Travel: Boat rides, art galleries and distinctive cuisine highlight a trip to Saugatuck | Lifestyles – Travel

Penni Schewe


Channeling my internal Midge Maisel, I navigate the Kalamazoo River like it is the 1950s all above yet again. Steering Ruby, a red and white huge-finned Bell Boy Banshee (think the watercraft equal of the cars your grandparents applied to push), absent from the docks at Retro Boat Rental at the Previous Boat Household, Ruby is mine for an hour-and-a-50 %. It is sufficient time to discover Saugatuck, Michigan’s historic waterfront, identified for its stylish culinary scene, boutiques, art galleries and fairly pocket parks, and even go for a dip.

I could have picked Dorothy, a restored scarce little one blue 1959 Glass Slipper that was modeled immediately after a 1950s Ford Thunderbird and described as a T-Fowl on the h2o Sweet, a pink 1958 Glass Craft Quotation or 1 of the other jellybean-coloured 14-foot jet agers, also identified as atomic boats, created amongst 1955 and 1963. Defined by their unique automotive style and design, together with head and taillights and chrome grills, Ruby is that red convertible I’ll almost certainly never ever have.

“Is that yours?” somebody calls from the dock of the Coral Gables, a well-liked cafe which is part of a complex of mooring sites and watersport rentals. I just smile and shrug. Have to be a vacationer, I imagine. If not he’d know Ruby is portion of the fleet belonging to Retro Boats, a enterprise started out by Lauren and John Sharar. The two purchased an abandoned boat residence and then questioned what to do with it. At very first John viewed as renting wooden vessels, but decided the upkeep was as well a lot.

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Then he learned the beauties belonging to the primarily neglected “Golden Age of Boats,” many of which were being still left to deteriorate in outdated barns or garages and essential considerable restoration. But John is great at that kind of matter, and now they gleam in their Mad Adult males grandeur. To be environmentally friendly, John replaced the previous engines with electrical motors.

There are also three-hour rentals. Some boats are pet dog helpful. If you want to swim, head in the direction of Lake Michigan to wherever the river narrows into a harbor that locals get in touch with The Cove. Drop anchor and splash down into the drinking water.

There are other techniques to love the drinking water in Saugatuck, a historic village on a river that winds its way into Lake Michigan.

Star of Saugatuck gives 90-moment working day and evening cruises on reliable sternwheeler paddleboats that ply the waters of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Kalamazoo prior to heading out to Lake Michigan. The Star ships also have themed cruises, these types of as Beer on the Boat and Wine on the Water, in which a representative from a distillery, winery or brewery delivers samples for tasting and tells about their goods, and Pirate Daily life, wherever passengers are invited to gown like a pirate. Nicely, why not?

Clamber up on one of Harbor Duck Journey Tours’ refurbished Globe War II duck boats for a trip along the village streets before entering the water. Disembark any time you want for purchasing, eating or whatsoever, and capture one more duck boat when prepared.

Board Schooner Serenity, Saugatuck’s sole tall ship, for two-hour cruising solutions that include things like an afternoon and sunset sail steered by a accredited captain. The ship, a 65-foot two-masted gaff-rigged schooner, is also accessible for private charters. It retains 6 and you are welcome to bring your own food stuff and drinks aboard. Despite its name, Schooner Serenity’s house port is Douglas, another historic village on the Kalamazoo River just a few miles south of Saugatuck.

In a historic aside, Douglas — which has its personal charming downtown with galleries, dining places, boutiques, gardens and parks — was a single of three ship-setting up and lumber ports that boomed next the Chicago Fireplace in 1871. Surrounded by dense forests, the mills of Saugatuck, Douglas, and the exotically named Singapore, which was north of the other villages, denuded the forests to switch out the wooden needed to rebuild Chicago.

The moment the forests were gone, the economic climate of all three villages went bust. Saugatuck and Douglas revived with the arrival of steamship tourism in the late 1800s, which bought visitors to the villages. Singapore, alas, had been abandoned and eventually disappeared below drifting sands. Just a couple of of its properties remain, acquiring been set on skids and pulled by horses after the river froze. Just one survivor is the 185-yr-previous Singapore financial institution that now houses the Saugatuck Gallery at 317 Butler, Saugatuck’s major street.

Each Saugatuck and Douglas are arts mecca so there are a lot of other galleries to explore.

A definite need to quit is a historic oddity — the Saugatuck Chain Ferry. Dating back to 1838, it is the country’s only remaining chain-driven ferry. Operated by a hand crank that in change operates pulleys, it can take travellers throughout the Kalamazoo River.

Back again on dry land, check out out the myriad of tasting rooms — Fenn Valley Vineyard, Saugatuck Brewing Company, New Holland Spirits, Coppercraft Distillery, Mitten Brewing Organization and Guardian Brewing Business.

Other fun spots are the century-plus Saugatuck Drug Retail store & Soda Fountain for sundries, root beer floats, ice product and shakes, The Owl Household for gifts, and American Spoon for jams, salsas, fruit butters and sauces.

You may be up north, but there is Appalachian-style delicacies (by way of Detroit) at The Southerner. Found on the river, there’s usually a prolonged line as the area has been discovered and penned about in the Wall Street Journal. Specializing in these kinds of fare as fried chicken and catfish, grits and shrimp, pimento cheese unfold, and to-die-for biscuits, the kitchen area is manned by chef/operator Matt Miller, a James Beard nominee.

Spending the night time? Then consider the food items-centric Wickwood Inn, a 1940s Colonial Revival-model boutique resort surrounded by lush gardens in downtown Saugatuck. Owned by Julee Rosso, an award profitable cookbook author and co-founder of the Silver Palate line of foods, the inn is not only a very good beginning level for checking out the village but also giving their New American Breakfast as well as sweets and tea in the afternoon and an early night social hour showcasing hors d’oeuvres.

For additional information and facts, call the Saugatuck/Douglas Visitors Bureau at 269-857-1701 or


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