Saugatuck, Michigan offers a post-card perfect fall getaway

Art Weber

        It’s time to think about fall travel. 
        Most of us don’t have weeks to travel – more likely long weekends better fit the schedule. You’ve got others to think about, too. Different interests, different priorities.
        And maybe someplace really different would be great.
        You should consider Saugatuck, Michigan.
        Nestled on the southwest coast of Michigan, the well-heeled artist community is just a couple of postcard-perfect, grass-covered sand dunes away from the deep, blue waters of Lake Michigan.
        It’s refreshingly different – varied, quiet, yet offering a variety of venues. And it’s not that far away.
        Saugatuck checks a lot of boxes.
        The list of things to do includes enjoying one of America’s best beaches, dune rides, art galleries galore, charter fishing, dock fishing, boat rentals, wineries, breweries, golf, nature trails, theater, performances, sailboat or paddlewheeler cruises, unique shopping, nature preserves, wildlife, workshops, and more.
        All in a community of 865 people.
        “We’re not generic,” local sculptor Marcia Perry said. “That’s our trump card.”
        Saugatuck and its sister city, Douglas, across the Kalamazoo River are old – old as in quaint, historic, cool. No box stores, no chain restaurants.
        Shops, inns, and restaurants are smaller and personal, concentrating quality and service while overlooking a beautiful river and landscape. Riverside shops and inns crowd up to busy docks where personal boats and charter boats sortie in and out of slips, typically returning from the lake with nice catches of salmon and whatever else is biting in the great lake.
        Downtown streets and neighborhoods are for strolling and biking as much as for cars.
        It’s a town with a genuinely fierce sense of pride in where it’s been.
        There’s no more demonstrative evidence of that community pride than in their homegrown parades. Stay any length of time in Saugatuck and there’s a good chance you’ll see one. No big-city style floats. It’s veterans leading the way, carrying the flag past onlookers not embarrassed to stand and clap and cheer. Before it’s over, pretty much every manner of small-town transportation passes review.
        “We have parades for about everything here,” said the woman running the register at Pumpernickels, a local eatery steeped in atmosphere. Parades mark the summer holidays, Halloween, even the day the town’s traffic light changes from blinking to red-yellow-green.
        “And then, in the fall, we have another parade when it changes back to a blinking light,” said Perry.
        Blinking or not, it’s a short drive through that light, across the bridge and on to the shore of Lake Michigan at Oval Beach, consistently ranked as one of the very best beaches in North America. Yeah, it’s that good. That beautiful.
        “When I’m on the dunes, feeling the whole power of that landscape, I feel a direct relationship with nature,” Perry said. “You can get lost there. “It’s spiritual.”
        That may just be why Midwest Living named Saugatuck “Best Beach Town 2021.”
        Getting there
        Saugatuck/Douglas is a year-round tourist destination located on Lake Michigan, 200 miles from Toledo, less than four hours via the Ohio Turnpike, I-69, I-96, and local routes. For more information visit the Saugatuck/Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau at


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