Experience Saugatuck on the water

saugatuck on the water

Saugatuck is well known for its prime location on the Lake Michigan lakeshore, and the town’s beaches are a key attraction to the area. But the waterfront lifestyle doesn’t stop with Lake Michigan. The Kalamazoo River winds through our town to reach the Great Lake, and it’s like one big playground for everyone in town. Here are some great ways to experience Saugatuck on the water.

How to enjoy Saugatuck on the water

Retro Boat Rentals

Cruise the Kalamazoo River in a sleek, retro runabout boat when you book through Retro Boat Rentals. These well kept vintage boats reflect the style of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and you’ll have a ton of fun motoring one around the river.

Donut Boat Rentals

These unique electric watercraft are designed for groups of friends to have a great time on the water. Ten people can sit casually around a central table, complete with cooler for drinks and snacks. As easy to drive as a golf cart, no prior boating experience is necessary to captain these vessels.

West Michigan Cycle Boat

For larger groups, this party barge is perfect. You’ve seen bar bikes before—the West Michigan Cycle Boat is the same concept, only on water. Peddle while you sip the drinks you brought along and have fun with friends. Rides on the cycle boat last 2 hours and, judging by the music and laughter we’ve heard from the shore,  they’re always a great time.

Star of Saugatuck

The Star of Saugatuck is a classic on-the-water experience that you have to try at least once. We recommend the sunset cruise, which takes you to Lake Michigan to experience why we call this side of the state the “sunset coast.”

The BARge

After a day of fun on the water, you’ll probably have an appetite. But you don’t have to go far to find good food and drink. The BARge is located on the shore of the Kalamazoo River and you can pull your boat right up to enjoy their offerings.

The Red Dock

The Red Dock is another great option for food and drink on the water. Relaxed vibes and good music await at this favorite Douglas restaurant. Park your dinghy along the dockside while you enjoy a cocktail and a delicious sandwich.

Kayak in Saugatuck: The ultimate guide

kayak in saugatuck

Get out and explore Saugatuck, Michigan’s diverse waterscape on a kayak and see views of the town unlike any you’ll see on land. These personal watercraft are easy to navigate and make for a fun day on the water. Choose to glide on Lake Michigan, Lake Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo River, Hutchins Lake, or Goshorn Lake. Whether you’re looking to paddle solo or tandem, you’ll find a variety of great businesses from which to rent kayaks in Saugatuck. Here’s everything you need to know to kayak in Saugatuck.

Where to rent a kayak in Saugatuck

Just Add Water

Offering single and tandem sit-on-top kayaks and surf kayaks, Just Add Water has rental kayaks that are perfect for a trip out on Lake Michigan. Sit-on-top kayaks keep you a little closer to the water and are much easier to get back into if you happen to fall out. And when the big lake is producing some sick waves, surf kayaks are designed to catch them and send you on a roller coaster of a ride. Just Add Water will deliver rental kayaks for a fee to Oval and Douglas Beach and within 2 miles. All rates and information are on the Just Add Water website.

Big Lake Outfitters

Located right on Water Street in downtown Saugatuck, Big Lake Outfitters launches both single and tandem kayaks rentals right from their on-the-water location. Glide on the Kalamazoo River for a couple of hours, a whole day, or even a whole week. If your rental period is two or more days, Big Lake Outfitters will deliver to some nearby launch locations for a fee. Call Big Lake Outfitters directly for more information!

Running Rivers

Running Rivers launches single and tandem kayak rentals right from Wade’s Bayou in Douglas. They also offer a selection “trips” you can take to explore Kalamazoo River through area wetlands and forests. Choose from trips as short as 1 hour to as long as 6 hours and see the natural landscape as you ride leisurely down the river.

Velocity Adventures

Velocity Adventures offers kayak rentals in Saugatuck, Douglas, Fennville and the surrounding area. They will deliver kayaks to your desired launch site, including at the public beach and boat launch on Hutchins Lake. Velocity Adventures also offers guided tours of the Kalamazoo River—all of which end in scenic Saugatuck.

Kayak put-in sites in Saugatuck

There are quite a few public spots to launch your kayak in Saugatuck. Whether you want to embark the Kalamazoo River right from downtown, try the rigorous waters of Lake Michigan from a public beach, or take a casual ride around Lake Kalamazoo, here are a few kayak put-in locations to try.

Spear Street boat launch

Launch your kayaks right from downtown Saugatuck where Spear Street meets the Kalamazoo River.

Wade’s Bayou

This park borders Kalamazoo Lake and is the spot to go if a kayak trip on calmer waters is in order.

