Most Unique And Best Places To Watch Summer Sunsets Near Saugatuck, Mi
Have you considered
that if you don’t make waves,
nobody including yourself
will know that you are alive?
~ Theodore Isaac Rubin
Sunsets. This one word evokes perfect summertime memories. Watching the sky transform into a fluid colorful canvas of purples, oranges and reds is sheer bliss. Whether you’re with friends or alone it’s as if time stands still as you reflect on the day’s activities and anticipate the evening’s opportunities. Because we are so far west in the Eastern Time zone, our summer sunsets in Saugatuck are late. The sun lowers into Lake Michigan usually closer to 9:30 p.m. in early summer and evolving to just after 8 p.m. by Labor Day.
“The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.”
~ Pamela Hansford Johnson
But making time to be outdoors during this transitional period is a highlight of many people’s Wickwood Inn stay in Saugatuck. There are as many places to catch the ‘sunset show’ as there are ways to celebrate this special time of day. Most visitors know about our famous Oval Beach. And, it truly is a wonderful place to watch sunsets. But, there are other spots to see this magical time of day. Here are Wickwood Inn’s insider tips for the many favorite places to enjoy and watch sunsets in Saugatuck.
Oval Beach | Popular for all ages, from avid beachgoers laden with chairs and coolers to tourists capturing a glimpse of Lake Michigan sunsets. Located at Perryman Street and Oval Beach Drive. Parking, concessions, handicapped access, playground, restrooms. $8/day.
Insider tips: You can take the Chain Ferry from 528 Water Street and walk half mile to the beach. Just take note the running times of the Ferry before you go. Or, take your phone with you and phone the Interurban, our local transport service, for a ride!
Douglas Beach | The locals’ beach – located off Center Street in Douglas with small, free parking area. Public restrooms. There are benches along the 104 steps down to the lake and spectacular views, especially beautiful sunsets.
Insider tips: Depending on water levels the beach can sometimes be very narrow.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park | The go-to beach for nature lovers, with 13 miles of beach trails ranging from 2.5 to 5.5 miles. Extensive birdwatching and picnic tables.
Insider tips: Reserve the covered picnic shelter (269-637-2788) if you want a wonderful picnic experience for a large group. $9/day non-resident vehicle permit required for park entrance.
Mt. Baldhead Park | Combine a workout with sunset goals from atop “Mt. Baldy” , with its infamous 300 steps leading to a panoramic view that includes Saugatuck village as well as Lake Michigan. There is a bench after each flight of steps, but still expect your quads to be burning after this sunset trek. The view can be somewhat obscured by vegetation if it’s a lush season, but overall folks claim this is one of the best sites for memorable sunsets.
Insider tip: If you want to be on the shoreline or get better views of Lake Michigan you’ll need to descend through the dunes, so wear sneakers or other shoes you don’t mind getting sandy.
Sunset Park | The name itself is a spoiler alert, but experiencing this slice of paradise is well worth a visit during the latter part of the day. Although it does not have beach access, the views over the lake are stupendous. Located at the base of 126th Ave. and Lakeshore Drive on the other side of ‘The Washout’. This free park allows pets and has ample benches and picnic tables to enjoy the view and enjoy some snacks as the day winds to a close.
Insider tips: Parking is free, but there are very limited spots. Come early to find parking (and you can always drop off picnic baskets, etc. closer to the park to avoid a full-on schlep.) Not the best park for children, as there are no climbing structures, etc. ’The Washout’ is a place where Lakeshore Drive collapsed/washed out into Lake Michigan. So, don’t plan on navigating all the way south down Lakeshore Drive… as it dead ends.
Pier Cove Park | This small pretty local park is a great place for wading in the shallow waters and looking for beach glass and smooth pebbles. The beach is small but photo worthy.
Insider tips: Parking is free with very limited spots. Pets are allowed and there are public restrooms. You must be able to climb stairs down and back up.
Laketown Beach | This panoramic park requires a bit of a hike through the dunes and descending to the stairs, but the expansive view makes the effort worthwhile. It’s a free park, but parking is limited so again, early planning is key to making sure you’re there when the sun dips behind the horizon. The park itself, located at the end of 142nd Avenue, is narrow but well worth the effort to get down to the water. And then climbing up a nearby dune is where the real magic of watching sunsets happens.
Insider tips: Stairs!! Accessibility is challenging, so not recommended for strollers or people with mobility issues. Also, avoid big picnics, since everything you pack down also needs to be carried back up the stairs. Make sure you have at least one water bottle available for the climb up. There are public restrooms!
“I was happiest between the waves.”
~ Gertrude Ederle
Kayaking or Stand Up Paddle Boarding | The only thing better than actually being on the water, feeling your body moving with the waves, is being surrounded with a sky show courtesy of Mother Nature. This most intimate way to enjoy an early evening sunset creates a memory that will carry you through next year’s cold and dark February.
Big Lake Outfitters offers kayak and paddle board rentals (as well as motorized boats) to travel along the Kalamazoo River and into Lake Kalamazoo. Velocity Adventure Tours offers lessons, guided tours, SUP and kayak rentals as well as an option for kayak deliveries near Saugatuck, Douglas, Fennville, Hutchins Lake and the Kalamazoo River.
Insider Tips: Few of these self-propelled water crafts have lights on them, so for safety plan on being out of the water well before the sun sets.
Aboard A Historical Vessel | Enjoy some history with your sunset experience with a ride aboard Saugatuck’s Chain Ferry or The Star II paddleboat. The more formal sunset paddleboat tour includes narration and a snack bar, while the casual chain ferry, in operation since 1838, carries passengers from downtown to Oval Beach, where the west facing beach is the perfect stage for sunset.
Although the chain ferry ride itself is short (about 250 feet) it does eliminate the need to walk all the way around to the beach from downtown. And the casual “schedule” (It arrives on one side, waits 10 minutes and departs for the next side) makes an outing along the only chain-driven ferry in the country a pleasure.
The larger sternwheeler journey goes onto Lake Michigan (weather permitting) and is a more formal setting, but the sunset cruise is sure to delight with new perspectives along the water.
Insider tips: Don’t sit too close to the chain ferry operator: an air horn is blasted to announce when the boat is crossing the river. The chain ferry stops operating a half hour before official sunset. If views are important there is an opportunity to reserve an upper deck seating option on the Star of Saugatuck II sunset cruise for an additional $5/ticket.