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Top 7 outdoor activities in Saugatuck highly recommended by long-time residents

Top 7 outdoor activities in Saugatuck highly recommended by long-time residents

Oval Beach Saugatuck

Discovering Saugatuck for the first time feels like you’ve come across a hidden retreat. The artsy beach town, hugging the Lake Michigan shoreline and Kalamazoo River, is known for its vibrant community and charming quaintness. With COVID-19 taking center stage this year, it’s no secret that people are trading big cities for a suburban or rural escape. Saugatuck offers a restorative haven full of your favorite outdoor summer and fall activities that you can still safely enjoy. 

In this post, you’ll find that you can still enjoy the beach and hiking at Oval Beach, Mount Baldhead Park, and the Saugatuck Dunes State Park. If you rather explore Saugatuck by water, check out these Water Activities. Finally, For outdoor activities check out the Saugatuck Dune Rides, The Market at Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and Saugatuck’s public golf courses

Oval Beach: Lake Michigan Swimming, Sunbathing, Dune Nature Walks

Historic Oval Beach is nestled among rolling sand dunes, Lake Michigan, and the protected waters of the Kalamazoo River. The ocean-like beach offers soft sand, clear blue freshwater, and panoramic sunset views making it one of Michigan’s most prized lakefronts. In fact, Conde Naste’s Traveler Magazine rated Saugatuck’s Oval Beach as one of the 25 best shorelines in the world. Grab your beach towel, umbrella, and picnic supplies ahead of time at the Farmhouse Deli, located in the neighboring town of Douglas, and order a sandwich and fresh seasonal salads – all made from locally sourced ingredients. Oval Beach is open throughout the year for locals and visitors to enjoy. Operating hours are from 9:00 am-10:00 pm on through the summer season (Memorial Day through Labor Day). The daily vehicle entrance is $10 for a day pass or $50 for a season permit. Cash and credit card are accepted. 

Getting There:

  • Take Perryman Street to the Oval Beach parking lot
  • Ride the Chain Ferry across the river from downtown Saugatuck ($2 per person, each way), and walk a half-mile along Perryman Street to the beach
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Mount Baldhead Park: Panoramic View, Wooden Steps, Hiking Trails

Looking to get your sweat on? The 300+ flights of wooden steps of Mount Baldhead gives you a stunning view of Saugatuck that is worth the climb. The iconic moonlike sphere along the Saugatuck shoreline has a deep history and used to be a radar tower in the 1950s during The Cold War. Rather than immediately backtracking down the steps, descend through the peaceful sand dunes and make your way down to Oval Beach to take a refreshing dip in Lake Michigan. You’ll be rewarded by skipping the fee to access the beach. Grab your water bottle and enjoy climbing up the staircase any time of the day without a charge.

Due to COVID-19, the 12 Mile Mt Baldhead Challenge will be canceled in 2020 and rescheduled to take place on September, 11th 2021. Net proceeds will go to launching a new Boys & Girls Club to enrich the lives of local kids. 

 Getting There:

  • Drive to 769 Park Street where you’ll have access to free parking lot
  • Ride the Chain Ferry across the river from downtown Saugatuck ($2 per person, each way), and walk to 769 Park Street

Saugatuck Dunes State Park: Secluded Beach, Miles of Hiking

Happy trails! The Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers 13 miles of sandy hiking trails to explore. The dog-friendly tree-lined trails feel like a remote getaway. After .6 miles you’ll be rewarded with a secluded beach on the Lake Michigan shoreline nestled amongst the towering sand dunes that are over 200 feet tall. Alternatively, keep hiking around the 4 trails that range between 2.5-5.5 miles. Grab your water bottle and hiking shoes and enjoy the beautiful outdoors at any time of the year. Additionally, the fall offers beautiful colors and foliage. Just $12 when purchased with your license plate, registration renewal, the Recreational Passport is your very own key to exploring Michigan State Parks, trails, historical sites, and more. As a non-resident, you’ll be asked to pay $9 for a day pass or $34 for an annual pass. 

Getting There: 

  • Located between Holland and Saugatuck, park in the picnic area at 64th and 138th
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Water Activities: Stand-Up-Paddle, Kayak, Boat Rentals, Sailing Cruises:

Enjoy the simple pleasures of sunshine and a cool breeze off-shore and take advantage of the endless water opportunities that Saugatuck offers. Grab your bathing suit and beach towel and get ready to navigate the beautiful waterways of Saugatuck. Be your own captain at Big Lake Outfitters and rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard and explore the winding Kalamazoo River out through the channel and into the unsalted Lake Michigan. Looking for more speed? Retro Boat Rentals allows visitors to rent vintage fiberglass boats and eco-friendly electric motors for the day. Spend your evening socially distancing with others and winding down with a sunset cruise on with Sailing Saugatuck on the Schooner Serenity, a two-masted sailing vessel, or The Star of Saugatuck’s paddlewheel boat. All water activity operators are open for the season with additional safety precautions in place. 

Getting There:

  • All water operators are located downtown Saugatuck. Please reference each operator’s website for directions.
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Saugatuck Dune Ride: Thrilling Sand Dune Tours

Make your Saugatuck experience memorable by jumping on an open-air dune buggy ride at Saugatuck Dune Rides. The 40-minute thrilling tour is fun for the entire family and offers unforgettable views of the lakeshore and sandy landscape. Learn about the lost town of historic Singapore and appreciate the wildlife and vegetation. Saugatuck Dune Rides is operating this season with a limited schedule and open every day through Labor Day Weekend from 10:00 am-5:30 pm.

After Labor Day, you’ll be able to enjoy the rides on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s until October 18th.  Tickets are $22 for adults and $12 for children under 12. All guests are required to wear a mask. Cool down after your expedition at mom-and-pop Dairy Dayz for a generous portion of soft-serve or hand-dipped flavors of ice cream. There is an outdoor window making the experience seamless. 

Getting There:

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The Market at Saugatuck Center for the Arts

Shop local and stop by Saugatuck’s weekly Farmer’s Market held at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts on Friday between 9:00 am-3:00 pm through September 25th. Enjoy freshly picked produce, local flowers, fresh baked goods, hand-crafted gifts, and so much more. Due to COVID-19, customers should consider wearing a  mask while they shop and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between people at all times. The SCA will provide hand sanitizing stations as well. 

Getting There: 

  • Drive to 400 Culver St and park in front of the market in their 45 slot private parking lot.
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Hit the Green Golfing: Public Courses, Al-Fresco Dining

West Michigan is known for its extraordinary golf courses. Grab your clubs and make a tee time with friends at the Ravines Golf Club, the Links at Rolling Meadows, or Clearbrook Golf Club. Take your golf-cart down tight pine fairways that end at smaller, target greens that putt beautifully. Book a private lesson to improve your game. Enjoy dining al-fresco at Clearbrook’s Grill Room patio where you can order delicious American cuisine and enjoy the lush landscape. However, all clubs are taking additional safety precautions this season where masks are required in the clubhouses at all times. Finally, Social distancing is encouraged at all times.  

Getting There

  • All golf clubs are located around the city of Saugatuck. Please reference each club’s website for directions and hours of operation.
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In conclusion, Saugatuck is a fantastic destination to explore during the summer and fall months. You can still enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, even with the current landscape. However, it’s important to practice safe social distancing and wear a mask to keep the community thriving!

Oval Beach Saugatuck
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