Saugatuck Michigan: 7 Can’t Miss Places in Best Coastal Small Town
The city of Saugatuck is a great gem for anyone who has ever visited the small town located on Lake Michigan. At the time of writing, Saugatuck was in first place in a nationwide poll from USA Today looking for the “Best Coastal Small Town”. If Saugatuck wins, it will be unique as the city was the only city of the 20 finalists that gets its coast from a lake, instead of the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, or Gulf of Mexico for the others. With the city about to see another boost in tourism, we thought it was worth noting some popular and favorite places visitors should seek out on a trip to Saugatuck.
The city of Saugatuck has a small population. Back in 2010, the population stood at 925, with only 34% of the population under the age of 45. The city is a hot bed for retirees, summer vacationers, and cultured individuals with its close proximity to Chicago (140 miles) and focus on the arts. More than two million people visit the area each year, a figure that is likely to increase with the latest award.
Oval Beach and Mount Baldhead
A visit to Saugatuck is not complete or even started without a trip to Oval Beach, an award winning area that has helped put the city on the map. Oval Beach has made top ten lists from Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, and MTV. Recently, Oval Beach was named the number one beach in the Midwest by the Chicago Tribune.
Overlooking Oval Beach is Mount Baldhead, offering one of the greatest views in the state. Visitors are tasked with climbing up 302 steps to get to the top, but the view is definitely worth it. For those looking to really take on the steps, the Mount Baldhead Challenge offers a 15k and 5k race in September that includes the climb up the stairs.
Check out the views of the dunes and beach during the winter in one of our recent photo galleries.
Saugatuck Brewing Company
This brewery in the Saugatuck area was profiled already here by my brother. Saugatuck Brewing Company offers 16 rotating beers every day. Beers currently featured are Neapolitan Milk Stout, Singapore IPA, and the appropriately named Oval Beach Blonde.
One of the unique things from Saugatuck Brewing Company that could be worth a visit for beer lovers is the company’s Brew Your Own Beer program. For around $275, visitors can brew their own beer that will be bottled in up to 75 22oz bottles. The cost covers materials and base ingredients. Saugatuck Brewing Company is the only microbrewery in Michigan to feature a brew on premise system.
Saugatuck Antique Pavilion
Located next to the Saugatuck Brewing Company is this unique antique shop. The large 24,000 square foot building offers access to antiques from more than 175 dealers. The building offers “high ceilings and wide aisles”. The store is open 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm. With its connection to the brewery, the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion offers a great way to enjoy the best beer from the region and enjoy the shopping that has made the city famous. For more shopping options check out this local guide.
Along with the Saugatuck Brewing Company brewery, Saugatuck has a big craft cider company. Virtue was founded by Gregory Hall, one of the innovators in the craft beer market. Hall was the brewmaster of Goose Island Beer Company (now a part of Anheuser-Busch) from 1991 to 2011. One cider offered at Virtue is called “The Mitten”, which we can’t wait to try. Virtue Farms opens May 1st to visitors who want to see the farm and try the craft ciders.
Star of Saugatuck
One of the most well known items from Saugatuck is the Star of Saugatuck, or in this case Star of Saugatuck II. The original Star of Saugatuck boat started taking passengers on the Kalamazoo River back in 1978. The newest version of the boat started in 2000 and now holds a capacity for 150 passengers (70 on lower deck, 80 on upper deck).
Boat rides offer live narration, which points out local landmarks and points of interest. Beginning May 2nd, guests can ride the boat to see stunning views of the Kalamazoo River and the local wildlife. Tickets are $19 for adults, $8.50 for children aged 6-12, $5.50 for children aged 3-5, and free for those 2 and under. Food and alcohol is available for purchase on the boat with cash. Customers buying boat tickets with cash also receive a slight discount. Boat rides last around an hour and a half. Large groups can rent out one level of the boat or the entire boat.
Saugatuck Chain Ferry
The Saugatuck Chain Ferry is one of the oldest visitor destinations for visitors to the area. This popular boat has been in use since 1838. The boat claims to be the only remaining chain driven ferry in the United States. A quick five minute ride on the ferry takes visitors from one side of the Kalamazoo River to the other. The boat was originally used to transport horses across the river, but now is a novelty way for visitors to see attractions and experience this unique only in Saugatuck item. Rides cost $1 to get to the other side. The ferry runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year.
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Arts continue to be a focus for the city as in its early history the Art Institute of Chicago established a summer school in the area years ago. Visitors to Saugatuck can tour the Center for the Arts for free and see a number of exhibits throughout the year. The building also hosts concerts and film presentations for additional fees each year. Current exhibits for 2015 include “Treasured Technique: Japanese Mezzotint Masters” running April 10th through May 29th and “A Wise Perspective” running June 12th through September 4th.
If you’ve never been to the small town of Saugatuck, you’re missing out. The city has a nice small town feel, but also has plenty of stores for tourists to get excited about. The city offers amazing views of Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River. There’s something here for everyone and the city is well deserving of the national attention it receives.