In June of this year, I was invited by Eat Drink SDF to explore the Saugatuck, Douglas and Fennville area for the weekend. This beach town is located in Southwest Michigan, about 140 miles from Chicago. I had never been, but always heard wonderful things about this cute, art coast community.
I broke down our entire weekend from where we stayed, ate, how we got around and what activities we did. Manny and I had a nice break from the city as parents and we will definitely bring back the kids very soon. It’s the perfect weekend getaway and here is an itenary you can use for your next trip to the SDF area. I hope you guys find it useful and let me know if you have any questions about the places I mentioned below.
We checked into our bed and breakfast on Friday afternoon, the Kingsley House. It’s located in Fennville, which is roughly a 10-15 minute drive to downtown Saugatuck. This was our first experience staying in a B&B and weren’t really sure what to expect. We were greeted by Chuck, who runs the inn with his wife.
The grounds and house are beautifully maintained and the rooms are quaint and cozy (see post here.). My favorite part was the beautiful wrap around porch you could sit with your morning coffee. See that here. Just so peaceful. There’s coffee, tea and homemade chocolate chip cookies available in the living room, and it just felt like home.
There is a lot of historic significance as well. The house was built in 1886 by Harvey Judson Kingsley, who is responsible for bringing apples and peaches to Michigan. Without him, Michigan might not have apples today! Little fun fact for you…
Overall, our stay was relaxing and it was a great way to recharge as parents from the craziness of our lives.
Our Room- Northern Spy
Next stop was drinks and appetizers at Borrowed Time in Douglas. This is a great restaurant with an outside patio, delicious food and cocktails, live music and just a fun place to hang out at.
One of the coolest parts about the Saugatuck area is there is transportation! Yes, public transportation. I have NEVER seen this in a small town before. For $1, call the Interurban 269-857-1418 for your ride anytime during business hours. The ride can be scheduled as early as 15 minutes in advance or you can make a reservation for a specific time. They offer curb to curb service, pick you up and drop you off anywhere in our service area (all of Saugatuck Township including the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas). I loved this aspect!
After we left Borrowed time, the Interurban picked us up and we headed to the Saugatuck Center for Arts.
This center has art, a theatre and several programs for visitors to enjoy. We were there on a night they happen to have a food truck festival and live music. The art currently on display is “Industrial Nature” by Michelle Stitzlein. It’s a cool space and very kid friendly.
Then we jumped back on the Interurban and headed to Saugatuck Brewing. Although I am not a huge beer drink and currently pregnant, the facility is awesome. Manny had the best time sampling their beers and getting to see the behind the scenes. There is so much that goes into making beer! Did you know that Saugatuck Brewing is really popular in South Korea?! Me neither! Kind of interesting fact. They also have it at Binny’s and the beer is on tap at several midwest bars and restaurants.
To end our night, we jumped back on the Interurban and headed to Oval Beach for the sunset. This beach is gorgeous! I honestly didn’t feel like I was in Michigan.
Last stop, BED! But first, homemade cookies in the living room of our B&B 🙂
Honestly, this morning might have been the most exciting part of the entire trip. The Saugatuck Dune Rides were so, so fun! And don’t worry, very safe for pregnancy, it really wasn’t bumpy at all! If you go to the SDF area, you MUST take do it.
This ride is through the Dunes and is absolutely gorgeous! There is so much history and you learn a lot along the way. (Google Singapore Michigan, it’s really interesting!) This would be perfect for large groups; we saw lots of bachelorette and birthday parties boarding. But I would go again with Manny and Noah for sure!
Our guide was really funny and there are some hidden “pranks” along the way (see pics below). And the views along the route are just stunning.
After this, we got a chance to explore downtown Saugatuck. It’s filled with local art, chocolate, antique and other cute shops. It’s a great place to also grab a drink and watch the boats go up and down the river. There are also some good restaurants you can eat outside and listen to live music. (You can learn about where we had brunch on Sunday below).
We walked up an appetite and headed to Farmhouse Deli in Douglas. IT WAS AMAZING! Everything is locally sourced within miles of the restaurant and everything we had was incredible. I had the reuben and tried several desserts, all homemade and mouthwatering good. You really can’t miss it! You can see a photo of me at Farmhouse deli here.
After our lunch, we explored the arts scene. The SDF area is known for their arts and we got a chance to check out two galleries that also serve wine. You can grab a glass of wine, even have a wine tasting and walk around the gallery. Very cool concept. I am not an art expert by any means, but I found the experience really relaxing. Just to walk around and learn about the artists and sip wine (in my case, a mocktail). We went to J Petter Galleries first.
Next we visited Palette Gallery
Our last stop before getting ready for dinner, was the Ox-Bow School of Arts and Artists’ Residency. This school was founded by Frederick Fursman and Walter Marshall Clute, artists from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It serves as a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
It all started when Fursman and Clute began this tradition after visiting the Saugatuck area one summer. They fell in love with the natural beauty of the area, as well as its rural isolation. You can find chicken roam free and artists taking classes at various locations throughout the sprawling campus. It’s quite an experience to see artists come together in nature. They often have open houses for the public to check out and pieces of art located throughout the campus.
We headed back to the inn for some much needed R&R after a long day, we had an elegant dinner at The Kirby Hotel. This hotel, restaurant and wine bar is the perfect setting for a wedding or an elevated dining experience.
This hotel is modern and full of history. Once a hospital, the six room hotel has delicious, local cuisine that is the perfect romantic or special occasion getaway. We are thinking about heading back in the fall for our babymoon! They made some tasty mocktails, so I will be back for those 🙂 But eventually, I will have to try all their wines….
Mindy Trafman heads the Kirby team with over 30 years of restaurant experience as the chef and sommelier of J.Paul’s, the restaurant and wine lounge. Overall, a great dining experience and we can’t wait to go back!
You can see a photo of Manny and I here.
Then we ended our night at the Dunes Resort for a a live cabaret show! It was interactive, the music was great and we all loved it. The Dunes Resort is one of the country’s top gay and lesbian resorts. For 37 years, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders (plus straights) come to escape the hustle and bustle to enjoy a day, weekend, or week-long getaway. Now crowned one of the largest gay and lesbian resorts and entertainment complexes in the Midwest. This is perfect for bachelorettes, birthday parties or out on a date. Manny and I had a blast.
Then, SLEEP! Manny and I haven’t been out past midnight in a long time, oh the life of parenthood!
To conclude our trip, we had brunch at Grow in downtown Saugatuck, which serves breakfast and lunch with ingredients that are all locally sourced. There are some really innovative dishes like carrot cakes pancakes and Michigan Soda floats with gelato ice cream. Everything was delicious and we washed it down with Uncommon Coffee (I need to find it in Chicago!)
Overall, our trip was incredible. I can see why the Traveler named it the Top 20 Best Places to live on the Coast in 2018. Between the huge arts, wine, beach and food scene, there is really something for everyone. Worth a day, weekend or an entire week trip.