Saugatuck, Michigan: Living Large on the Midwest Riviera at the Mouth of the Kalamazoo

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Saugatuck Beach 1

Growing up in Chicago, Saugatuck was one of many beach communities where folks who went to beach communities went.  My childhood summers were spent in the cement pond rather than a sandy lakeside beach.  In my 20s, I discovered Saugatuck and its sister city, Douglas, located on the Lake Michigan side of …. well … Michigan.

At that time it was a sleepy, arty town with tons of vacation home rentals and B&Bs, that earned the nickname the Provincetown of the Midwest.  Today, it’s become quite a bit more upscale and professional-level touristy.  But the beaches are still great (and shark-free!).  In 2010, Budget Travel named it one of the 10 coolest towns in America.

The town’s population has fluctuated around 1,000 full-time residents since the 1960s. During the summer, the population triples with vacationers.  The influx of wealth over the years has changed the demographics a bit.  From 2000 to 2010, census data reveals that the median age has gone from 44 to 53.3 years old.

Saugatuck Map 1

“Saugatuck” is a Paugusset Indian word meaning “river that pours out,” and indeed, the Kalamazoo River joins the lake here (literally next to our featured home).  Being nowhere near the Connecticut home of the Paugusset Indians, this Michigan town got its name when the postmaster, likely from Connecticut, suggested it in 1868.

From Dallas, there are several transportation options.  Drivers will be on the road for just shy of 16-hours while flyers will spend 45-minutes in a rental car from Grand Rapids after a 4.5-hour Southwest flight.

Of course, if you’re interested in our featured property, I suspect you’ll be making the two-hour non-stop flight in your private plane and met by your chauffer.

3574 Dugout Road, Saugatuck


Priced at an even $40 million, this 5,865-square-foot home has five bedrooms and five full and two half bathrooms.  It was built in 1990 and it listed with Dan Gutfreund of Signature Sotheby’s of Michigan. How could a home on the shores of Lake Michigan, nice as it is, command $6,820 per square foot?  Ohhhh, did I not mention the lot?  It’s got 1,800 linear feet of beachfront forming one boundary of the 314 acre site that also includes Kalamazoo River frontage.

From the air, the home is reminiscent of a docked ship
From the air, the home is reminiscent of a docked ship

For those with staggeringly good memories, the home was showcased by the Wall Street Journal in 2013 for a piddley $10 mil, but only included 6.2 acres.  The entire property was to have been developed by former Chesapeake Energy founder Aubrey McClendon into a development called Singapore Dunes.  Locals were decidedly unhappy with the plans for houses and condos on such a large stretch of virgin coastline.  One can only assume that McClendon grew tired of the process and decided to put the entire acreage on the market for someone else to develop.

McClendon began assembling the land in 2005 and 2006 ultimately paying just shy of $40 million for 405 acres.  He put about 90 acres into conservation, leaving the remaining 314 acres plus the prior owners’ home for Singapore Dunes.

One could argue that purchasing land moments before a global economic crash while donating nearly a quarter of the land is not a recipe for a $40 million dollar price tag today, but it’s a hellava home!

Saug Living View 1

The lake facing living room is the stuff of dreams.  Like the bow of a ship, the curved, semi-circular living room floods light inside as well as it draws eyes outwards.  Motorized shades are great for when afternoon sun blares in before being rolled up to enjoy the evening sunset across the lake.  You may feel sorry for the poor rubes on the inward-facing chairs, but don’t …

Saug Living 1

Their view back into the home is no slouch either.  Extensive woodwork and double rows of balusters give this view the hint of a ship’s skeleton.  The central fireplace (with its unfortunate TV placement) is an attractive necessity for those visiting the home in winter.

Saug Living Upper 1

In a home this well built for entertaining, one living area just wouldn’t do.  A quick hop upstairs gets you to the “crow’s nest” of this home with equally gorgeous lake views beneath an equally impressive wood skeleton ceiling.

Saug Kitchen 1

The stunning kitchen is certainly no ship’s galley. Outfitted with all the best and some darn sexy cabinetry, this kitchen is made for burning dinner … so distracted were you by the water views from every angle.

Saug Balcony 1

Of course no home in such a setting would be complete without outdoor space.  Not only is there the required lakefront deck, but each wing of the home has its own deck facing either the Kalamazoo River or the coastline. Lake people are big on boats offering a moving canvas throughout the day.

Sure there are plenty of nice bedrooms and equally nice bathrooms.  But what’s going to sell this home isn’t taking a tape measure to every bedroom.  What’s going to sell this home is either someone requiring 314 acres of privacy or someone willing to duke it out to fulfill the Singapore Dunes dream in whatever form works for the town and residents.


Remember: When I’m not stirring up trouble in Dallas, Texas or Honolulu, Hawaii for and, I’m off scouting interesting locations for a second home.  In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors. If you’re a Realtor with second home clients who’d like me to feature their journey, shoot me an email