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Mid 19th century charm
The cities of Saugatuck and Douglas were bypassed by the Great Michigan fire of 1871 that destroyed most neighboring towns. So the mid-1800 era architecture that was destroyed in the surrounding areas was thoughtfully preserved in these quaint little villages.
There are many fine art galleries, quaint little bed and breakfasts, and boutiques that have established Saugatuck and Douglas as the center of Michigan art on the coast. A scattering of fine dining and hotels will encourage you to stay a few nights to take in as many art galleries and antique venues as you can.
Douglas, Michigan is home of the USS Keewatin, a 336-foot steamship that’s been moored on Kalamazoo Lake. After its retirement in the 1960s, it has been converted to a museum that features an Edwardian era dining room. The museum offers tours through the various staterooms and quarters.
Mount Baldhead is a 220-foot high sand dune mountain. It’s accessible through a nearly 250 stair climb. The viewing platform at the top offers a breathtaking view of the Kalamazoo River and the downtown area of Saugatuck that is just too enticing to miss. Baldhead is a misnomer at this point, however, as a number of trees were planted at the top in the 30s to prevent erosion.
Oval Beach is home to some of the whitest sand in the state of Michigan. It is considered to be one of the top recreational beaches in the entire country due to its beautiful view and amazing facilities. The beach is so popular that it hosted a TV show about beach parties. The beach in the summer is a scene of a three-months-long party with volleyball, sunbathing and swimming.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Just a few miles north of Oval Beach, in the city of Saugatuck is located the Saugatuck Dunes State Park. It’s a largely undeveloped park that stretches two and a half miles along the pristine shoreline of Lake Michigan. It also encompasses over a thousand acres of beachfront, dunes, forests and wetlands.
Trail 1 and 2
There are four trails in the Saugatuck Dunes State Park. For a quick hike, simply follow the Beach trail or the Livingston trail west from the parking area. Either will be a short hike leading directly through the dunes to the gorgeous beach on Lake Michigan.
The South Trail
The South Trail leading out of Saugatuck Dunes State Park will require the biggest commitment. It leads you through a five and a half mile loop through the natural area along a well maintained (but often rough) trail. This trail is a more adventurous hike, designed for the more committed and determined. It lets out along the beach as well, so you won’t need to use the same route to return back.
The north trail is a longer trail as well. It begins in the parking area rather than in the park, and it loops around a lot more than others. It takes you through more open areas, giving you an option of exploring mature stands of beech, maple, pine, and oak trees or going through more open grassy dunes
Stunning lake views
When you step out onto the beach in the State Park, you’ll be greeted by a great vastness, and the gulls sailing on the breeze as it rushes by your head. To the north, the 100-foot wide beach ends abruptly with a nearly vertical wall of eroded sand that soars 200 feet into the sky. Clumps of beach grass and stubborn plants cling desperately to life against the wind and waves of the lake. To see it in person is a truly stunning sight.