Great American Beach Towns
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The sand: Dunes that will remind you of Cape Cod, and khaki beaches that mimic Maliburight in the heart of the Midwest.
Marine life: Combine an awe-inspiring landscape with the aw-shucks attitude of a small town, and you get Saugatuck, just across the Kalamazoo River from a surprisingly sandy stretch of Lake Michigan's eastern shore. The historic, gallery-lined town (within a three-hour drive from Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee) has long drawn those seeking a watery muse, rugged adventures, or simple beach pleasures. Beachgoers can cross the bridge or, more fun, board a 1913 hand-cranked ferry that chugs from Saugatuck across the Kalamazoo. The quick and quaint ride costs just $1 and rewards passengers with the unspoiled stretch of Oval Beach, which frequently finds itself listed as one of the world's bestdespite being miles from any ocean. For an even less populated place to stake your umbrella, there's the nearby Saugatuck Dunes State Park, with two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, 200-foot-tall dunes, and 1,000 acres of hiking terrain. "Dune schooners" (think stretch ATVs) rumble through here from 10 am to 7:30 pm most summer days; some folks might want to retreat to the Saugatuck Drug Store, a soda fountain as sweet and as storied as the ferry.
The sanctuary: Silver Palate cookbook co-author Julee Rosso runs the Wickwood Inn, so expect complimentary hors d'oeuvres like crab crostini as lovely as the 11 guest rooms, each based on a different theme, like an English garden or mountain cabin.
Tel: 269 857 1465
Doubles from $295
Saugatuck Drug Store
Tel: 269 857 2300