Little Black Book

U-Pick the Sweetest Sites Along Lake Michigan

by Anna Petrow
Root If you build it, they will come for root beer by the barrel. All photos by Anna Petrow.

Fathom contributor, photographer, and Midwestern explorer Anna Petrow unearths little gems along Lake Michigan.

MICHIGAN - The beauty of Michigan manifests in many ways: cool weather, a slow pace of life, calming lake views. But as a traveler who can’t sit still for long, my favorite thing about taking a sleepy vacation to the state was traveling to various little towns. One after another, darling townships like Saugatuck, Douglas, and Holland are strung along the Lake Michigan coast with plenty of breweries, orchards, art galleries, and more just waiting to be discovered. Here, a diary of some of my favorite to-dos.

Walking Baldhead.

Beachy vibes along Lake Michigan.
Southern fixes.

Saugatuck / Douglas

The Southerner
880 Holland St.; +1-269-857-3555
Hot fried chicken, towers of flaky biscuits, and boozy frozen cocktails make for a good night on the town. The vintage feel in the cozy harborside shack offers great views and plenty of seating for a crew.

202 Butler St.; +1-269-455-5299
Upscale and small-town all at once, this is the place to go for a long lunch with a craft cocktail and a lobster roll.

Yacht Boat Charters
220 Water St.; +1-616-836-2603
Many of the boat rentals in town prefer you stay in the nearby harbor. If you want to make it all the way out to the mighty Lake Michigan, do so in style with the wonderful husband and wife duo who run Yacht Boat Charters. Pack a picnic, pop the rosé, and pamper yourself!

Root Beer Barrel
455 W. Center St.; no phone
The icon of the Saugatuck/Douglas townships, this giant concession stand in the shape of a giant barrel (a vestige of '50s-era roadside attractions) sells hot dogs and ice cold root beer floats all summer long.

Three Mitten Brewing Co.
112 W Nagonaba St.; +1-231-386-1101
Beer flights paired with pizza flights. What more could you ask for on vacation?

Mount Baldhead Park Trail
769 Park St.
The 368-stair climb yields a pretty view, but the real fun is running down the sand dunes on the other side to the beach — it’s like skiing on sand.

Addictive blueberry doughnuts from Bowerman.


Holland Farmers Market
150 W. 8th St.
You’ll find Michigan classics – cherries, berries, asparagus – in abundance here, but you’ll also encounter neat local fare like beer cheese spread, blueberry salsa, and cherry chicken jerky.

Cherry Republic
29 W. 8th St.; +1-213-226-3013
The spot to go for all-cherry everything. Seriously: dried cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, cherry salsa, cherry mustard, cherry BBQ sauce, cherry white chocolate peanut butter … you get it.

Bowerman Blueberries Farm Market
15793 James St.; +1-616-738-3099
Enjoy picking blueberries during the late summer months, or pop in year round for their famous fresh blueberry donuts. Get a sack – they disappear fast.

Virtue Cider flights.
Vintage Americana at Crane's.
Lavender in the rafters at Summerhouse.


Virtue Cider
2170 62nd St.; +1-269-722-3232
You’ll turn the corner and think you stumbled upon a German village. There's quaint architecture, extensive farm grounds where sheep and chickens roam, and European-style dry sparkling ciders. Give the canned Mezzo Spritz a try; it’s a riff on a classic Aperol spritz, made with apple cider.

Summerhouse Lavender Farm
2975 65th St.; +1-616-218-5793
Learn about the process of growing and distilling lavender at this fragrant family run spot. Be sure to pop into the gift shop for homemade candles.

Crane’s Pie Pantry
6054 124th Ave.; +1-269-561-2297
There's a delicious apple pie waiting at the end of a scenic drive past apple orchards. Walking into the Americana shop is like going back in time.

Waypost Brewing Co.
1630 Blue Star Hwy.; +1-269-496-5096
This spot feels fresh out of Brooklyn but just happens to be plopped down in a beautiful Midwestern field. Enjoy expertly crafted brews in fresh, minimal digs. You could spend all day on the patio.

Peachbelt Studio Gallery
6292 124th Ave.; +1-269-561-5561
Of all the plentiful roadside galleries and antique shops, I felt most called to pull over to this darling brick schoolhouse, inside of which artist Dawn Stafford paints iconic Michigan scenery in the most ethereal manner — capturing exactly what this place feels like in the summer.

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