14 Top-Rated Things to Do in Saugatuck, MI
Author Meagan Drillinger visited Saugatuck in the fall of 2022 while on an extensive trip through Michigan.
Saugatuck, Michigan, is a charming river town in Western Michigan perched overlooking the Kalamazoo River. A longtime artists community, Saugatuck is known for its creative energy, historic architecture, outdoor activities, and its natural beauty.
Paired with its sister city, Douglas, the area is one of the best places to visit along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. You'll find countless things to do here.
Saugatuck is a treasure trove of art galleries, Lake Michigan beaches, parks, riverfront views, museums, scenery, and shopping. You won't want to miss the famous Saugatuck Dunes State Park or the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, both of which are among the highlights in Saugatuck
Want more ideas? Read on to discover the top things to do in Saugatuck.
1. Visit Saugatuck Dunes State Park
The best way to introduce yourself to Saugatuck is to get lost among its wild, undulating dunes. Saugatuck Dunes State Park sits right on the Lake Michigan shoreline and is known for its beautiful natural dunes, deep forests, trails, and the Patty Birkholz Natural Area that spans 300 acres.
One of the top places to visit for residents of Saugatuck in the summer, the park features 2.5 miles of beachfront that is always primed for swimming. Those who want to stay on dry land can walk the four trails, which range from 2.5 to 5.5 miles long.
If you want to learn more about the natural environment, the Patty Birkholz Natural Area is a wonderful opportunity, home to the coastal dune system and the endangered plants of the area.
Address: 6575 138th Ave, Holland, Michigan
2. Splash around at Oval Beach
Lake Michigan has some pretty spectacular beaches all up and down the western coast of Michigan. But if you're looking for one of the best, Oval Beach in Saugatuck certainly has a leading spot. The beach sits backed by gorgeous sand dunes, bordering the Kalamazoo River, and has endless views out to the rolling blue waters of the lake.
More than just a pretty place to snap a picture, Oval Beach is a top spot for kicking back and spending a warm afternoon. The sand is soft and sprawling along the coastline.
Facilities include a concession stand, restrooms, and plenty of parking. It's a beach that brings visitors back year after year because it truly is one of the best beaches in Michigan.
3. Wander Butler Street
Downtown Saugatuck is about as charming as it gets. Butler Street is the main artery that leads through this leafy, historic heart of the town. Here, you'll find the roots of the art colony that has helped to shape Saugatuck, with 30 galleries, boutiques, and shops.
For more than 100 years, Saugatuck has been home to an artists colony, which is now known as the Ox-Bow School of Art & Artists Residency.
Saugatuck is one of the top art towns in America thanks to its vibrant artistic community, which is centered around downtown and Butler Street. You'll also find that downtown is where the village hosts live concerts, independent film screenings, and a never-ending array of exhibits. With beautiful riverfront views, you'll find that downtown Saugatuck always has something to see and do.
4. Hike Mt. Baldhead Park
While you're visiting Oval Beach, you may want to block out some extra time to explore the surrounding Mt. Baldhead Park. The 100-acre park sits on the banks of the Kalamazoo River and leads down to Oval Beach along Lake Michigan.
Mt. Baldhead itself is a 250-foot dune within the park. Climbing Mt. Baldhead can be done via the 300-plus wooden steps that lead up the 250 feet to an observation deck that looms over the Mt. Baldhead dune. From the platform, you'll be able to take in sweeping views of the Kalamazoo River, as well as Lake Michigan.
If you're looking for a good place to start when it comes to exploring the natural beauty of Saugatuck, Mt. Baldhead Park provides the perfect introduction.
5. Ride the Saugatuck Chain Ferry
If you're staying in downtown Saugatuck and want to cross the Kalamazoo River, you can use the Saugatuck Chain Ferry. The chain-driven, hand-cranked ferry has been shuttling passengers across the river since 1838 and still retains its historic charm when you step aboard the white ferry platform.
As the ferry prepares to cross the river, the operator takes a can of compressed air and blows a whistle signal and then propels the ferry by hand as it travels along the chain to the other side.
Across the river is where you'll find attractions like Mt. Baldhead and Oval Beach. The alternative to the ferry is to take the lengthy drive up and around the lake, especially if you're staying near downtown.
Address: 528 Water Street, Saugatuck, Michigan
6. Stroll through Wicks Park
If you're watching the Chain Ferry, then you are doing so from Wicks Park. This lovely, pocket-sized park sits right on the banks of the Kalamazoo River in the heart of downtown Saugatuck.
The park is only half an acre, sitting on Water Street between Mary and Main streets. It's a sweet little spot in downtown where locals and visitors go to have a picnic, sit on the benches, and, of course, watch the chain ferry.
Don't miss the brilliantly colored mural depicting "A Sunday on La Grande Latte" by Georges Seurat. It's one of the top features within the park.
During the warmer months, the gazebo is the venue for the Music in the Park live band series. The concerts are held on Wednesdays in the summer and are free to attend.
