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.

Spend New Year’s Eve in Saugatuck, Michigan

After a Christmas holiday spent with family, a New Year’s Eve celebration can be the perfect time to let loose and have a good time with friends. Spend New Year’s Eve in Saugatuck, Michigan and you’ll find great places to eat, drink and party–without the overwhelming crowds. Plus, after you’ve sufficiently rung in 2019, you can get a free ride home from the Interurban.

Visit Saugatuck for New Year’s Eve to take part in the fun activities. Get a Lakeshore Lodging vacation rental to return to when the night is over. Here’s what’s going on in town.

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve in Saugatuck, Michigan?

New Year’s Eve Dinner at The Kirby

A special 5-course dinner is on the menu at J. Paul’s at The Kirby for New Year’s Eve. $70 per person includes a delicious 5-course meal and a bubbly toast. Reservations are required.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display

Count down to midnight with the rest of town and celebrate 2019 with a gorgeous display of fireworks. Catch them in downtown Saugatuck when the clock strikes 12.

New Year’s Eve Celebration at The Dunes

Play bingo and celebrate the New Year well into the night at The Dunes Hotel & Resort.

Free rides from the Interurban

Don’t worry about driving to and from your Saugatuck/Douglas celebration destinations. From 6pm-2am, the Interurban will be offering free rides around town, so you can count on getting from A to B safe and sound.

Find your NYE home base

Saugatuck Townhome 7

Sleeps: 6, Bedrooms: 3, Bathrooms: 3.5

Located right downtown, this charming townhome is perfect for a New Year’s stay. Entertain your guests on the spacious main floor, and watch the fireworks from the living room balcony.

Roan and Black

Sleeps: 4, Bedrooms: 2, Bathrooms: 2

This stylish loft is perched above a contemporary art gallery. It’s a perfect spot to ring in the new year with the one you love.

Hoopdee Scootee Suite

Sleeps: 4, Bedrooms: 1, Bathrooms: 1.5

This centrally located apartment puts you in walking distance of the holiday festivities. It’ll be a cozy place to return to after a night celebrating 2019.

El Sueño Americano: Images of the confiscated possessions of migrants seeking the American dream

el sueno americano

This October, Saugatuck Center for the Arts will host an exhibition of thought-provoking photographs titled “El Sueño Americano”—or “The American Dream”—by photographer Tom Kiefer.  You can attend the exhibition’s opening reception on October 25, 2018. The images will remain on view through December 22, 2018. Learn all about the exhibition below.

El Sueno Americano
El Sueno Americano
El Sueno Americano
Images: Tom Kiefer

Tom Kiefer’s “El Sueño Americano” comes to Saugatuck Center for the Arts

Separating an object from its context can obscure its meaning, eliminating any sense of certainty you might have had about it. In its place sprout questions like “Whose was this?” and “How was this used?” and “What is it doing here?” The decontextualized object takes on a life of its own, becoming a kind of ghost of its former owner, replete with mystery.

This is the feeling Tom Kiefer’s series of more than 100 photographs titled “El Sueño Americano” inspires. The photos will be on view at Saugatuck Center for the Arts from October 25-December 22, 2018 in what will be Kiefer’s first major solo exhibition.

“I saw Tom’s work at Art Prize last year,” said Whitney Valentine, the education and exhibitions manager at Saugatuck Center for the Arts. “With our Growing Young Artists program still at the forefront of my mind, I was incredibly moved by his images and knew that our West Michigan community would benefit greatly from seeing his works.”

She reached out to Kiefer and secured this October’s exhibition featuring new work. In the time that has passed since, the exhibition has received a flurry of national attention.

“While the aesthetics of the images alone are striking, the work reminds us of the game-changer that is context. The stories behind these objects, especially the mysteries, are what give the work its real power,” Valentine said.

The extraordinary ordinary

The objects within Kiefer’s photographs once belonged to migrants caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. When Border Patrol officials apprehend undocumented migrants, they confiscate “nonessential” possessions and discard them. Kiefer worked as a janitor for a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility in Arizona for 12 years, and it was during this time that he began collecting these items from the trash. At first, he sought packaged food to donate to a local food pantry. But the more he dug, the more items he discovered, and the more questions he had. He began to collect and photograph the objects, and “El Sueño Americano” was born.

“Tom’s images remind us how extraordinary ordinary items can be,” Valentine said.

Stuffed animals soiled in the spots where children once held them. Plastic water jugs insulated by torn clothing. Toothbrushes, shoelaces, and rosaries—all labeled “potentially lethal” by Border Patrol. These are the objects in Kiefer’s bright photos.

