When Justin suggested a few weeks ago that we get out of town to relax, I didn’t hesitate to agree (he’s learned that it doesn’t take much convincing for me to toss clothes into a bag and head out of town). We tossed around
some ideas –Traverse City, Caseville, Grand Rapids. Then he suggested Saugatuck, located on the west side of Michigan. I love the small town, which was the destination for a family vacation three years ago, but he’d never been so it sounded like a good idea to me.
Saugatuck, usually connected with neighboring town of Douglas, is about 40 minutes southwest of Grand Rapids. The two towns are bordered by the Kalamazoo River on its way to Lake Michigan. Like most of the small towns on the west side of the state, Saugatuck is reminiscent of small-town America, with a charming, walk-able downtown filled with unique shops and restaurants that draw people to relax, unwind and connect with family and friends.
I contacted several bed and breakfast locations situated in or walking distance from downtown Saugatuck but none had availability. A high school friend suggested the Ship N Shore Motel located on Water Street right on the Kalamazoo River. The motel website showed quaint rooms and decent prices so I called. We were booked.
When we first arrived at the Ship N Shore Motel we had an issue with the room. I don’t complain much about service and it takes a lot to bug me. However, I’ve come to appreciate the value of money and how hard I work to earn my money. So I wasn’t super impressed with the amount of money we were spending on a room that had broken blinds and little heat. We went back to the front desk and explained our situation. The attendant immediately offered us a new room. We liked it and appreciated her quick fix of the situation.
Overall the Ship N Shore was fine and we’d probably stay there again. It was easy walking distance to the downtown stores and restaurants, the docks and waterfront. A standard yet plentiful continental breakfast is provided, with coffee and drinks offered throughout the day. A pool and hot tub are available in warmer months. And you can watch boats pass along the Kalamazoo River. The décor could certainly be updated yet it also provides charm and ambiance. While we think the Ship N Shore was a hip, happening spot in the ‘70s (based on the décor), I’m sure the motel is also packed during the summer months today. There are seating areas on the grounds outside overlooking the river and the enclosed lounge has multiple seating areas which also offer views of the river.
When we checked into the Ship N Shore, the attendant mentioned the Sounds of Saugatuck event. We were clueless. Turns out the next night was a big music festival in downtown Saugatuck. Almost 20 restaurants and bars were participating and all would have some sort of musical performances ranging from blues to acoustic guitar to rock.
The attendant recommended dinner at Wicks Park Bar & Grille across from the motel on Water Street. I had a tasty turkey burger. They also had live music and the Tigers on television so it was a relaxing evening.
We woke to an overcast, rainy Saturday. But we had umbrellas so after breakfast we went shopping. Saugatuck has a lot of interesting, fun stores. Art is plentiful, as are clothing stores and unique home goods.
Michigan wineries Fenn Valley and Tabor Hill have tasting rooms in downtown Saugatuck….so we of course had to visit those. We sampled some great wine and chatted with friendly staff. From Fenn Valley we purchased a wonderful Cranberry wine and a Spiced Peach & Honey wine. Both are rich with great flavors. At Tabor Hill we tasted (and purchased) their most popular red, Demi-Red, and white, Demi-Sec, wines. These are very affordable and tasteful. I asked the gentleman helping us if the early spring temps, then frost affected the grapes and other fruit. Sadly he told us that some wineries had lost much of their crop, some even lost up to half.
Our next stop was The Olive Mill, which sells flavorful olive oils and balsamic vinegar. You can sample everything, from a peach balsamic to garlic olive oil. The Butler’s Pantry had great kitchen gadgets and gift ideas. I purchased a bread mix and eyed some other items, but with our wedding only a few months away I’m refraining from buying kitchen items so we can add to our registry.
It was recommended we have lunch at Saugatuck Brewing Company so we headed toward Douglas on the Blue Star Highway. I had their Delilah DeWylde Berry Wheat, a very good raspberry wheat. Justin ordered a sampler so he could taste six of their beers (and I tried a few of his!). The food is good too! There was a small group of people brewing their own beer.
Next to the brewery is an antiques store. We are big fans of American Pickers on the History Channel. It was interesting to see all the items packed into this store, from a Star Wars lunch box to a tea set dated 1947 to collectibles.
We decided on Marro’s Italian Restaurant for dinner. My family and I had been there during our visit years ago and loved the food. The place is always packed and was again this time, despite still being ‘off season.’ Their pizza was very good. After dinner we walked around the streets trying to check out the music festival. Every bar was packed. Most were standing room only, which didn’t really appeal to us. So we ended up at Kilwin’s for an ice cream to share.
Justin had spotted a restaurant promoting great breakfast so picked that as our Sunday dining experience. Pumpernickel’s Eatery is located in a historic building with high ceilings, festive decorations and great food. My pancakes were delicious!
Since the sun was shining we decided to visit Oval Beach, rated by Conde Naste’s Traveler Magazine as one of the 25 best shorelines in the world. ‘Off season’ was evident by the lack of cars and chaos. I contemplated climbing around on the sand dunes but decided I wasn’t quite dressed appropriately so we walked along the boardwalk, enjoying the beauty and each other’s company.
Saugatuck remains one of my favorite Michigan small towns. The atmosphere is relaxed, the people are friendly and the gentle winds off the river ease the stress from my shoulders.