With its tawny sand beaches and its Norman Rockwell-style downtown, this artsy getaway on the shores of Lake Michigan (less than four hours from Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee) is an old-fashioned home for its 950 year-round residents.
Saugatuck's pleasures are emblematic of small-town harbor life: strolling the boardwalk to admire the boats, picnicking by the Wicks Park gazebo overlooking the waterfront, riding a hand-cranked Victorian ferry (for a dollar), and enjoying sodas and malts at the Saugatuck Drug Store's old-school soda fountain.
The town's natural grandeur, with towering 200-foot-high sand dunes, has lured artists for generations, bringing richness to the community—The Ox-Bow School of Art, for instance, is more than a century old. Add in a local brewery and two nearby wineries, plus great golf and fishing, and it seems that coastal compasses point to the heart of the country.
Where to Stay: The romantic, boutique Wickwood Inn puts gourmet up front with unforgettable touches, including homemade pecan sticky buns and hors d'oeuvres by candlelight. Rates start at $199; 800-385-1174 or wickwoodinn.com.