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Tucked into the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan's shores, Saugatuck and its twin city Douglas, just across the Kalamazoo River, enjoy stunning views, wide beaches, and a thriving culture. A 19th-century art colony, Saugatuck sets itself apart from other resort towns with its gallery-lined streets and laid-back, creative vibe. An appreciation of natural beauty will serve you well here, too, especially if you’re looking out over the lake from the top of Mount Baldhead, enjoying the panoramic sunset from one of the many beaches, or watching boats sail in and out of Saugatuck Harbor. In fact, this sense of the sublime seeps into all parts of life in Saugatuck, boosting its beloved wine, cider, and beer industries and fostering a renowned locavore food scene. For almost a half-century, the city's resorts, bars, and art galleries have welcomed a thriving LGBT community, and the town is sometimes called the Provincetown of the Midwest.
Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), in Grand Rapids, is the closest airport to Saugatuck. Located less than an hour away, it serves major cities around the country. Saugatuck is also within striking distance from Chicago (2.5 hours) and Detroit (3 hours), both of which have big airports that receive international flights. Amtrak trains connect nearby Holland (a 15-minute drive from Saugatuck) to Grand Rapids and Chicago. Once in town, a car is unnecessary. Rideshares are readily available and the local bus is on-demand: You simply call for a ride, and it takes you anywhere within the coverage area.
Saugatuck is at its best in summer, when warm, sunny days are tempered by lakeside breezes, and the evenings are cool and comfortable. It’s a time to soak in the sunshine, work up a sweat on nearby hiking trails, and cool off in the delightful blue waterways. The high season brings out boats, al fresco dining, and live music, showing off the town's best features. While the crisp fall days and variable spring weather make swimming less appealing, they do attract hikers, bikers, and gallery-goers to enjoy the area without the beach crowds. As in much of Michigan, the cold and snowy winters turn the nearby trails into a winter paradise for cross-country skiers, while others find a cozy retreat in the newly quiet town.
Running 2.5 miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline, this 1,000-acre park stretches across rolling hills and coastal dunes, some as high as 200 feet tall. Beachgoers can hightail it straight to the sandy shore, but hikers — and, in winter, cross-country skiers — are keen to explore the park's small but impressive network of trails, keeping an eye out for migrating hawks, ducks, and shorebirds.
One of Saugatuck's many beaches, Oval earns worldwide renown for its setting against the high coastal dunes. Sailboats dot the water lapping the scenic shoreline, and the separation from the town gives the illusion of seclusion without the inconvenience. During the day, sunbathers and families gather here, enjoying the ample facilities and popular concession stand.
This piece of history still serves as an important part of Saugatuck's transportation infrastructure: the nation's last chain-driven ferry still in regular use. Built in 1838, the ferry crosses the 250-foot-wide Kalamazoo River, transporting riders from downtown to Oval Beach. The ferry is driven by an operator who turns a crank to pull the boat along the chain that crosses the water.