Saugatuck is a quaint town in southwestern Michigan that has all the traits of a coastal getaway - right in the Midwest. While Saugatuck originated as a lumber town and port, it has recently become a popular tourist destination and art colony with its waterfront dining, unique shops, art galleries, and beautiful beaches. We sojourned to Saugatuck for the day while vacationing in Michigan, and here is a smattering of things to explore and do. I was pleasantly surprised to find several gluten free dining options which I share below.
Things to See & Do
Oval Beach: A gorgeous shoreline with tall grasses, dunes, and beautifully secluded beach, I felt I was on the east coast of North Carolina. Rated by Conde Naste's Traveler Magazine as one of the 25 best shorelines in the world, Oval Beach is a short drive from downtown Saugatuck. A $6 entrance fee allows you to park at Oval Beach all day long. You can even leave, grab a bite to eat, and come back to watch the sunset.
Mt. Baldhead ("Mt. Baldy"): Climb the 282 steps that will take you to the top of the Mt. Baldhead dune and you'll be treated to a gorgeous view of Saugatuck, Douglas, and Lake Michigan. You can take the hand-cranked ferry across the Kalamazoo River from Saugatuck right to the entrance to begin your hike. Unfortunately, the ferry was not operating the day we visited due to high winds.
Saugatuck Dune Buggy Rides: I wasn't quite sure what to expect when my sister and fellow ChicagoNow Blogger (School Zone) booked a reservation for all of us. We had a party of 13, with kids ranging from 2 to 12. Everyone had a blast! Part roller coaster, part tour, it was a fun and informational 40-minute escape into the dunes and woods of southwestern Michigan.
Our tour guide was filled with interesting nuggets of information about a town buried under the dunes and the tops of centuries old trees that still peek out above, along with a good dose of humor to keep the tour lively and fun. I advise putting your hands up in the air to fully enjoy the few steeper turns and hills.
Old Fashioned Pharmacy: Right on the corner of Butler and Mason streets is a drug store that is part Michigan gift shop and part old fashioned soda fountain. The front of the store has all sorts of beach toys, personalized Michigan souvenirs, and toiletries/traditional drug store products. Walk all the way to the back though, and you are transported back to the 1950's with a soda fountain serving chocolate phosphates, banana splits, and ice cream sundaes. Sorry, I couldn't find anything gluten free and dairy free. The girls working behind the counter couldn't confirm whether or not the ice cream they serve is gluten free.
Shopping, Shopping, and more Shopping: The streets of Saugatuck are peppered with unique gift shops, homemade fudge and cupcake stores, and art galleries. Some of my favorite finds: colorful jewelry for myself and my daughter, a Saugatuck ornament (a tradition I have of buying an ornament from every place I visit), a hand-painted postcard, and gluten free gummy Army men for my son.
Gluten Free Dining Options
I was pleasantly surprised to find several dining options that could accommodate those of us with gluten intolerance in and around Saugatuck. I contacted the following restaurants regarding their menu options:
The Elbo Room: They have gluten free bread. Although they did not have a gluten free menu, they said they can make accommodations for gluten free diners.
Phil's Bar and Grille: They have a gluten free menu and are located right in downtown Saugatuck.
Mermaid Bar & Grill: We dined here for lunch with 7 kids. Located right on the waterfront, the outdoor dining atmosphere was great. They have a dedicated gluten free menu with a lot of options. I confirmed which options were also dairy free with the waitress then ordered a seasoned ahi tuna salad. When the salad came out, I noticed large croutons all over it. I asked the waitress to confirm whether or not these were "gluten free croutons" (I highly suspected they were not), and she returned to tell me they were not. She apologized profusely, took the plate and had the chef make me a completely new salad. I was a bit anxious about eating the second salad that she brought, but after close inspection, everything appeared fine.
Pizza Mambo: They offer a variety of specialty pizzas, all available for delivery, and a 9-inch gluten free pizza crust!
Tags: Albanese, beach, Conde Naste, dairy free, Dune Buggy Rides, ferry rides, gladly gluten free, gluten free, gluten free products, gummi Army Guys, Mermaid Bar & Grill, Michigan, Mt. Baldhead, Mt. Baldy, Oval Beach, pharmacy, Phil's Bar and Grill, Phil's Bar and Grille, Pizza Mambo, saugatuck, Saugatuck Dune Buggy Rides, summer vacations, The Elbo Room