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LGBTQ+ Friendly Travel Guide to Saugatuck/Douglas, MI

LGBTQ+ Friendly Saugatuck MI
Photo by Cam Brennan from Unsplash

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Saugatuck and Douglas, also known as “The Art Coast of Michigan,” are neighboring resort towns separated by a mere 1.3 miles. Affectionately known as “Provincetown of the Midwest,” they share the same inclusive vibe, natural scenery, arts culture, and active queer community. They are must-visits for the gay community for romantic weekend escapes, fun vacations, or to just be yourself. Check out our guide to find the most welcoming places and LGBTQ+ friendly experiences in Saugatuck/Douglas.

How to Get There: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

You know it’s “small town USA” when there are no major airports, train stations, or bus terminals in town. Regardless of how you choose to travel, your time spent in Saugatuck/Douglas is worth every moment of the journey.

Planes: The nearest major airport is Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, about a 45-minute drive from Saugatuck/Douglas. From the airport, you can rent a car or use a shuttle service.

Trains: Amtrak provides rail services to nearby cities like Holland, which is only a short drive from Saugatuck. From the train station, you can use local transport to reach Saugatuck/Douglas.

Automobiles: Depending upon where you’re traveling from, you may just opt for a road trip. The roads leading to Saugatuck have beautiful scenery, especially the views of Lake Michigan.

Buses: Budget-friendly transportation that allows you to “leave the driving to us,” the closest bus station to Saugatuck/Douglas is in Holland, about a 12 mile drive away.

How LGBTQ+ Welcoming Is Saugatuck/Douglas

Saugatuck/Douglas are small towns with big hearts for the queer community. They are a slice of paradise where everyone is celebrated. These lakeside towns have a knack for making every visitor feel like a local, with their friendly faces and open arms. The idea of LGBTQ+ friendliness is a genuine lifestyle here. The local businesses fly rainbow flags like badges of honor, creating spaces where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can just be themselves. Saugatuck/Douglas is where the gay community is a vital part of what makes these towns whole.

Pride Events in Saugatuck/Douglas

Community Pride Care-A-Van Car Parade – It’s a party on wheels! The Community Pride Care-A-Van Car Parade is a rolling rainbow of fun with cars decked out in all the colors of the rainbow, honking and waving as they parade through the streets of Saugatuck in June. 

Saugatuck/Douglas Pride Festival – Also called Pride in the Park, this family-friendly event is held in Berry Park in Douglas where the Care-A-Van Parade ends. It has everything from live music and performances to vendors and food. So, put on your dancin’ shoes, have some barbecue, and sip on a cold one as you mix and mingle with the queer community.

History Of Saugatuck/Douglas

Saugatuck/Douglas trace back to the early 19th century when they were first settled by Europeans. Originally known as Kalamazoo Village, the towns were significant ports and lumbering centers on the Kalamazoo River. In the late 1800s, Saugatuck/Douglas became notable resort towns, attracting visitors with their Lake Michigan beaches and dune landscapes. Over time, the towns’ focus shifted from industry to tourism and the arts. Today, these coastal towns are celebrated for their inclusive and diverse communities, making them welcoming destinations for queer travelers.

Sunflowers in Saugatuck MI
Photo by Canopy Gap from Unsplash

LGBTQ+ Friendly Places to Stay in Saugatuck/Douglas

Quaint bed and breakfasts, cozy cottages, boutique hotels, or rustic cabins, whatever accommodations suit your fancy, there are plenty of choices for the LGBTQ+ traveler. Check out some of our favorites. 

The Lakeshore Resort – The Lakeshore Resort has easy access to the beach for sunbathing or taking a swim in Lake Michigan. With its comfortable cabins and rooms, barbecue and picnic areas, it’s a great choice for a laid-back, beachy vacation, and lakeside fun at its finest.

The Kirby Hotel – Historic charm and modern luxury collide at the Kirby Hotel, offering a chic and comfortable stay. Stylish décor and welcoming feel, make it a favorite for adding a touch of elegance to a getaway. Located in the heart of Saugatuck, it’s an ideal spot for exploring the town’s artsy vibe.

Hidden Garden Cottages & Suites – Looking to kick back after a day of Saugatuck adventures? Hidden Gardens Cottages and Suites is set among beautiful gardens, making it feel like a secret spot just waiting to be discovered. Unique, quirky charm is its hallmark, creating a relaxed, homey space.

Saugatuck Retro Resort – The Saugatuck Retro Resort takes you on a nostalgic trip with its fun, vintage-themed touch. Colorful décor, classic cars, and a throwback atmosphere make it a must if you love a “blast from the past.” Featuring a cool, retro pool area it’s perfect for lounging and soaking up the sun old-school style.

Recommended Restaurants In Saugatuck/Douglas

Known for its fresh, locally-sourced seafood and iconic Michigan fruit pies that are a must-try, Saugatuck/Douglas is a foodie’s delight.  Whether you’re in the mood for a casual, al fresco lunch at a café or a sophisticated dinner at an upscale restaurant, Saugatuck’s culinary scene has it all. Here are some of our favorite spots to find exactly what you’re in the mood for.

Coast 236 – Coast 236 is breezy, beach-inspired dining that’s both fun and relaxing. The menu, featuring fresh and locally-sourced ingredients, brings a taste of the seaside right to your table. If it’s a sunny lunch or a romantic dinner, Coast 236 serves up yummy dishes.

