A perfect stay in Saugatuck, Michigan.
By Charlie Huisking
I picked a perfect June day to explore the spectacular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, about an hour south of Traverse City.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore.
The temperature was in the 60s, and Lake Michigan sparkled in the bright sun as I stood on an overlook atop a 200-foot-high sand dune. This was one of 10 stops on a seven-mile long driving loop in the park, which got its name because one of the giant dunes was said to look like a bear stretched out for a snooze.
Most of the dunes are off-limits to hikers for ecological and safety reasons. But you can climb one, and what an experience. From the parking lot, the climbers look like tiny black spots, surrounded by an expanse of grainy brown sand. It took me a grunting and wheezing half-hour to reach the first plateau, from which I could see the lake in the distance. Hardier hikers continued the trek, but I was eager to get to my next stop, the town of Saugatuck.
The Saugatuck Chain Ferry in Saugatuck, Mich.
A former lumber town and a summer haven for Chicago artists since the early 1900s, Saugatuck is filled with interesting galleries, shops and restaurants, many housed in Victorian-era buildings. The town is swamped with tourists on summer weekends, but during my mid-week stay, I had the place to myself. I got an outdoor chair massage to recover from my dune climb and took a 19th-century ferry across the Kalamazoo River to Oval Beach.
There is a wide choice of inns and bed and breakfasts in Saugatuck. But it's hard to beat the Beechwood Manor Inn & Cottage. Located on a quiet, leafy street away from the busy downtown, but within easy walking distance, the cozy Victorian inn is the perfect retreat. I was tempted to spend my entire stay on the broad front porch.
The Enid room at the Beechwood Manor Inn & Cottage.
Its three rooms have queen beds, private baths, quality linens and cable TVs. That last amenity is important to me, because even though I love the charm of an inn setting, I need my MSNBC to keep up with politics.
Innkeepers Gregg Smith and Sal Sapienza set the perfect tone. They're eager to provide their guests with information about area dining and attractions, and will even set up an in-room massage. But they give you your space so you don't feel as if you're staying in someone else's home.
In the hospitality room, open 24 hours, you can help yourself to coffee, tea, soft drinks, water and snacks. You fill out your breakfast order before retiring each night, and whatever you choose, it will be gourmet quality.
The three-bedroom cottage behind the inn has a full kitchen and accommodates six. More importantly, its pet-friendly. So I'm hoping to return later this summer with a beach-loving Schnauzer named Capone.