Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, Saugatuck
I think one of the most memorable moments of our entire trip for both Mickey and I came when we visited the famed OVAL BEACH. We were literally "taken aback" by our first view...truly it reminded both of us of the beaches in Hawaii ,
We had read all the ratings and raves about this beach:
"Conde Nast Traveler rates it as one of the 25 best shorelines in the world
MTV has rated it "as one of the top two freshwater beaches in the country."
An article in the Chicago Tribune says it is ranked as one of the top ten beaches in the world".
We were afraid that we would be disappointed after all that acclaim...fortunately, we were not disappointed.
Of course, when we visited, it was the beginning of September, and although it was quite warm for that time of year [75 degrees F ], it was not swimming weather in frigid Lake Michigan. The beach was relatively empty; lifeguards were not on duty; and parking was not a problem nor did it require a fee.
Part of the beauty of the beach is its shape (an oval) and the towering sand dunes. Also, the crystal white sand, its seclusion, and the spectacular views add to its charm.
In season, one is able to take a freewheeling ride on a converted pickup truck that is called a "dune schooner". That way people climb the towering nearby sand hills.
1. A view of the Oval Beach
2. Mickey holding her shoes and walking barefoot on Oval Beach
3. Seagulls on Oval Beach
4. Dee wading in Lake Michigan at Oval Beach
5. A lone red kite flying above Oval Beach
The facilities are really good here with cold water fountains, clean restrooms, concessions, and lifeguards in season.
Saugatuck is busiest in the summer and during color season. Because of my work, we're usually out and about in the fall or spring. We've found that this is one place that's great, even off season. It's cold and the wind is brisk. Down on the beach you'll find more seagulls than people. If you dress warm, you can enjoy the time on the beach and some magnificent views. They'll change with every turn of the winds.
There are days when the stiff breeze allows the seagulls to hang motionless in the sky. If you've wanted a picture of a bird in flight. You'll be able to get close and not have to worry about motion.
A bid hard to get to, you can take the ferry across the waterway and walk the 1/2 mile out or drive around through Douglas. All roads west lead to the beach or a dead end. Please be sure to find a public beach as much of the shoreline (disputed between public & private) has no public access, i.e., parking.
A day-use park along a secluded strip of Lake Michigan shoreline, Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers 14 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails.
The park's 900-acre natural area contains a coastal dune system, as well as three endangered plant species and beautiful Lake Michigan waterfront.
Picnic facilities available. Park gates are open from 8 am-10 pm. No camping available.
Entrance Fees: Daily Vehicle Permit: $4
Annual Motor Vehicle Permit: $20
Commercial Vehicle/Daily: $15.