The Belvedere Inn & Restaurant – With a menu that’s a seasonal, creative fusion of local and international flavors, The Belvedere Inn & Restaurant is a food lover’s paradise. The atmosphere is upbeat yet intimate, perfect for both a quiet dinner or gathering with friends. 

Scooter’s Café & Pizzeria – Scooter’s Café & Pizzeria is a great spot for lunch, dinner, or grabbing late-night bites and drinks. Their specialty is hand-tossed pizzas, but the menu doesn’t stop there. It also includes pasta, wings, salads, sandwiches, and more, all available for takeout or free delivery.

Dune Ride Michigan
Photo by Documerica from Unsplash

Things To Do & See In Saugatuck/Douglas

Saugatuck/Douglas are artsy towns, with galleries and studios where you can admire or purchase local art. They’re also beach towns where you can indulge in water activities like sailing, fishing, or just lounging on their beautiful beaches. Whatever your pleasure, you can find it here. Here are some of our favorites.

Saugatuck Dune Rides – Buckle up for a bumpy, laughter-filled ride as you explore the scenic sand dunes of Saugatuck  with fun and knowledgeable guides. It’s a mix of natural beauty, local history, and a dash of excitement, perfect for families and thrill-seekers alike.

The Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruise – Aboard this paddlewheel boat, you glide along the river, soaking up the sun and the breeze. The cruise has scenic views and light-hearted narration that adds fun to the journey, making it a nice mix of relaxation and discovery.

Saugatuck Center for the Arts – Explore art exhibits, enjoy live shows from concerts to plays, and participate in interactive workshops where art and performances come to life. It’s the go-to place to experience the local arts scene.

Oval Beach – Named one of the Top 25 Beaches in the World by Condé Nast Magazine, Oval Beach is where the gay community comes together to sunbathe and socialize. OutTraveler rated it the fourth best Inland Gay Beach in the country.

Where To Shop & Stroll In Saugatuck/Douglas

Shopping and strolling blend seamlessly into one enjoyable experience. With the towns’ compact, walkable streets lined with all kinds of shops, galleries, and cafes, Suagatuck/Douglas caters to all of your whims. 

Downtown Saugatuck – The streets of downtown are rows of boutiques and galleries, each with its own character. It’s easy to spend a day exploring these shops, where you can find everything from local art to souvenirs. 

Butler Street – On Butler Street, you find shops that are as unique as the town itself. Local art takes center stage in small galleries, and specialty stores have everything from artisanal foods to handcrafted jewelry. The street has a small-town charm, where shopping feels like a stroll through a friendly neighborhood.

Saugatuck Antique Pavilion – Take a walk down memory lane through 24,000 square feet of the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion that’s loaded with throw-back goodies, from old-school vinyl records to classic furniture, and everything else you can imagine. When you’re finished, you can head next door to the Saugatuck Brewing Company for a cold beer.

LGBTQ+ Bars, Clubs and Nightlife In Saugatuck/Douglas

No visit to Saugatuck/Douglas is complete without experiencing a few of the many LGBTQ+ friendly bars and nightspots where everyone is welcomed. 

The Dunes Resort – When you’re ready to let your hair down and cut loose, The Dunes Resort in Douglas, is where gay meets Studio 54, and you can “dance like nobody’s watching.” Drag shows and themed parties add to the fun, for a crowd that’s ready to party. 

Guardian Brewing Company – At Guardian Brewing Company, every visit is an adventure in craft beer tasting, with a constantly changing lineup of unique brews. This LGBTQ+ owned brewery pairs a casual, friendly vibe with a passion for innovative beer-making. It’s a great spot to chill, chat, and drink a cold one. 

Sand Dunes Michigan
Photo by Krystal Fuller from Unsplash

Annual Events and Festivals in Saugatuck/Douglas

Like many small towns, Saugatuck/Douglas likes to celebrate the things they’re famous for through their annual events and festivals. Here are some of the best.

Venetian Festival – Saugatuck’s summer highlight, featuring boat parades and a festival, the Venetian Festival buzzes with live music, games, and food stalls, making it a feast for the senses. The town comes alive with a party-like atmosphere for this waterfront celebration

Saugatuck Film Festival – Showcasing films from local and international filmmakers, the Saugatuck Film Festival  is a major draw for movie buffs. With screenings, discussions, and the chance to mingle with filmmakers and fellow film lovers, it’s a great way to experience the world of cinema.

Art in Douglas Fall Gallery Stroll – Local galleries open their doors for a night of art exploration and appreciation. The event combines art viewing with casual strolls around town, often complemented by light refreshments and the chance to meet the artists. 

Explore Saugatuck/Douglas and Discover Your Ultimate Queer Escape

For the LGBTQ+ traveler, the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas are more than just a getaway, they provide a space to celebrate and be yourself, surrounded by a community that embraces diversity. Each day is an opportunity to create new memories in a setting that feels both adventurous and like a home away from home. The combination of natural beauty, welcoming community, and a laid-back vibe, creates more than just a vacation destination, it’s a true escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You’re going to find that these twin cities have a way of staying with you, long after your vacation ends.


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida and beyond, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Events are subject to change. Please check the events webpage for updates and schedules.

ChatGPT or another AI writing platform may have contributed to the writing of this article.

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