Saugatuck, St Joseph and Michigan City

Saugatuck to Michigan City

Saugatuck to Michigan City

Saugatuck was not quite like the other harbours we had stayed in. Rather than the approach being along a short, straight channel, the village is a mile from Lake Michigan, and you pass along the gently curving Kalamazoo River, surrounded by wooded hills before you reach Saugatuck itself, and then the river opens out into the expanse of Kalamazoo Lake. Originally a lumber town, Saugatuck re-invented itself as an artists’ colony and tourist destination. One of the restaurants boasts of being one of Hemingway’s favourite hang-outs.

We chose to stay at Tower Marine, which is on the opposite side of the lake from Saugatuck itself, in Douglas, mainly because of the swimming pool, which we even got to use, despite some stormy weather. The marina was well-run and attractively landscaped.

IMG_0027swimming pool and garden, tower marine

Swimming pool and rock garden, Tower Marine

IMG_0026water lilies

Water Lilies

Saugatuck/Douglas has two excellent public transport facilities. One is the famous Saugatuck Chain Ferry, which crosses the river, and the other is the Inter-urban Bus. You ring up the bus and tell it where you want to go, and in no time it appears. We used it a couple of times to get back from the supermarket, and from Saugatuck back to the marina.

We walked from the marina down to the ferry to go across to Saugatuck.

IMG_0001On the Chain Ferry

On the Chain Ferry

IMG_0006Chain Ferry

Chain Ferry

The walk turned out to be rather longer than we had anticipated, and we were in need of coffee. The nearest place was Ida Red’s Cottage, which Kim had recommended, but it was full and there was a long queue of people waiting for tables. Then Ian noticed a sign saying that there was no queue for seats at the bar – it was first come first served. There were two seats, so we took them. We had already eaten breakfast on the boat, but when we saw what everyone else was having, we thought we would have some too – waffle and eggs for Ian, and amazing blueberry pancakes for me.

IMG_0004Ida Red's

Ida Red’s Cottage


A small park in Saugatuck

The Christian Science Church, Saugatuck

Butler St

A small memorial garden on Butler St

Butler St

Inter-urban bus stop and Information Centre

The bus

Baldhead Mountain sounded like an irresistible challenge, even if in reality it was only a big sand dune. But you do have to climb 282 steps to get to the top of it. We cycled to the steps and toiled to the top, where there was a good view of Saugatuck and Kalamazoo Lake, but surprisingly not of Lake Michigan, which was obscured by trees.

The stairs to Baldhead Mountain

Saugatuck from Baldhead Mountain

Opposite the steps is the old Saugatuck Pump House, now a museum.

Saugatuck Pump House

Saugatuck from the Pump House

Riverside Garden at the Pump House

We cycled half a mile over the peninsula to Oval Beach.

Oval Beach, Lake Michigan

We left very early the next morning, with heavy, threatening thunder clouds to the north of us. But I was assured that they weren’t coming our way, and we got to St Joseph in bright sunshine.

Leaving Saugatuck

West Basin Marina, St Joseph

We don’t often have days when we do nothing boat -related, or  that doesn’t involve chores like grocery shopping or laundry. But we took a day off in St Joseph, and it felt like being on holiday. The marina was a couple of miles from downtown St Joseph, and Justin, one of the dockhands, would take us there and bring us back when we summoned him.

He dropped us off at the Maids of the Mist Fountain, at the end of Bluff Park, which is a half-mile long linear park which overlooks Lake Michigan and the site of the Silver Beach Amusement Park, which operated between 1891 and 1971 and was one of Michigan’s biggest tourist attractions, with rollercoasters, carousels and a dance hall.

IMG_0002Maid of the Mist

Maids of the Mist

Maids of the Mist was made for the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1873, and brought to St Joseph in 1892 after being purchased by a St Joseph businessman.

IMG_0003View from Bluff Park

View from Bluff Park, overlooking the site of Silver Beach Amusement Park

We walked to the end of Bluff Park, past a series of War Memorials dedicated to the memory of all those American citizens who lost their lives in  20th century conflicts.

IMG_0008 1st World War Memorial

First World War Memorial



Second World War

At the end of Bluff Park we turned towards the town and a couple of blocks later, came upon some seniors demonstrating outside the office of Fred Upton, their Republican Senator.

IMG_0011Seniors protesting

Seniors protesting

IMG_0013Charles Porter

It was Election Day in St Joseph. A few blocks further up the street, we talked to Al DiBrito, who was hoping to be elected to one of the 3 posts of City Commissioner.


Al DiBrito

It later transpired that he didn’t get in, which seemed a shame. He had appeared like a nice guy.

IMG_0017State St

State Street

We wandered round the tree-lined streets and decided to have lunch at  Caffe Tosi, where we also found some rather good pear and almond tarts to take back to the boat.

IMG_0018Caffe Tosi

Caffe Tosi

The marina was only 5 minutes’ walk from the lake shore, so after Justin had picked us up and brought us back, we sat on Tiscornia Beach for a couple of hours.

IMG_0024Tiscornia Beach

Tiscornia Beach

IMG_0025Tiscornia Beach

Tiscornia Beach

We were only two days away from Chicago. We stopped at Michigan City, Indiana, and I was surprised to see that the clock said it was 6.30 and my phone said it was 5.30.  At some unspecified point on Lake Michigan, we had unknowingly crossed into Central Time, and it felt strange, like stepping into another country.

We needed groceries and the nearest store was over 3 miles away, too far to bike. There were no Uber cars available. A taxi would take 20 minutes to arrive. After three-quarters of an hour we were still waiting in the marina forecourt, and a very kind fellow-boater gave us a lift to the store in her car. Fortunately, by the time we’d finished the shopping, the run on the taxis had eased and one came straight away to take us back to the boat.

IMG_0030St Joseph Light house

St Joseph Lighthouse

The following day, we left for Chicago.