I look forward to weekend getaways as much as multi-week international trips, and have had the Saugatuck area on my radar for some time. Just about 2.5 hours from Chicago, it’s perfect for a quick escape. We planned our weekend around Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which takes place every May and, of course, is all about springtime tulips!
Where to Stay
There are many unique and fun places in the area, but Sea Suites grabbed my attention. It’s a Boat and Breakfast, one of a few b&bs actually on a boat. At 105′ long, it has 4 rooms each with their own private bathroom, a communal area, a massive sundeck and outdoor bar. The hosts are charming, and fixed great breakfasts both mornings. It’s a fun experience, keeping in mind it is a boat. You’ll hear the pump running in the middle of the night, and breakfast feels more like a family get together than a formal affair. Nonetheless, it’s super clean, everyone is friendly, and it’s pretty neat to wake up in the morning and see the lake right out your bedroom window.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Red Dock Cafe is just a few steps down the pier. A Key West style bar, it came highly recommended, but we were there too early in the season.
Douglas and Saugatuck
The two towns are walking distance apart, about a mile, and each offer unique charm. You’ll find art galleries, boutique shops, restaurants and bars in both. We had dinner at the Everyday People Cafe, the fanciest of the restaurants in Douglas. The walleye and duck breast were both excellent!
That weekend, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Douglas Derby in full force. Who needs the Kentucky Derby, when you’ve got this? All the galleries and shops rolled out the red carpet (literally), served appetizers and wine, whilst those in-the-know came dressed in derby finery, complete with hobby horses! This tiny town knows how to throw a party!
Just a few minutes from Saugatuck and Douglas is Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The park has several miles of trails and 2 miles of Lake Michigan beach. From the parking lot, we followed the Beach Trail (2.5 miles roundtrip). There isn’t much signage, and no rangers on staff, so it’s a bit of guess where you’re going. Afterwards, I found the park map online, which you may want to save if you plan to visit. We were the only people on the beach, and it was a beautiful, sunny day!
About 15-20 minutes south of Douglas/Saugatuck is Fennville, home to Virtue Cider. I absolutely loved this place! Aside from the cider, they have an active farm, complete with sheep, chickens, pigs and a giant bunny. The lawn has picnic tables and hammocks for relaxing, along with bags and horseshoes for a bit of activity. A bit chilly during our visit, they had campfires burning throughout. There is a mile or so trail on the property, and they are holding Yoga on the Farm this summer. If I lived nearby, this would be my go-to spot!
Down the street, there is also a winery, which we did not visit. One of my favorite things about Michigan is driving the country roads. Unfailingly, you come across some random fun! En route to Virtue, we stopped at Peachbelt Studio Gallery (art studio) and Anderson’s Schoolhouse Gallery (antique/junk store).
Holland & Tulip Time
Just 20 minutes away, Holland is a decent sized town with street after street of shops and restaurant, including Dutch import shops. During Tulip Time, the town is brimming with tulips on every corner, in every park. Try over 200,000 blooms, with over 120 types of tulips! The festival is not just about flowers, though, also celebrating the town’s Dutch heritage.
A crafts fair fills Centennial Park, at the center of town. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and uniqueness of the vendors. It wasn’t everyday stuff you see at many markets, but actually had items I would gladly purchase. From hummingbird houses, to carved eggshells, there was plenty to peruse.
The park is also home to many tulips, and one location of the Klompen Garden. In celebration of the festival’s 90th anniversary, Klompen Gardens is a collection of giant wooden shoes, each decorated differently, scattered throughout Holland. Each pair of shoes had a sign detailing the artists, and how to vote for your favorite pair in the online competition.
A few blocks away, Holland city tours leave from Window on the Waterfront. This park is home to over 90,000 tulips! Follow the path and you’ll eventually come to Windmill Island Gardens. True to it’s name, there is a windmill, and another 100,000 tulips! These gardens have a $10 entry fee, but you can wander Window on the Waterfront for free.
In all the festival rush, restaurants can be packed. We had a nice lunch at Butch’s Dry Dock. With local beer, cider and wine, they have a fresh lunch menu, with healthy options.
A couple miles away, Veldheer Tulip Gardens, an actual plant nursery, sells hundreds of bulb plants. They too have a tulip garden and windmills, plus buffalo. Their admission fee is $12. It was overrun with people, so we skipped on that and just visited the store. They have crossbred so many tulips, we had to order some. My personal favorites are the Queen of the Night (black tulips) and Synaeda Amor (watercolored tulips).
The nursery has been in business since 1925. In addition to plants, they also make traditional wooden shoes and pottery.