Outdoors In West Michigan’s Premier Resort Town
“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
~ Amelia Earhart
Saugatuck’s Oval Beach And Other Outdoors Wonders
No matter when you visit Saugatuck, outdoors adventures await. Explore on two feet or two wheels. You’re sure to find beauty everywhere as you tour on land … or on water. Enjoy a casual walk along Oval Beach, Saugatuck’s award winning beach on Lake Michigan. Up the intensity level with a rigorous hike, or a run, through the Saugatuck Dunes State Park or Mt. Baldhead. Breathtaking views will be your reward. Set out on the Kalamazoo River in a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board. Get out in the Big Lake in a sailboat or fishing charter. Take in the greens and hit 9 or 18 at The Ravines, Clearbrook, or Hawkshead. Try an outdoors yoga class or Stand Up Paddleboard yoga with Satya.
No matter what season you visit Saugatuck, there’s plenty to love. In the Winter months, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing and see all that sparkles.
We’ve created a getaway guide with some local favorites, suggested stops and insider secrets to help you love life like a local. Use our tips as you will, but let your imagination be your guide!
Who Knew Staying Fit Could Be So Much Fun?
Ask people who live in Saugatuck/Douglas what first drew them to this area — and eventually made them decide to call these villages “home”. You’ll hear lots of answers: the welcoming people and relaxed vibe; the small town charm with its year round sizzle; its emphasis on the arts, quality public schools, burgeoning economic opportunities, gay-friendly atmosphere . . . all good reasons to put down roots. However, if you listen long enough, we guarantee everyone you ask will say something about the unsurpassed beauty of this place. It’s the towering dunes, the winding Kalamazoo River or the unspoiled coastline of Lake Michigan with its singing sands. It’s the untrammeled beauty of the villages’ opportunities for biking and hiking. It’s simply not hard to find motivation for getting outdoors and enjoying a little exercise.
No matter the season, there are always plenty of things to do in Saugatuck and endless opportunities to enjoy Mother Nature. Enjoy a laid back stroll along Oval Beach or the more rigorous climb up Mt. Baldhead. Take a stunning hike through the Saugatuck Dunes State Park’s extensive network of trails. Exploring our villages on two feet is a great way to go.
Of course, there’s always the option for exploration on two wheels. Whether you arrive with a bike of your own or rent one once you’re, it’s easy to glide back and forth between the towns — and along the lakeshore — to take in all the action. Leave the car behind and simply bike your way to dinner or a show. Map out a gallery tour and set out for a ride. Or, loop your way further out into the countryside where farm stands, orchards, vineyards, and artist studios provide excellent opportunities for respite.
The waterways of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan provide the perfect combination for all water activities. Paddle through town in a kayak or try out your balancing act on a stand up paddleboard. Cast a line and see what’s jumping on the Big Lake or see the sunset from a sailboat.
If you’re lucky enough to visit when the white stuff is around, set out on snow shoes or cross country skis and find out why the locals especially love it here this time of year.
Even when the weather won’t cooperate for your outdoor plans, get your fitness fix at Blue Star Community Gym or Snap Fitness. Afterward, walk-in for some stretching, strengthening and relaxation that comes with one of the many classes offered at our downtown yoga studio, Satya.
1. Arrive in Saugatuck | Get Out On The Bike & Explore
If you didn’t travel with your own bikes, head directly to Just Add Water on the corner of Center and Ferry to rent. As you pedal your way around both towns, notice the galleries, shops, bars and restaurants you want to visit during your weekend getaway. If at any point you’re craving a coffee to keep you going, try Uncommon Coffee on Hoffman Street in Saugatuck . . . or, if a beer is more what you’re after, Wally’s, Phil’s and Sand Bar Saloon are downtown as well.
2. Check In at Wickwood
Arriving anywhere by bike always feels better, but the simplicity of wheeling up to Wickwood Inn is truly a delight. Your free-flowing ride around town has already taken away much of your work-week stress, but now the warmth of your welcome at Wickwood melts away any lingering layers of tension. The rich chocolate brown and camel decor of your chosen room, Uptown, provides the perfect balance of tranquility and energy for your outdoor enthusiast weekend away.
3. Lots of Exercise Works Well With Your Love For Food | Time For Sips & Small Plates
Your commitment to staying healthy extends to your eating habits. You love eating ingredients that come from area farms and not from a can. The lavish array of food before you looks heavenly! It’s obvious that everything has been made from scratch. Simple, great ingredients that shine and burst with flavor. Plus, the portions are just right, so you can taste many of the Flatbreads, Dips, Crostini, Meats and Cheeses and still have room for a sip of Soup and taste of complimentary wine. You decide the Yellow and Red Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta with Buratta is your favorite . . . but there’s also that amazing Spiced Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower . . . everything is so yummy!