Schultz Park

This park hosts a sweet playground and a boat launch that starts your trip on the Kalamazoo River.

Oval Beach

Launch from Oval Beach to get a great views of Saugatuck’s scenic Lake Michigan shoreline and dunes. On wavy days, this is where you’ll want to launch your surf kayak. Oval Beach has no stairs and is just a short walk from the parking area.

Goshorn Lake

Spring-fed Goshorn Lake is perfect for a casual kayak trip with the family. Public access to this lake is located just at the end of 65th street.

Kayak Safety Tips

There are lots of resources out there to help your kayak ride be as safe as it is fun. Here are some brief pieces of advice to consider before you embark on your kayak expedition.

  • Always wear a life jacket. The Coast Guard requires personal flotation devices to be on hand, and children aged 6 and under must wear them at all times.
  • Slather on that SPF
  • Check the NWS forecast before you set out
  • Don’t go alone
  • Dress for the conditions
  • Practice re-entering your kayak
  • Be aware of who around you has the right of way and respect it

Saugatuck Venetian Festival promises fun, games, food and music

erin k wilkinson

Saugatuck Venetian Festival is a beloved summer celebration that takes place here in Saugatuck, Michigan every year. Sponsored by the Cow Hill Yacht Club, this family friendly event promises fun for everyone. Here’s what to expect from Saugatuck Venetian Festival 2018.

Saugatuck Venetian Festival 2018 takes place July 27-28

Image: Saugatuck Venetian Festival

The schedule of events kicks off with children’s games and face painting at 5 p.m. at Coghlin Park on Friday, July 27. Feeling hungry? Grab a bite at the food and bar tent, which will open at 6 p.m.

Later that night, the Rock n Roll tent will be the place to be. Catch an energetic performance by Starfarm, beginning at 7:15 p.m. The band will play favorite ’80s hits that are sure to keep you dancing well into the night.

Saturday kicks off with the annual dinghy poker run on the Kalamazoo River, where boaters spray each other with squirt guns while racing to card stops to collect the best poker hand. The game is as fun to watch as it is to participate in.

Later, just after the sun sets, the lighted boat parade will begin. Each year, participants decorate their boats according to a theme. This year’s theme? The ’60s. Expect groovy, psychedelically decorated boats to glow as they glide along the Kalamazoo River. The lights look especially beautiful reflected back by the river, as do the fireworks that conclude the night each year. Catch those starting at 10 p.m.

Check out this video from Erin K. Wilkinson to get a taste of what it will be like:

Featured Image: Erin K. Wilkinson 

Art and history intersect at Ox-Bow School of Art

art in saugatuck

Saugatuck: An artist’s haven for more than a century

The Ox-Bow School of Art has a rich history deeply tied to that of the town of Saugatuck. Its founding in 1910 converged with the decline of major industry in the Saugatuck area. The school took root on the cusp of the town’s reinvention into a Midwestern resort community.

The history of Ox-Bow

Saugatuck became what it is today—a haven for art and leisure—in part as a result of what Frederick Fursman and Walter Marshall Clute started at Ox-Bow.

The story began when Fursman and Clute visited Saugatuck one summer and fell in love with its natural beauty. They started teaching summer painting classes on the Bandle Farm on the east bank of the Kalamazoo River. From there, the concept gained momentum.

Eventually the school moved into the Riverside Hotel, whose business had dwindled when the Kalamazoo River Channel was diverted to flow directly into Lake Michigan, cutting off the hotel from potential patrons. The hotel became lodging for artists instead of traders, and Saugatuck became a refuge for those fleeing the industrialized urban environment of Chicago.

Ox-Bow today

Image: Annie Fisher, Ox-Bow School of Art

Ox-Bow School of Art remains in the old Riverside Hotel today, and artists of all skill levels can partake in credit or noncredit courses throughout the year. The school prides itself on being a “protected place where creative processes break down, reform, and mature.”

Over a century of history as a place where artists can hone and nurture their craft has drawn many into Ox-Bow’s doors. The school boasts plenty of well known alumni, including Nick Cave, Angela Dufresne, Jim Henson and Jerry Saltz.

Check out Ox-Bow for yourself

From courses to residencies and fellowships, there are many ways to engage with art education at Ox-Bow. Take a look at the summer courses being offered now, courses to look forward to this winter, or this year’s visiting artists. Come stay in Saugatuck and experience the history for yourself! Book your Saugatuck getaway around an Ox-Bow course and get all the benefits of a Saugatuck vacation plus the opportunity to hone your craft or learn a new one.

Last image by Annie Fisher, Ox-Bow School of Art