Address: 449 Water Street, Saugatuck, Michigan
7. Browse at Amazwi Contemporary Art
Saugatuck is a haven for artists and creatives, so you'll want to be sure to save time to browse the galleries downtown. One can't-miss gallery experience is Amazwi Contemporary Art, which is dedicated to showcasing art and crafts from Africa.
Amazwi is the Zulu word for "voices," and that's exactly what the gallery strives to do: amplify the voices of African artists. The gallery features art from across a variety of media, from paintings and sculpture to baskets, jewelry, home decor, and crafts. A lengthy list of African artists have their work on display at the gallery.
Visitors can even stay at the gallery. Amazwi Suites are two private one-bedroom condos that have views over Lake Kalamazoo and Coughlin Park.
Address: 249 Culver Street, Saugatuck, Michigan
8. Experience the Kalamazoo River
One of Michigan's most impressive waterways is the Kalamazoo River, which runs for 130 miles, emptying into Lake Michigan. It's a beautiful natural feature of Michigan and a big source of recreation for its residents.
When visiting Saugatuck, a fun way to experience the river is to get out on the Star of Saugatuck, a sternwheeler that runs down the river to Lake Kalamazoo, offering great views of the cottages and homes along the way. Drink in views of Lake Michigan, Oval Beach, and the lighthouse at the Holland Harbor.
The river offers a unique vantage point from which to take in the beautiful views of Saugatuck and its landmarks.
9. Visit the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum
With a beautiful perch overlooking the Kalamazoo River, the Saugatuck-Douglas Histopry Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in town. In fact, it draws nearly 10,000 visitors to its exhibits and more than 40,000 visitors to its outdoor gardens each year. Not bad for a small-town history museum.
The purpose of the history museum is to preserve and share the local history of Saugatuck. It showcases more than 300 works of art from artists who have lived or worked in the area. The museum also supports an Oral History Project, where residents and frequent visitors can share their knowledge with the community to keep the stories and traditions alive.
Patrons can check out the Tuesday Talks, which is a weekly summer series held every Tuesday in July and August discussing topics that pertain to the art and history of the Saugatuck region.
Address: 735 Park Street, Saugatuck, Michigan
10. Wander through Coghlin Park
Not far from Wicks Park, also in downtown Saugatuck is Coghlin Park. The half-acre park features 200 feet of frontage on the Kalamazoo River. A popular spot for festivals and events, Coghlin Park is a nice little patch of green space to enjoy the beauty of downtown Saugatuck.
11. Stop by All Saints Episcopal Church
Of the many beautiful landmarks in Saugatuck, the All Saints Episcopal Church is laden with history. The Carpenter Gothic Church was built in 1872 and sits on the National Register of Historic Places.
You don't need to have any religious affiliation to appreciate the beauty of the historic church, which is known for its gabled roof and tower. The first services were held here in 1873, and later it was installed with glass windows, an organ, and carpeting. It sits on a quiet, leafy block and is evocative of a quaint scene out of New England.
Address: 252 Grand Street, Saugatuck, Michigan
12. Catch a Performance at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Being a center for arts and culture, it's no surprise that Saugatuck has an impressive performance space. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts is a beautiful space downtown that hosts theater, concerts, film, and educational seminars.
For two decades, the arts center has put on a dynamic program for visitors and residents of Saugatuck. It also features a series of markets, like the Winter's Eve Market and the Outdoor Holiday Market, which have arts and crafts around the holiday season.
The center is committed to cultural education, as well. It has a calendar of hands-on programming that involves professional working artists with students of all ages.
Address: 400 Culver Street, Saugatuck, Michigan
13. Explore the Dorr E. Felt Mansion
While visiting Saugatuck Dunes State Park, it's worth a pop over to the gorgeous and historic Dorr E. Felt Mansion. The National Register of Historic Places landmark is now a testament to regional history and a lovely spot to tour or at which to attend a glamorous event.
The mansion spans more than 12,000 square feet and has 25 rooms, three floors, and a spectacular ballroom. It was built in 1925 and completed in 1928 as a home for resident Dorr Felt and his wife, Agnes.
After many years, the property changed quite a few hands before falling into disrepair. But the space was lovingly restored in 2002 to its original grandeur.
Today visitors can tour the three-story home for a glimpse into the Gilded Age past of Western Michigan. It's a great addition to a nature walk within the Saugatuck Dunes State Park.
Address: 6597 138th Ave, Holland, Michigan
14. Take the Family to the Outdoor Discovery Center
Just outside Saugatuck is a protected natural area that is primed for learning all about the gorgeous outdoor environment of Western Michigan. The Outdoor Discovery Center is a non-profit education organization that features exhibits, walking paths, and programming to bring residents and visitors up close with nature.
The preserve spans 130 acres with nearly five miles of trails that are used for walking or snowshoeing, depending on the season. Additional activities include a play area for families, fishing pond, a birds of prey center, wetland areas, and a cultural history trail.
Address: 4214 56th Street, Holland, Michigan