We just got home from a week of fun, sun, and little relaxation (because, kids) in Saugatuck, MI. If you have never heard of or been to Saugatuck, I promise you are not alone. It is a little slice of heaven along the coast of lake Michigan, just a few hours Northeast of Chicago (or a three hour drive from our house). Saugatuck boasts beautiful sand dunes and beaches, an active art scene and promotes and open minded culture – rainbow flags adorn many buildings as a symbol of love and acceptance.
We traveled with Nick’s family and our group was made up of 8 adults and 9 kids, so we booked a home using the VRBO application. The home was near town and the lake (right off of Lakeshore Dr.) and was large enough to fit us all comfortable, but I don’t have much else great to say about it so I will leave it at that! That being said, we still had a wonderful time and highly recommend adding Saugatuck to your bucket list. Below are some of the details of our stay.
Oval Beach was just about 2 miles away from our rental and was a great beach for the kids. For a $10 fee you can park and stay all day. Behind the parking lot are some small dunes perfect for exploring and the sandy beach leads out to beautiful Lake Michigan. The beach is clean and family-friendly but put on your brave face before entering the water, because it is COLD even in the summer.
We visited Oval Beach two times during our stay, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and had zero trouble finding a spot to plop down our chairs and umbrella. The kids loved playing in the sand (we even built a sand mermaid) and jumping the waves.
Thank goodness I packed my running shoes because this excursion is one I am STILL feeling in my legs (or maybe that’s because I started running again after 8 days off). Mount Baldhead offers scenic trails, sandy dunes and 302-step wooden staircase that leads to a summit where you can take in the beautiful view of Saugatuck and Lake Michigan.
Trekking up those stairs was rough, especially because I was carrying a 28 lb. two-year-old 3/4 of the way, but I didn’t mind because I knew it was likely the only exercise I would get all week.
The village of Saugatuck is a tiny little tucked away artsy town. It has art shops/dealers on nearly every corner along with great restaurants. Downtown was bustling with visitors and residents from dusk until dawn. There are souvenir shops galore, numerous ice cream shops and boutiques ranging from trendy to hippy.
This gem of a restaurant bar is perfect if you have a big group and/or kids. There outdoor dining space is large and it is right next to a park area with a huge tree perfect for the kids to play/run while you wait. The Butler, home of the famous Butler Burger (it includes grilled ham) is situated right along the Kalamazoo River and offers two menus – one for indoor dining and one for outdoor dining(“The Deck”).
According to my husband, their buffalo chicken wings are extremely hot and if you eat them on a hot day your head will drip set to the point you are forced to dump a cup of water over your head (proof below)! They also have a great selection of signature cocktails and some local craft beer.
Saugatuck Chain Ferry
Saugatuck is home to the only remaining chain operated ferry in the country. This adorable little ferry runs on demand to take visitors back and forth across the Kalamazoo River. For $2.00/person (children two and under and pets are FREE) on near Mount Baldhead and get off at Water St. in downtown Saugatuck. They even let the kids help operate the crank which is so fun!
Boating Along the Kalamazoo River
We rented a couple pontoon boats one day and road along the Kalamazoo River. There were so many beautiful houses to look at! We docked at tiny beach with some smaller sand dunes that were perfect for the kids (and adults) to run and jump down.
Laketown Beach Park
My sister-in-law set up a family photo shoot during our vacation at Laketown Beacb Park. The only time our photographer, the wonderful Jeni, could fit us in was the last day of our vacation at 7 pm. I had anxiety just thinking about getting everyone ready and keeping them awake at the end of a long and exciting week; but we did it!
It was hot and humid and there was an unanticipated climb that my father-in-law barely made. There were kids running down sand dunes and throwing sand between pictures. By the end of it we were all hot, sweaty messes but some how Jeni managed to get in some amazing shots! A few of our sneak peeks are below! If you are ever in the greater Grand Rapids, MI area and looking for a photographer, we highly recommend Jeni Lynn Photography.
We didn’t get to see much of the park because by the time we were done with photos we were all exhausted and hungry, but what we did see was gorgeous. Definitely worth a visit.
The BARge is a really cool, unique place to grab drinks. Head up to the top deck for a great waterfront view and some excellent Moscow Mules. The staff was extremely friendly and we didn’t want to leave!
We found a fantastic little spot about 20 miles away in Holland, MI called Craig’s Cruisers. This family fun center had a great variety of things to do, and the kids were absolutely in heaven. They had tot go-karts that Rowe and Lennon had a blast on, and regular go-karts that the big kids loved but Hank hated every second of his ride in a double go-kart with me (even though he asked to go again, and still screamed and cried). In addition to go-karts there are batting cages, an indoor arcade, bungee trampolines and mini golf. Would you believe that Hank got a hole-in-one on the first hole?!?
This was one of our favorite places for adult time and adult drink. The Red Dock is a tiny red building at the end of the dock. You can grab a beer or a cocktail and take a seat at the tables on the dock or sit on the edge and dangle your feet. They feature live music and there are peace signs and hippie vibes all over the place – I was right at home!
Saugatuck Dune Rides
While me and my immediate family did not get a chance to try the Saugatuck Dune Rides, my brother-in-law and his family did and they said it was really cool and well worth it. The 40 minute ride takes passengers through the area’s scenic dunes and beautiful outdoor landscape. We will definitely be trying this on our next trip!
Whether you’re old or young, wanting a relaxing vacation or active vacation, Saugatuck has something for everyone!