Day-tripping to sumptuous Saugatuck

Distance to Saugatuck: 38 min (39.8 mi) via I-196 W
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Oval Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan, June 2023. Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo.

Saugatuck is one of those communities that in the dead of winter seems a million miles away. Probably because we visit in the summer time, which makes the association all the more distant. In fact, it’s a mere 40 minutes down the freeway. Not a bad jaunt considering that upon arrival we are transported to another community completely and one that is renowned for its splendor. According to MTV, Saugatuck contains one of the top five beaches in the U.S. It’s also recognized as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 25 Beaches in the World” and is rated among National Geographic and Traveler’s top freshwater beaches in the U.S.

Why? The twelve miles of sugar sand shoreline, from Oval Beach to Saugatuck Dunes State Park Beach. Personally, I find the drive to and from Oval Beach to be a little risky. I once spent what seemed like an entire day in a traffic jam trying to get there and when I did, it rained. On the other hand, the beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park is quite a hike from the parking lot, but in my opinion well worth it.

Saugatuck is very often referred to as Saugatuck-Douglas because the two municipalities are so close they are considered by most inhabitants as being part of the same overall community, a dual hub of activity and excitement.

Though its high-end shopping district offers clothing and wares that are a little on the pricey side, if you’re the type of person who likes to keep up with new trends, you’ll likely find them on a trip to Saugatuck-Douglas.

The Coastal Society, a combination shop, eatery and craft cocktail bar in Douglas, Michigan. Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo.

Take, for example, Coastal Society, one of several unique shops you’ll find nestled in between fantastic restaurants throughout the two-city mini-opolis. Located in downtown Douglas, Michigan, this combination restaurant/boutique offers an experience like no other. Family and pet friendly, it’s a perfect way to spend part of your day– sipping Rose’ or a craft cocktail while you shop for West Coast inspired merchandise. The property features two large patios and lush gardens from which mixologists pick fresh herbs for house made spirit infusions. Whether it’s the outdoor space you love or the indoor dining room, Coastal Society is a great place for gatherings, live music and experiencing coastal vibes.

Fried chicken at The Southerner. Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo.

Many great food and beverage options abound in Saugatuck-Douglas– the Southerner, Farmhouse Deli, and Coast 236 are but a few of the quaint places where tasty meals can be procured. Because I am a creature of habit, I generally stop at Coral Gables, an old hotel located at 220 Water Street. Built in 1906, the historic building houses three restaurants, four bars, a beach bar plus boat, paddleboard, kayak and jet ski rentals. It’s located right on the waterfront, with deck seating overlooking 15 rental boat slips for anyone wishing to arrive via vessel.

Saugatuck-Douglas also has a vibrant arts scene. The Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck offers world-class, live chamber music concerts all summer long at various locations. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts serves as a venue for local and touring theatrical productions.

“Kinky Boots,” is currently playing and will run through July 16. Based on a true story, this play features music by eighties pop star Cyndi Lauper. Aug. 11 – Sept. 3, “Jersey Boys,” which depicts the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, will grace the SCA stage. The Tony and Grammy award-winning musical features songs like “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You,” and many other recognizable chart-topping tunes. Find out more here.

The annual Venetian Festival is one of the highlights of summer. This year, the fun begins on Friday, July 28 at Coghlin Park (located at the corner of Culver and Griffith streets). Food trucks will be on site starting at 6 p.m. Eighties band Starfarm starts playing at 7:15. The band’s playlist includes fun favorites like “Baby Got Back,” “Centerfold,” “Brass in Pocket,” “Tainted Love” and “Walking on Sunshine.” Check them out at starfarmband.com.

On Saturday, July 29 after dark, a dazzling parade of illuminated boats compete for trophies and cash prizes. For more information on the Venetian Festival, visit saugatuckvenetianfest.com.

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