We recently had a chance to spend a wonderful July afternoon in the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas on a Saturday afternoon.
These “twin” towns are separated only by the Blue Star Highway, and although they share many similarities, they each have enough distinction to invite a visit to each of them.
We got into the area after driving from a morning concert in Kalamazoo and were eager to stretch our legs. Saugatuck was packed, cars lining the streets, pedestrians strolling about- a bit too much for our immediate needs, so we headed over to Douglas.
Although, every bit as quaint and artsy as Saugatuck, Douglas, at least on this day, was much more subdued, a perfect antidote after a long morning. We found parking right off of Main Street near the center of town. The main downtown area stretches about three blocks and features a panoply of shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants, each featuring its own unique design and theme, but most were family friendly, for those with older children or teens, at least on a Saturday afternoon…
This lovely respite of natural beauty meanders through the back yard of the museum and features small, distinct garden plots with a bit of historical description on placards to help understand the legacy of this land and area. It features a small children’s area and a Free Library predominately filled with children’s books. How wonderful to be able to sit and read on a bench beneath a tree in this beautiful garden and enjoy a delightful afternoon.
Time to move on! We walked to the other end of town which features a small, inviting park/playground area right in town, Beery Field, featuring a basketball court and playground. Those traveling with younger children might enjoy a favorite tactic Jenny and I used when the kids were really young, using a playground as home base-one of us splitting off and heading to an art gallery or independent bookstore, while one played with the kids at the playground and then switching. It is amazing how even 20-30 minutes away can recharge the batteries and make the rest of your travels so much more pleasant.
I would have loved to spend more time in Douglas, heading to the library, checking out a few more shops, but our time was limited so time to move on!
We crossed over the river and headed into Saugatuck. After our first foray, we decided to take advantage of the free shuttle provided by the Saugatuck Interurban Transit Authority and the Saugatuck Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau. We parked at the high school and much to our surprise, the shuttle had just pulled in! No waiting! We walked, put money in the tip jar, and took our seats on the small shuttle. There were only 8 of us on this Saturday afternoon, and the quick trip ended right at the edge of town- a perfect spot. Our driver was affable and eager to share travel tips about Saugatuck, Holland and the area beaches and attractions.
Our first stop was at the Saugatuck Tea Company. This cozy shop was a tea lover’s dream. It featured dozens of loose teas, from the typical to the unusual, such as Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin or Coca Snowflake. The staff was incredibly kind and personable, giving us lots of information about the tea sourcing and proper brewing techniques. What a great start to our Saugatuck trip!
Passing the park, near the chain ferry, we noticed several families who were clearly spending the day, blankets spread out, folding chair aligned around a small cooler, young children and their father playing catch, as other folks meandered by looking at the water and boats. It was a reminder of how wonderful summer in Michigan can be, and how simply spending time relaxing, doing nothing much at all, can be such a gift.
Saugatuck was crowded for sure, but still quite manageable. We enjoyed a few stores, enjoyingcreative displays, wonderful handmade crafts and artwork, and a lot of beach themed merchandise. We avoided the temptation for delicious fudge and ice cream, but they all looked amazing!
We ate at the vegetarian friendly Boardwalk, a small deli and ice cream parlor. The sandwiches featured vegetables that tasted fresh, not packaged, and the menu was diverse enough to satisfy our widely varying dietary desires. It featured outdoor seating, but we opted for the air conditioned table in side. It is very small inside, as I believe most people eat inside or take it to go, but we timed it just right.
We strolled to the shuttle stop and waited less than 2 minutes before it arrived to return us back to the parking lot. I was so impressed with this service- I wish every town had such a wonderful feature.
Although our time in the Saugatuck/Douglas area was brief, it was enjoyable, inspiring us to add this to the list of destinations to return to at some point in the future. It is definitely great for those of you with older children and teens who enjoy strolling through charming towns enjoying the culture. If you have younger children, it will be a wonderful place to visit in the heat of the afternoon, while you spend mornings or evenings at the beaches or hiking nearby.