4. Make It A Marquee Night | Will You See The Green Flash?
It’s not far from Wickwood to the Marquee Spot in Downtown Saugatuck, Phil’s Bar & Grille. Hop on the bikes for a quick ride. Buzzing with energy from locals and tourists alike, this full-service bar provides more than standard bar food. The Broasted Chicken, served with potato wedges and slaw, is the house favorite for a reason, but don’t be afraid to branch out. Try the Tasso Pizza or Adobo Rubbed Ahi Tuna for starters. We’re a bit nutty for the Nutty Salad, and the half order is plenty if you’re ordering a main course. We recommend the Portobello Sandwich, Fish Tacos or the Blackened Burger from the sandwich menu, or the Scallop Pad Thai (equally delicious prepared vegetarian), Walleye, or the Ribs from the entree menu. Have fun with the crayons at your table, and the animal crackers that come with your check do just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Thankfully, the big clock at the end of the bar is set about 15 minutes ahead. You really do still have time to catch the sunset on your bikes! Wind your way back over the bridge, out to Lakeshore Drive, to see what magic awaits. If the magnificent display of color calls for greater pause, take the flight of stairs down to Douglas Beach to sink your toes in the sand and take it all in. Something special about the sunsets here . . . oftentimes the best colors emerge after the sun disappears at the horizon, so don’t leave too quickly. And, there’s ALWAYS hope you’ll get to experience a Green Flash Night. Yes, we know . . . we used to be skeptics ourselves!
5. Make the Switch from 2 Wheels to 4 | Revel in Relaxation
You hate to call it a night, but you want to feel fresh for tomorrow’s activities. An early evening may be best. Plus, you really can’t wait to sink into the coziness of your room. Time to return the bikes and hop back in the car. The private parking lot at Wickwood makes parking in town a breeze. You make a mental note of yet another great perk that comes with staying here: complimentary private parking. Plus, there’s the bountiful assortment of teas, juices, and other beverages available. After all that biking, you delight in the late night sweets. The dark chocolate almond bark has just the right blend of sweet, salt and crunch. You sip tea, snack, and select a book from the Inn’s library. You remember people talking about “the difference of life at Wickwood” on Trip Advisor. Now, you understand.
6. Mt. Baldhead Climb & Trail
You read about the 15K run that happens here in the fall: The Mt. Baldhead Challenge. The race course winds its way through town and across trails, but the truly unique portion of the run is the flight of 302 stairs that each runner has to tackle. That’s what you’re out to tackle yourself . . . the stairs.
Park at the base of the stairs and begin your ascent. Try running up them if you like, but few competitors actually manage the entire staircase at that pace. The multiple landings help, and the benches sure do look tempting! Be sure and turn around every so often to begin realizing the view. Once at the top, catch your breath while admiring the breathtaking views.
From here, head off the deck and follow the trail that leads to the left. The “blowout” area in the sand dune provides an ideal spot to snap a photo of Lake Michigan. Following the trail, wind your way down the dune watching for deer, birds and other wildlife. Make your way via the road back to the parking lot where you began.
7. You’ve Worked Up an Appetite | Gourmet Champagne Brunch is Ready
You loved last night’s Sips & Small Plates. Now, you’re excited for Wickwood’s Signature amenity: brunch. The Watermelon, Honey and Mint Salad tastes great with a glass of Champagne. Your amazed at the light texture of the Zucchini Frittata with Goat Cheese and Tomato Salsa. The Blueberry Bread Pudding with Spicy Blueberry Sauce is super tasty. You can’t resist a small slice of Glazed Lemon Cake.
8. The Perfect Workout No Matter Your Mood | Hit The Mat Or The Gym
Take a short stroll across Butler Street to Satya Yoga and walk in to the Slow Flow Alignment Class. What a welcoming studio! You are offered a mat and props to use at no additional cost, and it’s clear the instructor is knowledgeable enough to challenge experienced yogis, while making sure that people new to yoga also enjoy the practice. What a special space.
Or, if you feel more like hitting the free weights, using some weight machines, or concentrating on your cardio, Blue Star Community Gym and Snap Fitness are each a short drive down the Blue Star Highway north of town. It is so easy to walk in and get a good workout.
9. Enjoy the Endorphins | Make the Most of the After Workout Glow
After an excellent start to your day, it’s time to reward yourself with a leisurely stroll around town and some lunch. Enjoy the unique shops, galleries, and boutiques throughout downtown Saugatuck (you’ll definitely want time in Landshark’s, on the corner of Butler and Hoffman, because they carry a great selection of clothing, shoes and accessories for active people!)
Weather permitting, grab lunch at Lucy’s Little Kitchen, just across from the Chain Ferry. This outdoor eatery embodies vacation and showcases Chef Matt Balmer’s (of Everyday People Cafe) freshest ideas. The Zero Proof Juice Bar is not to be missed, and the Caprese Salad and Tuna Nachos are special.
If Lucy’s isn’t an option, head to The Southerner … the great views of the river and their commitment to the best ingredients makes this causal Saugatuck eatery a real treat. Or, try Hercules Bar & Grill on Culver Street. The Herculean Salad and Hummus make us happy every time.