The images’ effect on viewers can be destabilizing. Curator Tori Pelz said the exhibition reminds her of a variously attributed quote on the role of art, which is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

“I think the best art wakes us, calls us to attention, and offers a new perspective on the familiar,” Pelz said. “Tom’s photos possess both a commanding visual presence and a powerful human message.”

Immigration is a divisive political topic. Tom’s work, Valentine said, brings a necessary element of humanity back into the discussion.

“The photographs of the migrant’s personal objects remind us that at the heart of this issue is people—children who treasure their teddy bears, people trying to feed themselves and their families, and those who can’t imagine taking a trip without brushing their teeth,” Valentine said.

Experience “El Sueño Americano” and meet the artist

October 25 marks the exhibition’s opening. It kicks off with “Tacos, Tequila, and Tom”—a themed party featuring the alliterative trio in its title. One $15 VIP ticket gets you two tacos, a tequila-based cocktail (or another drink of your choice), and a guided tour of the exhibition with Kiefer and Pelz. This portion of the opening reception takes place from 5-6 p.m. If you are unable to make it at that time, you can still enjoy tacos, cocktails, and mingling with the artist during the public portion of the reception from 6:30-8 p.m.

“This is Tom’s first major solo exhibition, but since we’ve announced it, he’s received a dizzying amount of national press, and this exhibition is now booked for the next two years,” Pelz said. “In short, he’s kind of a big deal. And he’s eager to speak to what this work means to him, personally.”

The perfect fall 3-day weekend adventure

fall 3-day weekend

You’re a month into the rush of school, work, and the usual fall hustle. You’re enjoying the autumnal vibes, but you’re busy, so it’s hard to bask in them completely. Graciously, there is a fall 3-day weekend coming up that is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of this gorgeous, ephemeral season. Columbus Day weekend is October 5-8, and there’s going to be plenty of fall events happening in Saugatuck to make the most of it.

Make the most of this fall 3-day weekend

Saugatuck Ghoul Fest

October 6, 2018 – 11am-5pm

Enjoy some spooky pre-Halloween family fun at this annual event. Here you’ll find the “Art of Halloween” one of a kind bazaar, coffin races, kid friendly activities, live music and more!

Annual Saugatuck/Douglas Gallery Stroll

October 6, 2018 – 4-6pm

Get a hearty dose of art when you attend the annual Saugatuck/Douglas Gallery Stroll. Area galleries join together for a weekend full of artist receptions, openings, demonstrations and live music.

Blue Coast Artists Fall Tour

October 6, 2018 – 10am; October 7, 2018 – 7pm

This tour of 10 studios between South Haven and Fennville is packed with great art. You’ll view handmade ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, glasswork and more.

Music in the Vineyard at Fenn Valley

October 6, 1-4pm

Enjoy the crisp fall air and the changing colors of the scenery at Fenn Valley’s vineyard for another Music in the Vineyard session. Solo jazz guitarist Randy Reszka will perform on this weekend, and it’s sure to be a treat. Order a glass of Fenn Valley’s signature wines, sit back, and take in the autumn atmosphere.

Eat Drink Saugatuck/Douglas Harvest Dinner

October 6, 2018 – 6-9pm

Head to Wade’s Bayou for this outdoor harvest dinner featuring selections made with ingredients from local farms. Each course will celebrate the harvest season and feature a delicious beverage pairing.

J. Petter Galleries Harvest Dinner

October 6, 2018 – 7-9pm

J. Petter Galleries’ Harvest Dinner will be a tented meal on the gallery’s lawn. Tastings from seven local restaurants will be available to try while artists paint en plein air.

Find the perfect place to stay

Lakeshore Lodging has cozy cabins and homes encircled with vibrant fall foliage available for rent for your fall vacation. Check them out here.

4 Reasons to visit Oval Beach in fall

oval beach in fall

Oval Beach is undoubtedly the most popular beach in Saugatuck, and it’s one of the most popular beaches on the Lake Michigan lakeshore. Its scenic sandy stretches led Condé Nast’s “Traveler” to name it one of the world’s best beaches. The famous beach is most frequented in summer, but it’s just as worthy of a visit in autumn. Here are 4 reasons to visit Oval Beach in fall.

4 Reasons to visit Oval Beach in fall

Park for free

After Labor Day, there is no parking fee at Oval Beach. In the early autumn days, the weather is still plenty nice to enjoy a swim in Lake Michigan or picnic with a view. Having cost-free access to this award-winning beach is a major perk of visiting in the fall.

