Leaving Grand Rapids we had one goal in mind; Lake Michigan, through the years Kris has refined a scenic route. We leave Grand Rapids going west on Leonard Street, this is a beautiful road that winds along mimicking the Grand River. The roadside abodes are charming, many have elaborate gardens, it is a lovely drive. Leonard will take you into Spring Lake where you have to get on 31 to cross the Grand River and go into Grand Haven. The traffic in Grand Haven was alarming, we couldn’t get near the lake, the town appeared almost vacant as everyone was at the beach. At last we made our way to Lake Shore Av and zigged and zagged as necessary before arriving in Holland. A lap around the north and east side of Lake Macatawa and we were back on South Shore Dr, aka the scenic route. Our habit is to take that to 64th street all the way to Blue Star Highway(A2), once you are there Saugatuck is just a hop and a skip away. As soon as we made the turn towards town we could see the crowds of visitors, our chances of getting a place to park and then go eat were looking slim when we gratefully came across a vacant spot right along the river.
We have been regular guests of Saugatuck for almost two decades now, it is one of our favorite escapes. We walked the town going in and out of shops, there’s a nice balance here of souvenir type items, art galleries, and boutiques. There is no shortage of places to eat; Kilwins has amazing chocolate, caramel corn and ice cream, American Spoon has a storefront here as well, restaurants and cafes are everywhere, and of course there is waterfront dining. We ate on the porch of a little cafe and did some people watching as well, afterwards a walk on the boardwalk gave us a chance to check out the boats. There is a pretty little park, Wicks Park, with benches and a gazebo that also makes for a great place to watch the boaters go to and from the big lake. We stopped in at Uncommon Grounds for a little break, I had an espresso shake, yummy, and Kris had an iced coffee with a delectable piece of coconut cheesecake. They have a nice deck with cafe tables to sit and overlook the activity on Hoffman St.
On the other side of Blue Star Hwy is the city of Douglas, you can’t go see one and not go see the other, the area is routinely referred to as Saugatuck/Douglas, both have that small town America feel, with that laid back, friendly attitude. Recently the National Trust For Historic Preservation selected these cities as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations in the United States.
Oval Beach is ranked one of the top 25 beaches in the world by Conde’ Nast, and one of the top two in the USA by National Geographic Traveler. Needless to say it is stunning! You can walk the white sand shoreline taking in the towering sand dunes, boats, and sand castles, time seems to stand still as you gaze out at the shimmering blue water. The road going into Oval Beach can be a madhouse, so be prepared. A lesser known alternative is Douglas Beach, parking is very limited, but we went late enough in the day that we secured a spot. Here you are on a bluff, so there is a set of wooden stairs that leads you down to the soft sandy beach. We ditched our shoes and started walking, after nearly two hours we knew we had to start the journey back home.
It’s always hard to leave such a beautiful place, but the time had come. If you don’t enjoy white sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets, quaint shops and tasty food, Saugatuck is not for you. Otherwise, come on out!!