I am Michigan born but not bred. Having parents that hailed from the Great Lakes State ensured that we spent a couple of weeks in Michigan every summer, which was a tall order for the 10 years we lived in Arizona. My mother’s family had a cottage in Glen Arbor and to this day, I’ll happily argue with anyone that the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore is among the most beautiful beaches in the world. Despite growing up in northern Ohio, Clay had never been to Lake Michigan until we were married but he and our children now have experienced a handful of trips to the western shores of the second-largest Great Lake. And we all agree that we’re smitten with the mitten.
We have plans to visit my beloved Leelanau Peninsula later the summer but we were able to squeeze in a trip to Saugatuck, Michigan over Memorial Day Weekend. We had visited Holland, Michigan (about 10 miles north) as a family almost five years ago when my cousin got married but this past weekend was our first time in Saugatuck. The weather was cool but we didn’t let that stop us from having a wonderful time – it was exactly what we needed to get us through the last couple of weeks before school lets out for the summer.
When Clay found this tiny pet-friendly cottage on VBRO earlier this spring, we booked it immediately. We’ve been tossing around the idea of buying a tiny cottage in Michigan and we’ve been wanting to take Teddy Girl on her first vacation so it felt serendipitous that ‘The Nutshell’ popped up in the search results.
Teddy Girl did great on her first non-camping trip with us! She hiked with us, she chilled at the cottage while we explored at night, and she even had her first outdoor dining experience. Saugatuck and the neighboring town, Douglas, are considered two of the most dog-friendly areas in the United States. Many shops had bowls of water and treats available on the sidewalks and almost every restaurant patio allows (well-behaved) dogs. Additionally, quite a few hotels and cottages are pet-friendly as well.
I have extended family who live in southwest Michigan and drove up for a visit on Sunday. Living near family is a luxury that not many military families get to experience – we are so incredibly thankful that this tour affords us the opportunity to do so.
We had a wonderful lunch (and beer!) at Mitten Brewing Company. The giant pretzel was one of the best we’ve ever had…I don’t mean to brag but we consider ourselves quite the pretzel connoisseurs.
The stairs up to Mount Baldhead were down the street from our cottage. We climbed to the top and were greeted with views of the Kalamazoo River on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. We then hiked the trails down to Lake Michigan and then through the woods back to town.
Our cottage was located across the river from downtown Saugatuck so when we wanted to go into town, we’d either drive or take the Saugatuck Chain Ferry, which is the only operating chain ferry left in the United States (it’s been in use since 1838). It was $2/person per ride and while perhaps not the most time-efficient, it eliminated the need to battle for a parking space and it was quite interesting to see it in action.
On the outskirts of town toward Oval Beach is the Douglas Root Beer Barrel. Built in 1950 and newly restored, the barrel serves a variety of hotdogs, root beer floats, and sundaes. We opted for root beer floats (of course) and I’m happy to report that they lived up to the hype.
Michigan has such a rich automotive history so it’s not uncommon to see old restored Fords on any given day. This one was casually parked at the entrance of Mount Baldhead.
Saugatuck has many art galleries, lots of small independent shops, and is nestled between two bodies of water, so it’s easy to see why it is a popular destination. Spending Memorial Day Weekend in such a quaint lakeside town provided us some much-needed respite – there certainly is something special about that Michigan air.
We also hiked throughout Saugatuck Dunes State Park (we bought an annual Michigan State Park Pass for $34), which is home to coastal dunes over 200 feet tall. The terrain varies from steep lops to rolling hills and we even stumbled upon The Felt Estate, which is where my cousin’s wedding was held during our last visit to the area.
Spending the long weekend with the people I love most in the world was exactly what I needed and I thrilled to do so in a place that spoke to our souls. If I’m being honest – we’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. Perhaps Clay being in the Army for over 17 years now and the nomadic lifestyle we’ve adapted is starting to wear on us a bit. Yes – home is where the four of us happen to be together but we’re starting to feel the pull to live somewhere we truly love or at the very least, have a place we can go and truly escape. We often say that we haven’t found our place yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being along the Michigan coast.