The crowds are gone, Oval Beach is free instead of $10, and the weather, and water temperature in Lake Michigan are still good. You can’t beat a fall weekend in Saugatuck-Douglas in southwest Michigan. It’s the Midwest’s only gay resort area and just a short drive from Chicago, Detroit, and many other cities. You can also fly into nearby Grand Rapids.
Where To Stay
I camped at Camp It Outdoor Resort, a resort in Fennville on 118th Street (exit 30 off I-196) in Fennville. Tent camping is just $20 per night (weekends) although they also feature cabins, bunkhouse rooms, and RV sites as well. A pool, Biggie’s Food Truck, and convenience store with everything you might have forgotten are also part of the package. (They also have a place in Florida for those that wish to visit them there. It is called the Thousand Palms RV Resort.) Details at Saugatuckoutdoorresorts.com.
The Dunes Resort (333 Blue Star Highway in Douglas) has rooms and cabins as well as a basement value lodging space. It is very handy for those that want to partake in the pool, bar, dance, or see a cabaret show. No need to worry about drinking and driving. The pool scene is great and you can also order food and enjoy lunch pool side. It is one of the largest (and best) LGBTQ resorts. Details at Dunesresort.com.
I also like the AmericInn (2905 Blue Star Highway) which is walkable from The Dunes. The Blue Star Motel (167 Blue Star Highway) is close-by, and an affordable other option.
What To Do
Make your first stop Oval Beach, arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan.
Other great beaches include Pier Cove Beach and West Side County Park (2152 Lakeshore Drive) as well as Saugatuck Dunes State Park which has acres of dunes and trails.
My new favorite is the William Smith Wau-Ke-Na Nature Preserve at 1599 Lakeshore with a ½ mile hike through prairies and woodlands down to the lake.
Biking along the new bike trail from Saugatuck to Holland is an option. There is a rental place in Saugatuck.
The Fennville Vineyards (Fennvalley.com) has great wine tasting.
Pick apples or blueberries at Dee’s Lakeshore Farm, 1672 70th Street in Fennville.
Bike the Kal Haven Trail in South Haven then walk out on the Pier.
Downtown Saugatuck is great on a rainy drop for their shopping. Take the too cute Saugatuck Chain Ferry across the Kalamazoo River.
Nearby Holland has a great farmers market on Saturdays.
Where To Eat
Uncommon Coffee Roasters at 127 Hoffman is the best. Great coffee and great food.
The What Not Inn (2405 Blue Star Highway in Fennville) is my favorite. Try the Friday Fish fry. They also feature live music on the weekends.
The Saugatuck Brewing Company is another option.
The Fresh Basil in Saugatuck (311 Water Street) has a good salmon salad.
The new Bigby Coffee Drive Thru is also very good. It’s a small chain from Lansing.
Lakeshore Convenience has great pizza (155 Blue Star Highway) just north of The Dunes.
The Dunes Resort has a great bar, cabaret shows, dancing, and more. Don’t miss the Sunday T Dances. If you are lucky, they sometime have dancers.
Other Travel Tips
The Lake Vista SuperValu at 237 Center Street has all the supplies you may need.
If you need a ride, the Saugatuck Interurban is a great deal. Saugatuckinterurban.com. It is just a $1.
Upcoming Fall Events
I like the Lambda Car Show, “There’s Something About Saugatuck” which features old cars and a parade out to the Oval Beach. It is held this year from September 13-15 and is a must. Details at Michianadunes.com.
September 13-15: Wine, Dine, and more at CampIt
September 20-22 is Mr. Michigan Leather at the Dunes
September 27-29 is the Fine Arts weekend at CampIt
October 11-13 is Fall Fest Weekend at The Dunes with a final Sunday T dance on October 13
October 25-27 is Hallo-Weenie weekend at the Dunes Resort featuring a Halloween Parade and Costume Contest on October 26
For more information: Michigan’s LGBTQ publication “Between the Lines” (Pridesource.com) has the latest as does Metra, a magazine.
The Grand Rapids weekly, Revue, is another source of ideas. You will find them at Revuewm.com.
You won’t run out of things to do in the fall in Saugatuck-Douglas and southwest Michigan. It’s the perfect escape for a long weekend getaway. Be sure and take home some local blueberries and apples. Southwest Michigan is indeed the “fruit basket” of the Midwest.
Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only syndicated LGBTQ value travel columnist who focuses on affordable fun. He accepts no compensation or free in-kind services. His opinions are his own. His column has appeared in publications in D.C., Chicago, Palm Springs, Orlando-Tampa, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Detroit, Indianapolis and other cities. He resides in Indianapolis. All or part of this column may appear in other publications.