Saugatuck-Douglas, Michigan, is the only LGBTQ resort area between the Russian River in California and Provincetown in Massachusetts.
The area, located just a short hop from Chicago, has something for everyone.
Where to stay:
Make your first stop at the Dunes Resort, 333 Blue Start Highway, in Saugatuck. The poolside scene is fun ( and you can order a poolside lunch ). The Sunday T Dances ( and cookout ) at 4 p.m. are not to be missed. They have the best DJs in the Midwest. Upcoming events include:
June 30: DJ Hector Fonseca at 9 p.m.
July 1: Tea Dance including DJ Grind at 7p.m.
July 6: DJ Roland Balmares
July 7: DJ Paulo in the cabaret
July 8:Tea Dance with DJ Barry Harris at 4-10 p.m.
Check out the full schedule or book a room or cabin at DunesResort.com .
The AmericInn is another lodging option as is the Blue Star Motel ( 167 Blue Star Highway; BlueStarDouglas.com ), both within walking distance to the Dunes Resort.
Value lodgingincluding camping, cabins, a lodge, and other optionscan be found down the road at nearby Camp It Outdoor Resort, 6635 Fennville, Michigan ( CampItResort.com ). Upcoming weekend events include Independence Day Weekend ( July 6-8 ), women's kayaking ( Aug. 3-4 ) and the ever popular Mardi Gras ( Aug. 17-18 ).
They even have the Biggie Food Truck for those who don't like to cook. Their camp store has everything you could need. They also have a pool with a DJ and dancing on certain weekends.
What to do:
First-timers will want to walk to the top of Mt. Baldhead sand dune with a great view from the top of Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River.
It's almost blueberry seasons and you can pick your own at Blue Star Farms ( formerly Krupkas ), at 2647 68th Street in nearby Fennville ( www.bluestarblueberries.com ). Bring plenty home. Later in the season don't miss the famous Red Haven peaches available throughout the area.
Oval Beach ( $10 ), on Lake Michigan, is great for sunbathing.
Pier Cove Beach down the coast is also nice and is free. You will find it on Lakeshore Drive south of 124th Avenue. Also free is nearby County Park Beach just north of 118th Street on Lakeshore Drive.
The newest beach, the Wau-Ke-Nau Nature Preserve, is just south of County Park on Lakeshore Drive south of 116th Avenue has 365 acres. Walk through the meadow and old growth beech - maple forest to the beach. ( Also free. )
Also a must is the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, 6575 138th Ave., with 2.5 miles of beach. Holland State Park, at 2215 Ottawa Beach Road in Holland, is also very nice, with views of the Big Red lighthouse.
My all-time favorite is the Laketown Beach, which is at the end of 142nd Avenue. It is also free and features a steep walk over the dunes to the beach.
Other fun stuff:
The Holland Farmers Markets on Saturdays is always fun. It runs until 2 p.m. and also has food trucks.
The Fenn Valley Winery in nearby Fennville is worth the trip. They have Music in the Vineyards including on June 9 and 16 at 1-4p.m. ( FennValley.com )
Downtown Saugatuck is full of shops and restaurants including art galleries. It's the Sausalito of the Midwest. They have free outdoor concerts every Wednesday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. in Wick's Park Gazebo. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts Farmers and Artisans Market is held in their parking lot every Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Just south of Saugatuck is the charming city of South Haven. Grab a bike rental and ride the Kal Haven trail all the way to Kalamazoo if you want. The beach and pier is always fun.
Where to eat:
The What Not Restaurant on the Blue Star Highway at 116th Street ( 2405 68th Street in Fennville ) is very good and affordable. They have bands on weekends.
The Saugatuck Brewing Company is very good and you can sample their microbrews. ( SBrewing.com )
A car is the easiest was to get to the area. True transit die herds can take a cab or even the Interurban ( saugatuckinterurban.org ). Amtrak serves nearby Holland.
The LakeVista Supervalu ( 237 Center Street in Douglas ) is the only supermarket in the area and has everything you need for your vacation.
You won't run out of things to do in Saugatuck-Douglas. It's worth a trip if only for the blue berries not to mention the fun resort scene. There is nowhere else like it in the Midwest and, while not P-Town, the mix of people from Chicago, Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids is amazing and the people-watching can't be beat.
Bill Malcolm's syndicated value travel column has appeared in LGBTQ publications in Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Washington and other cities. He also has a column in the Broad Ripple Gazette in Indianapolis and writes for All Aboard Indiana.