10. Our Favorite Vantage Point | Saugatuck From The Water
Enjoy the boats as you walk down Water Street to Big Lake Outfitters, your headquarters for outdoor adventures. You now have another decision to make: kayak or stand up paddleboard? If you kayak, will it be two singles or a tandem? No matter what you choose, the next 4 hours are going to be memorable. Your Kalamazoo River adventure awaits. In summer, be sure and paddle your way to Red Dock Cafe and hop onto the dock for a glass of Sangria or a Red Stripe.
11. What Will Be On The Table Tonight? | Sips & Small Plates
You could get used to this level of pampering! Tonight, you try the Gazpacho with some Dijon Mustard Breadsticks. The Olives, Salumi, Chutney and Triple Creme Cheese make up a perfect first plate. Next up, some Garlic Shrimp & Carb with Scallions and a piece of Margherita Flatbread. Every bite bursts with flavor and has you wanting more.
12. Downtown Douglas For Dinner | Everyday People Cafe
Take a leisurely stroll across the bridge to neighboring Douglas for dinner. Watch for Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles along the way. Stop at Petter Wine Gallery, just across the bridge, on your left, to pause and taste some amazing wines. In this swank setting, you can choose a 2, 4 or 6 oz pour of the evening’s special offerings. Browse the retail selection and the fine art while you’re there.
Continue walking into downtown Douglas (the signs make it easy) and put your name on the list at Everyday People Cafe (EPC). While you wait for your table, stop in at some of the shops and galleries along Center Street. When you get back to EPC, order a drink from the bar if there’s time. Enjoy the friendly cheer that permeates this place. If it’s your first visit, don’t worry, the warmth of the crowd will have you feeling like a local in not time.
Start with a Tapas Plate (plenty to share!) or the Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese. Soup or salad (both are excellent!) comes with your entree, so enjoy the leisurely pace of your meal. Try the Ahi Tuna of the Fresh Catch if you’re in the mood for fish, but you may also want to consider the Gorgonzola Pork Chop or the Penne Pesto (not many other dishes can make the claim of being on the menu from the beginning!).
13. Oh What A Night | Make Your Way Back to Wickwood
Enjoy your moonlit stroll back to Wickwood. The fresh air invigorates you, and this last stretch of your legs provides time to reflect on all you have experienced today. You can’t believe you have to leave tomorrow! But don’t think about that yet . . . there are still great times ahead . . .
14. Take Advantage Of Early Bird Rates | It’s Time For 9 Holes Of Golf
Whether you opted for The Ravines Golf Club (designed by Arnold Palmer) or Clearbrook Golf Club (given 4 1/2 stars from Golf Digest), enjoy a picturesque start to your day. The fact that there are two golf courses of this caliber in such a small town pleases you immensely. Next trip, you promise you’ll make time to play 18.
15. Tomorrow Morning . . . You’re Going To Miss This | Gourmet Brunch
It’s amazing. This dedicated staff makes everything seem so effortless. The Bismarcks with Mixed Berries and Lemon Curd Cream taste like nothing you’ve ever had. You taste your way through the Fruit Salads, Strata, and Sweets. The locally roasted Simpatico Coffee is perfect with all.
16. Hike at Saugatuck Dunes State Park | Park In Shore Acres Lot
Before arriving at the actual State Park, there will be a parking lot off to your left for Shore Acres Park and the Felt Mansion. This parking lot is free, regardless if you have your Michigan State Parks pass. Grab your trail map and decide the distance you want to go: take the South Trail Loop for a 5.5 mile hike, or ease up and take the Livingston Trail for a 2. 5 mile walk. Both provide excellent views of Lake Michigan and beach access.
Enjoy the ever-changing terrain and this portion of the world’s largest assemblage of freshwater dunes. Watch for scarlet tanagers, pileated woodpeckers, golden eagles, and more.
17. And When It’s Time To Leave You Hate To Go | Check Out From Wickwood
You hate to say goodbye to Wickwood . . . and their amazing staff. How do the innkeepers here know exactly when you need help . . . without ever intruding? The pampering continues as they suggest you make use of their off-street parking lot for the remainder of your time in town. You can’t wait to tell your friends about Wickwood, and you’re already comprising the online review in your head.
18. Pack A Picnic From Farm House| Luxuriate On The Lake
Conveniently located on Blue Star Highway, just across Center, take a right turn into Farm House. This hot spot is one of the new foodie delights in town! Here, you’ll find everything you need for your picnic lunch: artisanal cheeses, specialty sodas, freshly prepared salads straight from the farm, cookies and scones (both savory and sweet!) and much more. They even have the perfect basket if you’re in need.
You’re now ready for your final activity. Charter fishing? Renting a pontoon boat? How about a jet ski? Or, perhaps the wind is right to take you away on a sailboat? There’s also the option of a Scooter. And those new CraigCats do look intriguing!
Clearly, a weekend spent here is not enough time. And you can’t resist thinking about everything you’ll do here in the Winter. Snow shoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating, oh my!
19. Linger as Long You Like | You Almost Hate To Head For Home
Your outdoor adventure getaway weekend could not have been better. All the amazing photos you’ve taken don’t even begin to capture the beauty! Wickwood Inn provided you the perfect place to rest and reconnect. Thank goodness they are open year round because your next activity list is ready!