Explore the dune trails

Oval Beach is connected to some beautiful hiking trails that are incredibly scenic in the fall season. Plus, the cooler temperatures make for a much more comfortable hike. Whether it’s sunny, cloudy, or even crisp enough for a few snowflakes, this is a hike you won’t want to miss. It’s a brilliant way to experience how fall changes the lakeshore.

Kayak and catch vibrant views

Kayaking along the Lake Michigan lakeshore is a great way to get views you can’t see on land. In fall, those views are bursting with color. If you go later in the day, the setting sun will set the lakeshore aglow. Morning, afternoon and evening, paddling on the lake is a great way to spend the day, and Oval Beach is a great, easy access point to put in your kayak.

Get cozy and watch the sunset

We’re on the sunset coast of Michigan here in Saugatuck, and that means every night the sun descends over Lake Michigan and creates astounding plays of light. In the cool fall, evenings are best spent wrapped in a warm blanket on Oval Beach watching the sunset. Bring a bottle of wine or a thermos full of hot cider or cocoa and enjoy each other’s company as day becomes night.


Explore Lake Michigan beaches in fall

lake michigan beaches in fall

Lake Michigan beaches are heavily frequented in summer. Diving in the clear blue water of the big lake is a great way to cool down in the sometimes oppressive summer heat. Here’s a secret: there are as many reasons to love Lake Michigan beaches in autumn as there are in summer. Here are a few ways to enjoy Lake Michigan beaches in fall.

Things to do on Lake Michigan beaches in fall

Take a swim

Seem crazy? Maybe. But Lake Michigan’s waters actually hold on to some warmth into the fall, making October swims feel not unlike June swims. Put on your suit and get thee to a beach–you’ll probably be the only ones there! Be prepared and check the beach forecast before you go.

Watch a sunset

Lake Michigan is picturesque at sundown at all times of year, but the golden hour just seems a little . . . golder in autumn. The warm light reflects off of the trees’ vibrant fall colors, making them appear to glow. Watch the sky turn beautiful shades of lavender, pink, and orange as the sun tucks itself into Lake Michigan.

Take a hike

There’s no better way to take in the fall colors than on a hike through the woods. Pick a park with Lake Michigan beach access, like Saugatuck Dunes State Park, to walk through miles of beautiful forest, inhale the fall smells, and land on a nearly empty beach. With nothing around but the brisk breeze, bristling leaves and crashing waves, inner peace is within reach.

Get on the water

Launch a kayak or stand-up paddle board on a Lake Michigan beach to see autumnal views of the shoreline, which comes even more to life dressed in red, yellow, and orange. For a slightly different but equally beautiful view, put your kayak in a river that feeds into the lake, like the Kalamazoo River, and explore the views along the way to Lake Michigan.

Where to find boat rentals in Saugatuck, Michigan

boat rentals in saugatuck

A Saugatuck summer vacation is not complete without time spent on the water. There are plenty of ways to make the most of our town’s waterways, whether you’re swimming, fishing, or just sunbathing on the beach. If you’re looking to get on the water, consider renting a watercraft at one of these establishments. Experience our waterscape on pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks, sailboats and more. These are the spots to go for boat rentals in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Best spots for boat rentals in Saugatuck

retro boat rentals new in saugatuck
Retro Boat Rentals

Makin’ Waves Boat Rental

Pontoon boat and jet ski rental

Enjoy the scenery of Saugatuck while you glide down the Kalamazoo River in a luxury pontoon boat. Makin’ Waves rents 20′ Bentley Cruisers from years 2013-2016, as well as a selection of jet skis.

Big Lake Outfitters

Pontoon boat and kayak rental

Big Lake Outfitters offers 18′ and 24′ pontoon boats equipped with wrap-around cushioned seats and small tables. Cruise the Kalamazoo River and then anchor up at “Old Harbor” to relax, picnic, and let the kids swim. Big Lake also offers a selection of kayaks to rent, for another great on-the-water experience.

saugatuck boat rentals
Yacht BOAT Charters

Retro Boat Rentals

Jet age runabout boat rentals

Step back in time and get on the water in style with a slick boat rental from Retro Boat Rentals. Select one from a fleet of impeccably maintained, classic boats to cruise the Kalamazoo River in. Retro Boat Rentals now offers adult beverages to bring on the boats, as well.

Donut Boat Rentals

Donut-shaped easy-to-drive boat rentals

If you aren’t an experienced boater, Donut Boat Rentals are a great option. The unique design of this small boat enables up to 10 people to sit comfortably around a table in the center. Cruise Saugatuck waterways with the ease of driving a golf cart in a Donut Boat Rental.

Yacht BOAT Charters

Captained yacht charter for large parties and special occasions

Experience the waters of Saugatuck on a 55′ Chris Craft Roamer called “BOAT.” Captained by Mike and Sue Compagner, this yacht is available to charter for special occasions like weddings.

