36 Hours in Saugatuck Part 1: The Anti-B&B

Saugatuck, Michigan, is an ideal weekend destination. It’s convenient—about a two-hour drive from Chicago—but far enough to feel like you’ve completely escaped the city’s reach.

The Saugatuck area, a rural beach town that survives on tourism, has its fair share of lodging options. While it’s awesome to escape the stresses of the city, it’s a shame to leave behind the city’s high standards of quality.

A stay at the Kirby means you don’t have to. It’s a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants the best of both worlds—the peace and quiet of a rural getaway, and the luxury comforts of an urban boutique hotel.

In 2014, a new Chicago-based owner purchased the historic building and gave it a top-notch renovation.

The Kirby is a B&B, but calling it that feels a little wrong. Inside the 125-year-old Victorian is a totally modern hotel that retains all of the character but none of the corniness of your average B&B.

The Kirby is kind of like an anti-B&B. Yes, you get a bed for the night and you a breakfast in the morning. But you’ll find no lace curtains. No floral bedspreads, no teddy bears, no rocking chairs, no potpourri. No innkeeper in a needlepoint apron asking too many questions with a too-big smile.

Instead, it’s all chic décor, neutral colors, flat screen TVs, and high-end bedding.

It’s comfort-oriented details like Malin & Goetz bath products, squishy bath mats, super soft robes, and memory foam mattresses.

It’s the bar stocked with good wine and craft beer, and the gourmet breakfast in the morning.

After our drive from the city Friday night, Mindy, the manager and host, treated us to an impressive wine and cheese tasting.

Cheese and wine tasting: Aged Manchego (Spain), Sweet Gorgonzola (Italy), Delice de Bourgogne triple cream, Cana de Cabra (Spain), Fig Jam (Portugal), Jamming with Marguerite’s Cider Jelly (Michigan), dried cherries (Michigan), Earl’s honey (Michigan), Marcona Almonds (Spain)

Mindy is a great host and an instant friend. A Chicagoan and longtime restaurateur, she is down-to-earth, attentive without being nosy, extremely knowledgeable about food and wine, and one of the nicest people we’ve met in our travels. She made us feel right at home.

If you’re looking for a typical country breakfast in the morning, go elsewhere. The Kirby’s chef, Chris, started us out with killer beignets baked fresh that morning, followed by poached eggs served atop crab cakes and pulled pork and potato latkes.

It was on par with any of Chicago’s great brunch spots. The dining room (soon to be a full-fledged restaurant serving dinner as well) has small private tables, meaning you can keep to yourself, if that’s what you prefer.

A lot of care has been put into making the Kirby stand apart and offer something new to visitors who want to get away from the city but still want sophistication and luxury. It’s at the top of the list in the Saugatuck area and we’re so glad we found it.

If you go:

  • Be sure to check out the acclaimed Oval Beach, which is right down the street from the Kirby.
  • The chef will accommodate any dietary restrictions.
  • Saugatuck and The Kirby are gay friendly.
  • We went in the off season and enjoyed an impressive amount of peace and quiet.
  • Check the Kirby’s Facebook page for special events and packages.
  • Guests can dine at the hotel, and the restaurant is scheduled to open to the general public in early March. In the meantime, check out the tasty menu.
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13 thoughts on “36 Hours in Saugatuck Part 1: The Anti-B&B

  1. awesome write up…..you should mention that part of the movie “Saugatuck Cures” was filmed at The Kirby and used many local residents as extras (myself being one of them!! -Jeanette Locher)

  2. Jeanette, you’re right! Mindy mentioned that they’d like to do a showing of the movie at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts this summer. I hope we can come back to see it. It would be fun to compare the Kirby then and now. It’s really fun that so many locals were involved–not many people get to say that they’ve been in a movie!

  3. Hi G, None in Saugatuck–my assessment of the lodging situation there is based on the offerings I found when researching a place to stay. My assessment of B&Bs in general is based on other travel experiences. If you know of other great options, please share! It would be wonderful to know about other places that break the stereotype of the traditional B&B.

  4. You make the following statement…
    The Saugatuck area, a rural beach town that survives on tourism, has its fair share of lackluster lodging options that have seen better days. Since there’s a high demand for rooms, places like these can get by with being “good enough.”
    …yet you have not stayed in any other lodging in Saugatuck, did you at least tour other properties while you were in Saugatuck?

      • I have to disagree. Saugatuck NEEDS high end B&B’s. I have stayed at many rooms in Saugatuck and really am looking for a upscale location. Bravo to the new innkeepers!

  5. Hi G, I’m careful not to say that all lodging is lackluster, but that a fair share of it is. I’m sure there are other places that are great, too, and I did see one or two other places I’d love to stay sometime. I’m just a traveler, myself, so my blog’s perspective will be limited to my personal experiences. I’d also love for you to weigh in on suggestions so readers know about them.

  6. There are lots of great things happening in the Saugatuck area. In addition to the Kirby, Twin Oaks Inn, Beechwood Manor and Sherwood Forest B&B have new owners making exciting changes. Others are breathing new life into some iconic 50’s motels The Starlite, Saugatuck Motel & Blue Star Motel. Located in downtown Saugatuck, both Bella Vita Suites and Hidden Garden Cottages offer unique twists on the B & B experience. I can assure you that none of these are lackluster properties.

  7. Thanks, G! It’s great to have these suggestions. Bella Vita was certainly one that caught my attention, and the 50s neon sign outside The Starlite got our attention as well. It was closed for the season but we’d love to check it out sometime.

  8. Nice article. Thanks for writing about my old girl. Just for fact purposes, the Kirby House did not sit vacant for years. I left the house to the Bank in March of 2013. The Bank maintained it for several months until it was purchased in November/December. Jay has done a great job bringing that place to a new look and new life. I have to say that in 16 years of ownership our guests returned because off us hosts/innkeepers, not in spite ofus. Trust me as two gay owners we sure did not wear needlepoint aprons. After my partner Ray Riker died from colon cancer in January 2010 I ran it for three years. Without him my spirit left and I decided to move on and not go through a lengthy sales process. I know this is a comparison to other B&Bs, but I don’t think you really did your homework about the other area lodging options. You should have just left out the comment about other local lackluster B&Bs. Just say that on this visit you visited Kirby House. I’m glad there is new life there. That place is too special.

  9. It’s nice to see the support for the Saugatuck community! All points are well taken, and certainly I didn’t intend the negative implication. Thanks all for weighing in in support of your community!

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