You know summer is winding down when football has begun to creep into sports on the local news broadcast. But there is still time to fit in a relaxing road trip before school and fall activities shift into high gear.
Among easy Midwest destinations to reach by car are beach towns off the West Michigan Pike on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Think about dipping the toe into the water, building a sand castle, relaxing with a summer ale and just kicking back one more time before faced with fall’s fast pace.
Now build on that thought by adding a picture-perfect sea-and-sand-dune landscape, friendly ma and pop cafes that encourage lingering over espresso or wine and really good art galleries and you have Saugatuck.
A charming area of bed and breakfast lodging and clever boutique and gallery shopping, Saugatuck and its sister community of Douglas, are the next stop in a Michigan Pike series that began with Benton Harbor-St. Joseph and continued with South Haven.
If traveling time is at a premium take Interstate 196 which is also US 31. The towns are about 2.5 hours from Chicago, 3.5 hours from Detroit and 4.5 hours from Indianapolis. Or, to meander a beach town route, drive the Blue Star Highway (A2).
The area has several charming B&Bs, an advantage when looking for advice from a knowledgeable local. Once settled in, go exploring. The Kalamazoo River separates Saugatuck’s downtown shopping from its famed Oval Beach (a National Geographic Traveler top-rated beach) and the dunes to the west and from Douglas to the south.
Just don’t drive too quickly between Douglas and Saugatuck because the Button-Petter Gallery, among West Michigan Pike’s finest art galleries, is on the Douglas side of the bridge. Indeed, the area is an artists’ haven so save time to check out other galleries.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a place to eat. From Saugatuck’s funky Monroe’s (as in Marilyn), waterside atmosphere at Mermaid and the fine dining of Restaurant Toulouse to Douglas’ popular Everyday People Café and lots of places in between that do bar-b-q and pizza, there are enough choices to satisfy any palate.
Just do it. Set aside a week or long weekend, make a lodging reservation, throw some casual clothes in the car, and go.
Photos (c) Jodie Jacobs