The town of Saugatuck, Michigan is many things. It’s an artist’s community–wander the picturesque streets of this small coastal town and you’ll be welcomed by art galleries and co-ops on every corner. It’s also a resort town, as one never has to look far for either luxury or a cozy bed and breakfast. Additionally, it’s surrounded by an alarmingly beautiful landscape, from its brilliant beaches and dunes to the endless freshwater Lake Michigan. It’s a colorful little city with much that could be said about it, but all you need to know is this: Saugatuck is for everyone. No matter who you are, the first thing you’ll notice is how it all feels like home.
Though there’s no wrong place to start exploring in Saugatuck, I’m consistently attracted to the downtown streets’ small, independent shops and restaurants. You’re never without something fresh and exciting to take in here. Saugatuck’s penchant for the arts is evident as soon as you enter downtown; it’s impossible to miss the bright red, post-mod exterior of the Mason Street Warehouse theatre. Stop for a performance and you’ll be shocked that such a quality show didn’t come from Broadway itself. But keep going and you’ll find the restaurants. Oh, the restaurants. There’s truly a meal for everyone here. Treat yourself to an authentic French bistro feast at Restaurant Toulouse, then pop into Scooter’s Pizza (home of the famous spaghetti pizza) for the best thin crust of your life. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled to different worlds. Or have a deliciously fresh, organic meal at the Boardwalk Deli–it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s Saugatuck’s best-kept secret. For dessert, be sure to take a walk along the boardwalk to American Spoon, where they take their gelato seriously. A handpainted sign outside their doorway boasts, “To get Italian gelato this good, you’d have to fly our fruit to Italy!” It may sound prideful, but with good reason. I’ve never found anything quite like their homemade gelatos and sorbettos elsewhere.
If you’re not too full, it’s time to discover the adventurous side of Saugatuck. Ride the Victorian hand-cranked Saugatuck Chain Ferry (the last of its kind) across the harbor, then trek up Mount Baldhead, a massive sand dune that will give you a stunning panorama of the town and the lake beyond. Afterward, descend back into the grassy, secluded sands of Oval Beach for a swim, a walk down the coast, or just to watch the sunset in this awe-inspiring setting.
However, no Saugatuck experience is complete without some shopping, and there’s nowhere with more fascinating local shops to savor. Definitely take a walk down to the Santa Fe Trading Co. Here, not only can you peruse their eclectic merchandise, but you’ll meet my favorite Saugatuck denizen, Peanut the rescue cat. She quickly became my best friend, and no one is immune to her charm. But, on the way, you probably strolled right past my favorite place in the world. Hidden away in the upper floor of the Saugatuck Art Gallery, accessible only by a flight of steep, narrow stairs, lies the Singapore Bank Bookstore. Find your way up and you’ll be greeted by books floor to ceiling, along every wall of the historic former bank. Take a moment to notice the silence. The peace. The endless stacks of books, modern and antique, seem to whisper to you. This place is unlike any other. In a world dominated by assimilation and big business, Saugatuck’s daring and appeal rests in its individuality. Endlessly fascinating and welcoming to all, Michigan’s “Art Coast” is a work of art itself.
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