Sweetwater Sailing

Captained sailboat charter

If you’ve ever dreamt of sailing but have never had the opportunity, Sweetwater Sailing could be your chance. This captained sailboat charter takes place aboard “Drifter,” a Nonsuch 324. Your captain is Captain Mort, who has a U.S. Coast Guard Master License and has cruised the Great Lakes for over 30 years.

Catch these Memorial Day weekend music acts in Saugatuck

Memorial day weekend music

Looking for something to do this Memorial Day weekend that isn’t the run-of-the-mill beer, brats, yard games, etc.? (Not that those things aren’t great). Here’s an idea: Catch a live music act. There’s no shortage of entertainment at Saugatuck’s favorite venues this Memorial Day weekend. Sit outdoors with a glass of wine and listen to acoustic covers at Borrowed Time, or hit up one of Coral Gables lively parties. Here are some Memorial Day weekend music acts you can look forward to in Saugatuck.

evening in saugatuckMemorial Day weekend music acts to catch in Saugatuck

May 25

Music on the Lawn at Borrowed Time

Brad Vredevoogd & Jordan Beel, 6 p.m.

Brad and Jordan play your favorite cover tunes outside Borrowed Time’s new space in Douglas. Pair this set with a refreshing glass of wine.

Saugatuck Brewing Company

Sean McDaniel, 6:30 p.m.

When Sean McDaniel isn’t slinging craft beers at Saugatuck Brewing Company, he’s a great musician playing cover tunes on his acoustic guitar. Catch him while you sip a crisp IPA.

The Butler

The WhatNots, 7 p.m.

This Grand Rapids rock trio is sure to liven up your Friday night. Grab a bite to eat and listen to The WhatNot’s groovy original tunes.

Wicks Park Bar & Grill

DC-90, 9 p.m.

DC-90’s main objective is to keep people on the dance floor with their upbeat covers of 90s rock and contemporary hits. This rock band is tight, with a mix of professionally trained and experienced musicians.

May 26

Music on the Lawn at Borrowed Time

Tony & Pete, 1 p.m.

Tony and Pete take the stage with their brand of acoustic cover tunes. If you’re looking for a lunch with some ambiance, stop by Borrowed Time.

Dave & Connie DeHaan, 6 p.m.

Dave and Connie D’s show is always a pleasure, with finger-style acoustic guitar, ukulele, hand drum and harmonica accoutrements.

Coral Gables

Summer Kickoff Party with Trapped on MARS, 5 p.m.

If an upbeat party is more your style, Coral Gables is the place to be this Memorial Day weekend. Trapped on MARS promises to perform a mix of rock, funk, pop, and punk from all of your favorite decades.

Saugatuck Brewing Company

Kevin & Sean McDaniel, 6 p.m.

Sean McDaniel returns to the Saugatuck Brewing Company stage on Saturday and is joined with his brother Kevin. This duo will impress with their takes on ’60s-style rock and folk.

Wicks Park Bar & Grill

Funkle Jesse, 9 p.m.

This Grand Rapids cover band plays your favorite hits with a funky twist. You won’t want to sit down for this set.

May 27

Music on the Lawn at Borrowed Time

Mark Sala, 1 p.m.

Mark Sala brings his acoustic guitar to set the mood for your lunch at Borrowed Time. Sala’s soulful vocal stylings and covers will leave your ears happy.

Coral Gables

Deck Party with Mr. Whooha, 5 p.m.

Mr. Whooha’s repertoire of covers is expansive and not restricted by genre. Claiming “anybody that rocks!” as their primary influences, Mr. Whooha will play your favorite high energy ’80s, ’90s and contemporary rock hits.

Saugatuck Center for the Arts

An Evening with Marc Cohn, 8 p.m., $45 advance, $48 day of

Marc Cohn’s last appearance at Saugatuck Center for the Arts sold out. The Grammy award winning songwriter is back to play the center’s 400-seat theater. You won’t want to miss this one-night-only performance.

Wicks Park Bar & Grill

Rockshop, 9 p.m.

The cool thing about Memorial Day weekend is that you don’t have to stop dancing on Sunday. For those in that school of thought, hit up Wicks Park Bar & Grill for another upbeat show.

Great art in Saugatuck you can’t miss this May

art in saugatuck

Summer’s closing in on us. You can feel the buzz in the air here in Saugatuck. We’re shaking off that brief winter relapse and gearing up for gorgeous season on the Art Coast.  A Saugatuck summer wouldn’t be complete without experiencing some of the beautiful and thought-provoking artwork available in galleries throughout the area. There are already a number of great events and exhibitions lined up throughout the entire month of May. Check them out below and kick off your summer with a month full of art in Saugatuck.

