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Two of west Michigan’s most popular summer beach destinations, Grand Haven and Saugatuck offer many recreational boating and coastal tourism opportunities.

Best suited for: Vibrant coastal communities | Seasonal recreation and tourism | Diverse waterfronts

WATERFRONT OVERVIEW

Grand Haven:

  • Picturesque beach town on the Grand River and Lake Michigan estuary
  • Named one of the “Best Places in the World to Retire” by Conde Nast, “#2 Best Freshwater Beach in America” by USA Today, and “#2 Best Beach in America” and “Happiest Seaside Town in America” by Coastal Living
  • Known as “Coast Guard City USA”

Saugatuck:

  • Sleepy resort town on the shores of Kalamazoo Lake near Lake Michigan
  • Recipient of USA Today’s “Best Coastal Small Town” designation in 2015
  • Quaint and artsy commercial district
  • Bustling recreational boating scene

AGENDA

Tour will take place from 12–7 p.m.

Hosted by the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Saugatuck and Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Depart Amway Grand Plaza Hotel toward Grand Haven (45-minute drive; boxed lunches provided for the road).

Visit the Port of Grand Haven to explore the Bottoms Up Topsoil Program

  • Creating a sustainable harbor through reuse of dredged material
  • End product is topsoil

Explore revitalized riverside commercial district on foot

  • Fish cleaning station and docked charter boats at Chinook Pier
  • Municipal marina featuring public slips and charter boat operators
  • Waterfront stadium, a $1 million project still under construction
  • Grand Haven Musical Fountain and “Coast Guard City USA” sign
  • Historic downtown Grand Haven: bustling shops, rental outlets, and restaurants

Hop back on the bus and head south along Harbor Drive toward Lake Michigan

  • Boardwalk, Army Corps of Engineers HQ, and Coast Guard Station
  • Many festivals that frequent Grand Haven (Coast Guard, salmon, kite festivals)
  • Grand Haven State Park and Campground, as well as City Park and beach
  • Pier and catwalk and historic lighthouses (1839, 1905)

Depart Grand Haven, heading south towards Saugatuck (45-minute drive)

Arrive in Douglas and chat with the City Economic Development Director

Head into downtown Saugatuck to explore the historic Chain Ferry

  • U.S. Coast Guard-certified hand-propelled passenger ferry crossing the Kalamazoo River; in use since 1838
  • Speakers include the City Manager and owner of Retro Boat Company

Depart Saugatuck, heading east back to Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (45-minute drive).

ACCESSIBILITY

The Saugatuck and Grand Haven tour will be predominantly on-foot with frequent stops. Participants should bring comfortable walking shoes and a water bottle. Expect to encounter uneven sidewalks, staircases, and sandy beaches.

TRIP LEADERS

Charles (Chuck) Pistis served as Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator in southwest Michigan from 1977-2006 and as Michigan Sea Grant Extension program coordinator from 2007 until his retirement in 2012. He has also been an advisor to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and a member of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Fisheries Citizens Advisory Committee.

Grand Haven

Joy Gaasch joined the staff of the Chamber of Commerce – Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg as President in 2000. She is a graduate of The Institute for Organizational Management, Notre Dame and has spent 31 years in the management of not for profit organizations. She is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and is a member of the Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals, as well as serving on its Board of Directors in the capacity as treasurer, vice chair and chair.

Saugatuck

Josh Albrecht is the Executive Director of the Saugatuck Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau, specializing in economic development in tourism marketing, special events, and downtown revitalization.