There’s nothing like winter in Chicago to make a yachtsman yearn for summer voyages. One I often relive is the clockwise cruise around the Lake Michigan Triangle.
Chicago anchors the southwestern corner of the triangle, and the first leg takes you 90 miles northeast of the city to Saugatuck, Michigan. Perched at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, Saugatuck and its sister city, Douglas, offer visitors a chance to enjoy art, history and spectacular natural resources. Midwest Living magazine ranked this area fifth among the top 100 vacation destinations in the Midwest, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation named it one of 2009’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in the United States. Its beaches have received high praise from the media as well, but you’d be better off asking one of the thousands of repeat summer visitors what they think — or best of all — making a visit yourself.
Tower Marina, photo courtesy Felicia Fairchild.
No need to worry about shoreside transportation, because almost everything in town is within walking distance of the harbor, which is home to more than 900 boats of all sizes and character. My favorites are the Victorian hand-cranked Saugatuck Ferry, the old-fashioned stern-wheeler Star of Saugatuck dinner cruiser and a World War II amphibious “Duck” water taxi. You’ll find more slips on the Douglas side of the river at Tower Marine, which has 500 deepwater berths accommodating boats up to 90 feet, and just a block from downtown, Sergeant Marina has slips for yachts up to 50 feet long.
Saugatuck's Oval Beach earned the distinction of being one of the world's top 25. Photo courtesy Felicia Fairchild.
If you need a break from the boat, you may try one of Saugatuck’s more than 25 bed-and-breakfast establishments. The lovely Belvedere Inn features six-course gourmet dinners complemented by boutique wine pairings on the first Saturday of each month, November through April. On Butler Street, you’ll find tasting rooms for two of West Michigan’s oldest and most prize-winning wineries. Of course, the city offers other dining options: Everyday People Cafe, the Wild Dog Grille (try a martini), Phil’s Bar & Grille, the Saugatuck Brewing Co. and the Lucky Stone Pub, where 11 brands of beer are on tap. You can even replenish your provisions with some locally grown produce, baked goods and flowers at one of several green markets.