the sights.
New is the Saugatuck Social District along the riverfront shopping district from early April through the end of May.
The new social district allows visitors to enjoy food, drink, and safe socialization outdoors during the pandemic in an effort to boost traffic to businesses and restaurants.
There are 20 eligible restaurants, bars, and breweries within the boundaries of the downtown social district.
The nearby town of Douglas is an upscale art enclave with gourmet restaurants and galleries, with art shows and not-to-be-missed performances by local and national artists.
Saugatuck, MI Restaurants
Both spots are a haven for foodies: you’ll find a mix of top-rated farm-to-table restaurants; cafes offering the latest small plates and everything from fine dining to home cooked meals…all delicious.
Try these spots to eat in Saugatuck and Douglas:
- Bowdie’s Chophouse
- Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery
- Pennyroyal Cafe and Provisions
- Respite Cappuccino Court
- Wicks Park
- Wild Dog Grille
Saugatuck, MI Breweries
Saugatuck, MI has a growing craft-beer scene. Try these four breweries for beer and cider:
- Mitten Brewing Company
- Saugatuck Brewing Company
- Virtue Cider
- Waypost Brewing Co.
Saugatuck, MI Wineries
Contenders for the title of best beach towns in the country, big on outdoors activity, Saugatuck, Douglas, and neighboring Fennville are also known for fabulous restaurants and wineries, and are part of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail.
The fertile coastal lands of southwest Michigan equal excellent growing conditions for grapes and other fruits and vegetables, and the wines produced in this area are among some of the best in Michigan.
CHECK OUT OUR GUIDE TO SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN WINERIES HERE
More Things to Do in Saugatuck-Douglas
Ox-Box School of Art
There’s a reason this area is called the “art coast of Michigan,” and a lot of it has to do with the Ox-Bow School of Art, an artists colony founded in 1908. It’s still thriving, and the art scene in Saugatuck is growing quickly.
An extension of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, they offer for-credit classes as well as fellowships and residencies for practicing artists of all media.
Ox-Bow is a vital part of the art coast, bringing workshops and performances to the area throughout the year.
Visit Mt. Baldhead Park and climb the stairs to take in the scenic views of Saugatuck and the Kalamazoo River. Part hill and part sand dune, Mt. Baldhead is worth the climb.
Take a Cooking Class
As a foodie haven, the restaurants in the Saugatuck and Douglas area take their commitment to good food one step further: some offer coking classes to help patrons learn how to prepare their favorite dishes.
You can also visit Lulu Cadieux, a lifestyle boutique and cooking school.
Explore the Saugatuck Dunes
With more than 2.5 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Saugatuck Dunes State Park encompasses 1,000 acres of freshwater dunes, some reaching 200 feet.
Saugatuck Dune Rides are practically a rite of passage for anyone on a Saugatuck vacation.
If you get enjoy your ride, you can also check out Silver Lake Sand Dunes, a couple of hours north.
Visit the Saugatuck Douglas History Center
Located at the foot of Mt. Baldhead, this tiny museum is one of the most visited in Michigan, bringing thousands of visitors annually to see exhibits celebrating the rich history of the west Michigan area.
Ride the Saugatuck Chain Ferry over Kalamazoo Lake
This fun, must be seen-to-be-believed ferry has been transporting visitors across Kalamazoo Lake since 1838.
For almost 200 years, this historic ferry has been bringing visitors into the city of Saugatuck atop a hand-propelled ferry.
Boat rentals are also available in the area so you can explore the area from the water.
Where to Stay in Saugatuck MI
If you’re looking for hotels in Saugatuck, you won’t have to look too far to find clean and comfortable accommodations.
The charming Saugatuck and Douglas areas are the perfect setting for accommodations including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts (including the Hotel Saugatuck – perfect for a romantic getaway), and quaint inns.
You may have heard of the Wickwood Inn, a luxurious spot in downtown Saugatuck owned by Silver Palate Cookbook author Julee Rosso.
In addition to this lovely spot, there are many other lodging options for visitors to the Saugatuck area.
Lake Michigan Beach Vacation Rentals
Travelers to Saugatuck will find a wide variety of Saugatuck vacation rentals in the form of homes and cabins available.
In addition, many homes and cabins in the town of Saugatuck and the surrounding area are also available for vacation rentals.
Options for private Michigan beach vacation rentals range from large, sumptuous lakefront homes to smaller, family-friendly homes and cabins.
If you plan on renting a vacation home in Saugatuck, try these rental property sites: