Located along the Lake Michigan shore, Saugatuck charms its visitors with beautiful beaches, sand dunes, and an adorable waterfront downtown of boutique shops, local restaurants, and art galleries. It is a destination for art lovers, foodies, boaters, and anyone easily delighted by the quaintness of a small beach town.
Originally posted after a day trip to Saugatuck in July 2015, this post has been updated in August 2019. This post also contains some affiliate links. When you click on one of these links to book your lodging or make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Of course, this is at no extra cost to you, and I only recommend products and lodging I have or would use myself.
Known for its inns and bed and breakfasts, such as the Judson Heath Colonial Inn and Belvedere Inn & Restaurant, this lakeside West Michigan town is a serene setting for a weekend getaway. Coming from the Detroit or Chicago area, Saugatuck is a 2-3 hour drive. Located about 40 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, it’s an ideal day trip destination for locals and visitors of Michigan’s second largest city. During my first day trip, I discovered the following four fun ways to spend a day in Saugatuck.
Drink Craft Beer At Saugatuck Brewing Company
It was lunch time as I arrived in Saugatuck, and I remembered that Saugatuck has a brewery. Conveniently located on Blue Star Highway, the main road off of I-196, Saugatuck Brewing Co. was pretty easy to find. If you happen to miss the sign, just look for the huge antique store that shares the parking lot. The brewery has an outdoor patio — perfect for sipping craft beer under an umbrella on a warm day.
After tasting an IPA and realizing it was too early in the day for all the hops, I decided a lighter beer was in order. The Oval Beach Blonde, named after one of the local beaches, hit the spot. It was light, crisp, and refreshing. Aptly named, it’s the kind of beer you’d drink on a beach. One of my favorite beers is SBC’s Blueberry Maple Stout, which tastes like blueberry pancakes in a pint glass. Other notable beers to taste here include the Neapolitan Milk Stout, Peanut Butter Porter, Cotton Mouth Quencher (the fruit changes each year), and any of their bourbon barrel aged brews.
SBC’s menu features some intriguing dishes. I’d love to go back to try the brie fondue appetizer, a jumbo Bavarian pretzel served with beer cheese made with the brewery’s Pailed It!, and the grilled steak and artichoke salad. The menu features a variety of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and pub fare like fish & chips. Doesn’t it all sound delicious?
The bowl of tasty roasted red pepper Gorgonzola bisque I ate was filling. I’m so glad the day I wound up in Saugatuck was cool for July — only reaching the high 60s — so I could enjoy this soup. The menu features a signature Chicken Lemon Rice soup as well as a soup of the day. If you love soup as much as I do, then I highly recommend adding a cup to your meal. I know I will when I visit again.
Hike To Lake Michigan At Saugatuck Dunes State Park
After that delicious lunch, it was time for a workout. I thought I might cycle along a local bike trail. If you are interested in biking, you could park your car at the state park and pick up the Holland Metro Trail, which connects Saugatuck Dunes State Park and the Village of Saugatuck to Holland, Zeeland, and 200 miles of trail to explore.
Once I got to the park, I decided to forgo my biking plan to hike to the beach instead. The beach trail is just under a mile from the parking lot to the shore. Looking at the route on my MapMyFitness app, I noticed the trail took me up and down in elevation. It wasn’t a strenuous trail, but do not go into the trek to the beach thinking it will be a flat cakewalk, especially if you are carrying a beach bag and/or cooler. The reward for your effort getting there: Upon arriving at the beach, you can run down a mini dune straight into Lake Michigan.
The beach wasn’t crowded when I visited. So, I had a peaceful walk along the shore. Then I spent some time relaxing atop a small dune, looking out to the Great Lake.
During my hike back to the parking lot, I passed by the park’s disc golf course. I also spotted the Felt Mansion, a sprawling 1920s summer house turned Catholic prep school turned Michigan State Police office. Now it’s primarily a wedding venue and private event space. However, the Felt Estate is also open for self-guided public tours Sunday through Wednesday during the summer. Please refer to the Felt Estate website for current tour offerings, hours, and admission prices.
Michigan requires the Recreation Passport to visit state parks. For Michigan residents, you can pay $11 for it when you renew your vehicle registration, or you can go to a Secretary of State’s office to add it. If you don’t have one when you arrive to a state park, you can purchase one for an additional $5 convenience fee. Out of state visitors can purchase an annual Recreation Passport for $33 online, or both the annual and $9 daily pass are available to purchase at the state parks.
Shop The Artsy Saugatuck Business District
At this point, I thought I’d drive through Saugatuck’s downtown to scope it out for future day trips or a weekend getaway. People were strolling from art gallery to boutique shop to local bar and grill to their sailboats docked at the marina. Cars were parked in every spot along every street. In a word, Saugatuck was bustling. Yet also quaint and charming.
I lucked into a fantastic parking spot right in front of the above mural at the waterfront Wicks Park. Then I set off on foot to explore Saugatuck’s downtown shopping and dining.
Wandering around Saugatuck’s business district, I enjoyed a refreshing mango papaya sorbet from Saugatuck Tea Company Café as I strolled the waterfront. I watched sailboats head out to Kalamazoo Lake, and kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders were making their way down the Kalamazoo River. I spoke with a local artist who creates brightly colored ceramic pieces for sale at his downtown gallery. I found another ornament to decorate my travel-themed Christmas tree at Tuck’s The Christmas Shop. Basically, I was just trying to find any way I could to justify staying in town for dinner.
Eat Pizza At Scooter’s Cafe & Pizzeria
After dining at Scooter’s Pizza, I’m so pleased I stayed in Saugatuck for dinner. Driving into town earlier, I had noticed this pizzeria where folks were dining outside. Though Saugatuck was getting busy around dinnertime, this casual pizza parlor didn’t have a wait for a table. If you have a taste for pizza and want fast service, I’d recommend walking a few blocks from the bulk of Saugatuck’s shops to Scooter’s. It’s a pretty casual eatery, and the pizza was scrumptious.
The vegetarian pizza I ordered was topped with artichoke hearts, tomato, green pepper, mushrooms, and feta cheese. Plus mozzarella cheese was melted over the toppings. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious this pizza was. The menu features 11 specialty pizzas, create-your-own hand-tossed pies, salads, subs, wraps, sandwiches and a selection of other entrees and appetizers.
Three other things I liked about Scooter’s: 1. My server was super friendly. 2. The cafe uses Square for payment, so your receipt is conveniently emailed to you. 3. The restaurant offers take out and delivery. Keep that in mind if you need some pizza delivered to your B&B during your getaway since I know you now want to visit Saugatuck, too!
Where To Stay When Visiting Saugatuck
Planning to stay in the Saugatuck, Douglas, and Fennville area overnight or for a weekend getaway? Here are my recommendations for where to stay:
The Amble Inn
The Amble Inn is a rustically charming log-cabin bed & breakfast in Fennville, just south of Douglas and only a minute drive from Saugatuck Brewing Company. Offering five guest rooms, the Amble Inn is quiet and cozy — perfect for a relaxing escape from the city. Despite its vintage motor-lodge feel, the B&B offers modern amenities in each room including a coffeemaker, mini fridge, microwave, and flatscreen TV with cable. When I was hosted by owners Jeff and Anne in June 2018, I loved sitting on my private patio and eating Jeff’s savory breakfast, served at 9 a.m. each morning in the barn.
The Amble Inn is located at 2790 Blue Star Highway, just off of Exit 36 on I-196. To make reservations, call 269-455-5566 and mention you heard about them on The Epicurean Traveler.
Want more information? Check out other visitors’ reviews on TripAdvisor! The Amble Inn has a 5.0 rating as of August 2019.
The Kirby is a four-star boutique hotel in a 1890s Victorian house in Douglas. Ideal for a romantic getaway, the Kirby also offers a fantastic restaurant with alfresco dining and a beautiful wrap-around porch. Rated 4.5 by TripAdvisor users, former guests have raved about the service, friendly staff, and delicious meals at J. Paul’s Dining Room. I had the pleasure of dining there in June 2018, and the food, wine, ambiance, and service were all top notch.
The Kirby is located at 294 West Center Street in Douglas. You can make reservations by calling 269-857-5472, and let them know you learned about the Kirby on The Epicurean Traveler.
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What are your favorite things to do in Saugatuck?