If you head south from Chicago and hug the coast of Lake Michigan, through Indiana and up north along the pinky-edge of the Mitten, you’ll soon hit Saugatuck.
Tucked slightly back from the sandy lakeshore (yes, there are actual beaches here), this delightful little city sits on the Kalamazoo River. Docks lined with boats of every kind, waterfront restaurants and cafes, dozens of art spaces and galleries, toy and trinket stores, tasting rooms, gift shops, and confectionaries whipping up every possible thing your sweet tooth could be craving – there is quite literally something for everyone. Just when you begin to think that Saugatuck might have it all – you discover the charms of neighboring Douglas and Fennville. Next thing you know, you’re looking at real-estate prices because do you really ever have to leave? Who are we to say? But if you are just swinging through for a short visit there are a few places we think you shouldn’t miss. Here are some of our favorite spots in the Saugatuck/Douglas/Fennville area.
Favorite Spots In Saugatuck
Biscuits, pepper jelly, fried chicken. We could stop right there but there is oh-so-much-more to this cozy waterfront establishment. When you walk in the door, you feel as though you’ve been welcomed into a southern home. Mismatched china, low ceilings, wooden tables and chairs, a screened-in back porch with picnic table seating – it all sets the stage for a warm atmosphere, packed with authentic character. The food does not play second string, no no. In fact, it would be hard to say whether they do brunch or dinner better. But why choose between the two? If you’re in town for a few days, might as well try both.
Saugatuck Chain Ferry
Perhaps the most adorable of all of Saugatuck’s offerings, the Chain Ferry (which is hand cranked!) has been transporting passengers from one bank of the Kalamazoo River to the other since 1838. It’s a beloved local gem, and only $1 to boot. If you’re not up for the journey (or have no need to take it) you can watch it in action from a lovely shaded public park.
Saugatuck Drug Store
Imagine a one stop shop where you can buy sunblock, beach toys, get your prescription filled, and then prop up at an old school soda counter at the back of the store and order a malted milkshake or a grilled cheese. This beloved city staple will transport you to a simpler time. A true classic Saugatuck gem.
Favorite Spots In Douglas
Right on Blue Star Highway this unassuming store front packs a mighty and very unexpected punch. Their menu is small, but full of tasty options, and it’s updated frequently to showcase the best and freshest produce of the season. In addition to their made to order menu, they have a cooler stocked with mouthwatering options to go. Their kale caesar salad will turn even the most skeptical leafy green eater into a believer.
Red Dock Cafe
We may be biased because of its close proximity to our dock, but we think the Red Dock Cafe rocks. It’s a no frills joint, and second to it’s excellent location, that’s what we love most about it. It’s essentially a tiny shack at at the end of a long dock that serves up cheap drinks and an offbeat, island vibe. The drinks and food are affordable and the view is free. How can you beat that? You’ll often find live music here too.
And Finally, Our Favorite Spots In Fennville
Have you ever dreamt of a magical land where spotted English pigs graze, you can picnic on a beautifully plush lawn or keep cool in a secret shade garden, where snack plates abound, and where an array of dry, funky, unique farmhouse ciders flow like water? This place exists and it’s only a few miles south of Saugatuck. If you’ve sampled the cloyingly sweet, widely produced cider that you can find in your average grocery store, then you owe it to yourself to go check out Virtue. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how complex and deliciously bone dry a cider can be!
Do you love pie? A more appropriate question would probably be: Who doesn’t love pie? Whether you’ve got a hankering for classic apple or a more adventurous rhubarb raspberry, Crane’s Pie Pantry has got you covered. In addition to the onsite restaurant and winery, the farm features U-Pick fruit of all kinds, a corn maze, and hay rides (though these fun offerings are mostly just available in the autumn months).
Fenn Valley Winery
When you’re on vacation, it’s tough to beat spending an afternoon tasting delicious local wines of all varietals. That’s why you should most definitely pay a visit to Fenn Valley, where you can choose from several tasting flights, create your own, or picnic with a crisp glass on their vast property overlooking rolling hills of vines. One of our favorites to taste? Their take on a Portuguese port wine (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s paired with a small piece of chocolate…yum). If you can’t make it out to Fennville, they have a tasting room in downtown Saugatuck.
We’d love to know: What are your favorite spots in the Saugatuck area? Please share your thoughts below.