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Old 06-25-2019, 11:35 PM
 
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My go-to beach town in Western Michigan is Holland.
Granted, the town isn't right on the water but its a good central location for the Holland / Saukatuak area.

Its a 2:15 from my house to Holland vs. almost 4 hours up to Traverse City or Petoskey/Harbor Springs.

Downtown Holland has a lot of shops, some brew pubs, and restaurants, plus a nice Courtyard Marriott.
A very short drive to Holland State Park Beach and down to Saugatuak.

Its makes for a good weekend trip for the wife and I for us when we don't feel like driving all the way "Up North" and sometimes when we only can do a 1-night get away instead of 2.
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Old 06-26-2019, 01:41 PM
 
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Just to offer a differing opinion...Saugatuck/Douglas are awesome beach towns, but are bonkers crazy during peak season. If you don't get there right when it opens, the line of cars for Oval Beach can back up for an hour. Downtown Saugatuck gets so crowded that there can literally be nowhere to park in the entire town. Douglas used to be the quieter option, but I think that has changed as the entire area has grown in popularity. Don't get me wrong...I think Saugatuck is the best pure beach town in Michigan, but you have to pack your patience if you go there during peak summer season.

I second taking a look at Holland. I recall you saying in another thread that you have 2 smaller children, and I would consider Holland to be much more of a kid-friendly town. Dutch Village is a great cheesy throwback theme park geared towards little kids. Windmill Island is fun for kids as well. Holland has a large walkable downtown with a lot of good restaurants. If I were deciding between Holland and Saugatuck with 2 small kids, I would pick Holland every time.
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Old 06-26-2019, 03:04 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Digby Sellers View Post
Just to offer a differing opinion...Saugatuck/Douglas are awesome beach towns, but are bonkers crazy during peak season. If you don't get there right when it opens, the line of cars for Oval Beach can back up for an hour. Downtown Saugatuck gets so crowded that there can literally be nowhere to park in the entire town. Douglas used to be the quieter option, but I think that has changed as the entire area has grown in popularity. Don't get me wrong...I think Saugatuck is the best pure beach town in Michigan, but you have to pack your patience if you go there during peak summer season.

I second taking a look at Holland. I recall you saying in another thread that you have 2 smaller children, and I would consider Holland to be much more of a kid-friendly town. Dutch Village is a great cheesy throwback theme park geared towards little kids. Windmill Island is fun for kids as well. Holland has a large walkable downtown with a lot of good restaurants. If I were deciding between Holland and Saugatuck with 2 small kids, I would pick Holland every time.
Every beach town/city is obnoxiously busy during peak tourism season. I don't think Saugatuck is particularly unique in that regard. If Oval beach is too busy someone could always go a few miles north to Laketon Twp beach which is tucked away and very pretty. I still think it offers the best balance of lakeshore proximity, and restaurant/bar/retail options.

I'm actually surprised you mention Holland as a more convenient alternative(it's a pretty slow crawl from DT Holland to the area beaches). My problem with Holland(in regards to what the OP is looking for) is that the actual city of Holland doesn't touch Lake Michigan. It sits away from the lake shore on the eastern end of Lake Macatawa. Holland does have a quaint downtown, and attractions like the Windmill. These features are all away from the water. The water front downtown Holland is near is still being reclaimed from the factories, recycling facilities and the old power plant ect. Holland State park and Tunnel park are great, but they are a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Holland, you have to drive around Lake Macatawa to get to them. Not to mention Holland is not much smaller than Muskegon as it anchors a 100k+ urbanized center, and is surrounded by sunbelt style suburban sprawl. I'd argue that if one were not going to opt for Saugatuck, Grand Haven would be a better option than Holland for the "beach town" experience. It's in a more pretty setting than Holland, and it's directly on the water so its attractions aren't spread out.

Last edited by mjlo; 06-26-2019 at 03:13 PM..
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Old 06-27-2019, 08:26 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjlo View Post
Every beach town/city is obnoxiously busy during peak tourism season. I don't think Saugatuck is particularly unique in that regard. If Oval beach is too busy someone could always go a few miles north to Laketon Twp beach which is tucked away and very pretty. I still think it offers the best balance of lakeshore proximity, and restaurant/bar/retail options.