Kick off a summer full of art in Saugatuck this May

May 1-26

Moving through the Unimaginable

Daily, Free

This Saugatuck Center for the Arts exhibition is an effort to explore the process of healing. It celebrates community members who have fought through unimaginable hardships while cultivating hope, grace and charity in their lives. Featuring portraiture, sculpture, installation, community outreach, and viewer participation, this exhibition is on view at Saugatuck Center for the Arts through May 26.

May 5

Douglas Art on Center

6 p.m., Free

This monthly event is a collaboration between seven local galleries to display art in the area. Stroll down Center St. to see works from Button Gallery, Water Street Gallery, LaFontsee Galleries, Mixed Media Gallery, LebenArt Gallery, Mr. Miller’s Art Emporium and The Palette.

Button Gallery Opening Reception Debut

6 p.m., Free

Visit Button Gallery’s opening reception to see work from artists new to the gallery, including Michele Gort, Machelle Knochenhauer, Adriano Farinella and Dana Tindell.

May 12

Saugatuck Douglas Antique and Artisan Market

Beery Field, 9 a.m.-4 pm., $2 admission

Shop antiques and crafts at the third annual Saugatuck Douglas Antique and Artisan Market. This event will be held rain or shine, and admission supports different local charities.

Artz & Gardenz Studio Tour

10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Free

Five professional artists and one lavender farm open their doors for the second annual Mother’s Day Studio Tour hosted by Artz & Gardenz. This event is a relaxing opportunity to take in local art and spend time with your mom.

May 18

Chris Stoffel Overvoorde Opening

Armstrong DeGraaf International Fine Arts Gallery, 4 p.m., Free

This opening will feature artist Chris Stoffel Overvoorde’s biblical woodcuts. Born in the Netherlands, Overvoorde was trained as a metal worker and diesel mechanic before  came to the United States in 1957. He studied art at Kendall School of Design and University of Michigan. He teaches painting, printmaking, graphics, photography, drawing and the history of Dutch art.

Film: The Untold Story of Armistead Maupin

Saugatuck Center for the Arts, 7 p.m., $5 Members/$7 Non-Members.

This documentary celebrates one of the world’s most beloved storytellers and the creator of Tales of the City. The likes of Neil Gaiman, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen and Amy Tan help their friend Maupin tell his incredible story in this film, which you can catch at Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

May 26

Ruth Crowe Studio Sale 

Water Street Gallery, 12 p.m., Free

Artist Ruth Crowe is featured in this sale at Water Street Gallery. Crowe’s work is described as “encaustic creations use dream like vintage images and other materials to enhance the depth and translucent qualities layered under the wax.” See them for yourself and talk with the artist herself during this event.

Let’s Jump In

LaFontsee Galleries, 5-8 p.m., Free

Celebrate the beginning of summer with the opening of LaFontsee Galleries’ first group show of the season.

Featured Image: ByDuncan.com


Best dive bars in Saugatuck

dive bars in saugatuck

Every town needs a good dive bar – a place you can count on having a familiar, cozy atmosphere, characteristic dim lighting, neon beer signs, and the promise of a pool table. For the traveler, the dive bar can offer a taste of home.  If you’re in Saugatuck, Michigan and you’re looking to have a good time, surround yourself with down-to-earth people, or just drown your sorrows, these are the spots to visit. Here are the best dive bars in Saugatuck:

Best Dive Bars in Saugatuck

Sand Bar Saloon

141 Butler St, Saugatuck, MI 49453

Located right in downtown Saugatuck, the Sand Bar has all the hallmarks of the classic dive bar. Order a locally brewed craft beer or your favorite standard and then pick up a game of pool. This bar is cash only, but there’s an ATM on premises.

The Cove

41 Blue Star Hwy, Douglas, MI 49406

This little bar hidden in plain sight on the Blue Star Highway. If you’re looking for an affordable meal and drink, The Cove can’t be beat. Play pool on one of their tables or catch Euchre on Sundays. 

Spectators Sports Bar & Grill

6432 Bluestar Hwy Saugatuck, MI 49453

If the sports bar atmosphere is more your style, Spectators is the obvious choice. Located right on Blue Star Highway, it’s the place to go to watch the game with a side of beer and wings. 

Corner Bar

220 Water St, Saugatuck, MI 49453

Catch live music at the Corner Bar in Saugatuck, attached to Coral Gables. This friendly bar is a favorite for its great menu and entertainment. Stop by for karaoke on Saturdays.