Although they maintain a relatively low profile outside the region, the charming and artsy “twin towns” of Saugatuck and Douglas are the most significant gay resort destination in the Midwest. A little more than two hours from Chicago (three from Detroit), this laid-back area offers a bounty of urbane restaurants, handsome B&Bs, dapper boutiques and antique shops, and more than 25 high-quality art galleries, as well picturesque beach frontage on Lake Michigan. The pace here is pretty chill — it’s not a nightlife-driven singles destination but rather a picturesque, all-American community that affords visitors the opportunity to get away from it all while still enjoying access to plenty of great diversions.
Generally, when people mention Saugatuck they’re also referring to the neighboring village of Douglas. They share the same very helpful tourism office; the Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Bureau is actually where many of the area’s gay-owned businesses and homes are. The towns are separated in part by a wide expanse of the Kalamazoo River, which forms a large lake that’s popular for boating and kayaking. From one village center to the other, it’s just a mile’s drive or stroll, and it’s also a mile from either community to Lake Michigan.
Historically, Saugatuck claimed more of the area’s shopping and dining, but Douglas’ smaller downtown has gentrified rapidly in the past few years, and now the main drag, Center Street, is lined with interesting businesses. In Saugatuck, you’ll find most of the shops and restaurants clustered around a roughly eight-square-block area along the waterfront, which is lined with boat slips. The two-town region is highly compact and accessible, although a handful of gay-owned accommodations are in outlying areas, a 10- to 20-minute drive away.