I'm actually surprised you mention Holland as a more convenient alternative(it's a pretty slow crawl from DT Holland to the area beaches). My problem with Holland(in regards to what the OP is looking for) is that the actual city of Holland doesn't touch Lake Michigan. It sits away from the lake shore on the eastern end of Lake Macatawa. Holland does have a quaint downtown, and attractions like the Windmill. These features are all away from the water. The water front downtown Holland is near is still being reclaimed from the factories, recycling facilities and the old power plant ect. Holland State park and Tunnel park are great, but they are a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Holland, you have to drive around Lake Macatawa to get to them. Not to mention Holland is not much smaller than Muskegon as it anchors a 100k+ urbanized center, and is surrounded by sunbelt style suburban sprawl. I'd argue that if one were not going to opt for Saugatuck, Grand Haven would be a better option than Holland for the "beach town" experience. It's in a more pretty setting than Holland, and it's directly on the water so its attractions aren't spread out.
True, but I think Saugatuck is too small to accommodate the number of visitors it gets. It's absolutely one of my favorite Lake Michigan towns, but was too much when I was last there over the 4th. I think staying in Douglas or even a little bit outside of there would be the best bet.

I don't disagree with your assessment of Holland. It's far more urban and spread out. But overall it was easier for us to navigate when we had small children.
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Old 06-27-2019, 09:04 AM
 
Location: Naperville, IL
184 posts, read 184,989 times
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Originally Posted by projectmaximus View Post
This is going to be in late August so I have plenty of time to decide, but right now I'm leaning towards either a one-night stop in GR or one extra night in Detroit. And then just doing a drive by of St Joseph (perhaps catch the sunset) on the way to Chicago.
If you're not going until late August, and you can spend a night or two, you may want to consider places like Union Pier, Sawyer, Bridgman or Lakeside in "Harbor Country", as it's called. These are small towns on the beach with, granted, minimal shopping/dining options (but yet there is still some good dining to be found on Red Arrow highway) but nice uncrowded beaches. By late August, there is even the possibility to get a rental cottage for 1-2 nights (instead of the usual full week) - check out the August calendar for Firefly Resort in Union Pier.

These towns will be far less crowded than S/D, GH, SH, Holland, or even St. Joe or New Buffalo. Plus they are just off 94, so more convenient to the Detroit-Chicago route.
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Old 06-27-2019, 09:55 AM
 
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Late-August is past peak season as its getting more into back-to-school time and the family summer vacation season is winding town. It will still be busy everywhere, particularly weekends, but not July-level insanity.

I don't judge a resort town by how it is around 4th of July as every beach/resort town is insane with crazy tourists, extended families, etc. Things get to a more normal summer busy level by August and its easier to find availability, get into restaurants, etc.
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Old 06-29-2019, 05:47 PM
 
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The OP mentioned that his trip was in August. I've been to Holland a couple of times over the Labor Day Weekend and it was pretty quiet. I think the water is warmer by then too. I saw some beautiful sunsets at Tunnel Park. Of course, you have to have good weather for all of these places.
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:51 PM
 
Location: lower penninsula
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Originally Posted by oscarmom View Post
We absolutely love South Haven. Nice beach, harbor, cute downtown and a few good restaurants. There are only a couple hotels there, most people rent a house. But in high summer, it usually has to be a weekly rental
there’s a gorgous farmers market in downtown south haven from 8 am to 2 pm on wed and saturday it is packed. we were just there yesterday.
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Old 07-19-2019, 05:18 PM
 
111 posts, read 43,435 times
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Originally Posted by Coney View Post
The OP mentioned that his trip was in August. I've been to Holland a couple of times over the Labor Day Weekend and it was pretty quiet. I think the water is warmer by then too. I saw some beautiful sunsets at Tunnel Park. Of course, you have to have good weather for all of these places.
My pre-global warming observation has been that water temperature in Lake Michigan peaks at the end of July. It usually turns over beginning of August and gets much colder.
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Old 07-22-2019, 08:40 AM
 
Location: Naperville, IL
184 posts, read 184,989 times
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Data (and my own experience) suggests it peaks about 1st-2nd week of August...


https://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/st..._1992-2018.gif
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