A Retro Road Trip In The Art Coast
If the complicated times we're living in have you longing for simpler days, a retro road trip might just be the kind of escape you're looking for. Whether you're looking for some quirky roadside fun or want to relive the pursuits of bygone days, we have plenty of activities and attractions that will let you connect with the past and delight in some nostalgia.
Renting a classic car to get here is purely optional but highly recommended. We are 2.5 hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Detroit, 3.5 hours from Toledo, and 3.75 hours from Indianapolis.
Originally opened as a motel in 1953, the Saugatuck Retro Resort Motel welcomes guests to celebrate the lost art of motor lodging. Named by Reader's Digest as one of the “17 Most Retro Hotels in America” in 2021, this roadside oasis features cozy rooms, flashing neon signs, and large grassy lawns with big shade trees.
Constructed in 1958, the Pines Motor Lodge celebrates the authentic character and bold expression of the '50s with its lime green cabins and kitschy pink flamingos. Commemorate your stay with a retro remembrance from their souvenir shop, which features merchandise that matches the flavor of the era.
Nestled under a wooded canopy, the Starlite Resort offers essential accommodations reminiscent of the motor inns that sprang up in the 1950s along Michigan's roadways. Mid-century modern furnishings paired with minimalist design and spacious rooms provide a welcoming escape from the hustle and bustle.
Beginning in the 1950s, open-roof dune rides have taken visitors off the road and deep into the rolling hills of sand overlooking Lake Michigan. The vehicles themselves may have changed since then, but Saugatuck Dune Rides still offers the thrill of those bygone days. Part nature tour, part comedy routine, and part history lesson, this 40-minute scenic ride takes you over Lake Michigan sand dunes, where you'll learn about the lost town of Singapore, Michigan's version of Pompeii.
Cruise along our waterways in style aboard a vintage vessel from Retro Boat Rentals. Their fleet of meticulously maintained and rare, classic fiberglass runabout boats are from the jet-age era (1958-1963) and feature fanciful fins and headlights, cool retro colors, and flashy chrome details. Completely retrofitted with electric motors, these boats are quiet, easy to operate, and environmentally friendly.
One of the most iconic sights along the Saugatuck shore is the moonlike sphere of the Mount Baldhead Radar Tower. A Cold War relic dating back to the 1950s, this unmanned station was constructed by the U.S. Air Force to monitor the country’s northern border for encroaching Soviet aircraft. Permanently deactivated in 1968, the radar tower remains a symbol of a time when the escalating arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had many Americans living in fear of an atomic bomb attack.
For a closer look at the Radar Tower, climb aboard the Diane—the only remaining hand-cranked Chain Ferry of its kind remaining in the United States. Part of the unique character of our town since 1938, today’s boat has been crossing the Kalamazoo River since 1965. Once you’ve reached the other side of the river, take the 302-step climb up to the top of Mt. Baldy (as Mount Baldhead is affectionately known to locals), where you’ll come face-to-face with the radar tower and be treated to breathtaking views of Saugatuck, Douglas, and Lake Michigan.
Take home some memorabilia with a visit to the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion. Considered by many to be one of the best antique shopping experiences in the country, this 24,000 square foot facility boasts a fantastic inventory of rare vintage and retro collectibles, furniture, décor, clothing, and jewelry.
Relive the kitsch and character of the novelty sites of the 1950s with a visit to Douglas’s Root Beer Barrel, a beloved roadside hangout for beachgoers since 1952. Standing 17-feet tall and made with 120 wooden staves, this restored concession stand located near Oval Beach proudly serves hot dogs and root beer on tap throughout the summer.
Built in 1906, Coral Gables is one of the oldest family-owned restaurants and bar sites in Michigan. Located along the Kalamazoo River in downtown Saugatuck, this sprawling complex offers waterfront dining with American cuisine, live music, and comedy entertainment.
Enjoy hand-crafted American meals and delectable Michigan fruit pies at Crane’s Pie Pantry and Restaurant, where guests are served in the family's 150-year-old barn surrounded by local memorabilia and antiques. A must-try is their Sloppy Joe sandwich, a family recipe that has remained the same for over 50 years.
And be sure to make a stop at the Saugatuck Drugstore and Soda Fountain. This classic downtown fixture has been around for 100 years, serving up root beer floats and malts to generations of summer visitors and town regulars.