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This Tiny Michigan Beach Town is The Best Place for Old-Fashioned Summer Fun

Retro boat rides and glamping on a working blueberry farm await!

By Sarah Zlotnick
group of women boarding red speedboat at retro boat rentals in saugatuck michiganpinterest icon
Ryan Donnell

Is there anything more wonderful than an impromptu summer getaway? Whether you’re off in search of great antiquing destinations or the most colorful places in the U.S., it’s always a good idea to add a small town or two to the itinerary. And if you’re looking for a place that offers fun on the farm and on the water, look no further than Saugatuck, Michigan. First established in 1868 and originally known as Kalamazoo Village, this former lumber port turned lively lakeside resort town on Michigan’s Sunset Coast is situated just over two hours from Chicago, but feels like it’s worlds away.

There are fun things to do in Saugatuck, Michigan, for every kind of visitor. Those on the hunt for old-fashioned entertainment will enjoy the $2 ferry rides and zipping down Kalamazoo River in a retro boat rental. Moreso in search of fresh food and drink? There are plenty of places for delicious desserts and hard ciders made with Michigan fruit. If it’s not a summer vacation without dipping your toes into the water, you’ll be delighted to know that Oval Beach is frequently touted as one of the best, and accommodation options range from one of the largest LGBTQIA+ resorts in the country to a freshly revamped waterside motor lodge.

So if you’re searching for a new small town to visit this summer, you can end your quest right here. Our Saugatuck, MI travel guide includes the best restaurants, boutiques, hotels and more, plus lots of great things to see and do. Happy travels!


Java Nice Day

cold brew coffee being poured out of metal canister into plastic cup
Uncommon Coffee Roasters

Hot summer mornings call for cold-brew drinks (including Caramel Snowballs!) from Uncommon Coffee Roasters.


Take to the Lakes

group of women boarding a red vintage speedboat at the dock of retro boat rentals in saugatuck michigan
Ryan Donnell

Saugatuck boasts plenty of ways to cool off. Wade into Lake Michigan from Oval Beach, frequently touted as one of the best in the country, or feel the wind in your hair with a ride down Kalamazoo River on a 1959 Bell Boy Banshee from Retro Boat Rentals (pictured).


Hit the Shops

a shelf of jams and jellies in american spoon store in saugatuck michigan
Courtesy American Spoon

Along Butler Street, American Spoon offers inventive pantry essentials made from Michigan-grown ingredients. One block up at Sea Bags, the roomy totes are sewn with upcycled boat sails. Head to The Brass Anchor for nautical clothing and home decor, and don't forget to pop into Endora for a colorful mix of global finds.

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Have Lunch Your Way

waitress holding tray of fried chicken at the southerner restaurant in saugatuck michigan
Ryan Donnell

Many Appalachians moved to Michigan in the 1950s for jobs in the auto industry. Enjoy the flavors of the migration at fried chicken joint The Southerner, or plan to picnic with gourmet goodies from Isabel's Market + Eatery. Brunch lovers won't want to miss the decadent egg and pancake options at Pennyroyal Cafe & Provisions, or, if you're feeling especially indulgent, you can skip the main course entirely in favor of a pie flight (four for $7!) from Crane's Pie Pantry.


Sip Local

pink virtue cider rose can and box on wooden crate in apple orchard
Courtesy Virtue Cider

At Virtue Cider, former Goose Island brewmaster Gregory Hall makes his peach- and cherry-infused hard apple ciders (pictured) with Michigan fruit. Woman-owned Waypost Brewing Co. in Fennville serves saisons and lagers on a 58-acre fruit farm.


Step Back in Time

red lighthouse next to black tugboat in saugatuck michigan

Historical sites include the Kalamazoo River Lighthouse replica (pictured) and the Saugatuck Chain Ferry. In use since 1838, it's the last hand-crank ferry in operation in the U.S. One-way rides are just $2!

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Stay and Play

glamping tent with bed and bistro table set at the fields of michigan in southhaven mi
Angela Treimer / Courtesy The Fields of Michigan

Recently revamped motor lodge Lake Shore Resort makes the most of its waterfront locale with kayaks for guests and yoga on the deck, while larger groups can hunker down in Company + Cottage home rentals. The Dunes Resort is one of the largest LGBTQIA+ resorts in the country, and, in nearby South Haven, The Fields of Michigan offers upscale glamping on a working blueberry farm.


Nominate Your Favorite Small Town!

old red barn in field
Terry W. Eggers//Getty Images

Where should we mosey to next? Tell us at, or start planning your next getaway with our small town guides:

The Best Small Towns in the U.S.
30+ Small Towns to Visit This Summer

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