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Road Trip: 5 hours to Saugerties

A five-hour drive southeast brings you to the western edge of the Catskills.

Like so many of its Hudson Valley counterparts, Saugerties was situated perfectly for industry—the waters of the Catskill escarpment reach the Hudson River here. When the first Dutch settlers reached the area around 1651, they quickly set up shop—the name Saugerties is believed to come from the old Dutch word for “little sawyer” (or sawmill operator). Bricks, bluestone, paper, lead, iron and ice were all produced around the town, drawing waves of German, Irish, English, Welsh, Italian and Baltic immigrants to labor over the next two centuries. Residents built a town center of classic pediment-topped Victorian storefronts, many of local brick, and welcomed travelers vacationing around the Catskills.

Saugerties’ handsome downtown has been well-preserved today, hosting a mix of quiet rural charm and growing creative energy. The visitor draws have shifted a bit—the HITS equestrian competitions, which run from May through September, are a major attraction—and nature and the arts also play a major role. “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, a Saugerties native, has boosted the local high school arts program, and murals and other visual works (most recently a sailboat series) are displayed in the streets. The layers of Saugerties’ appeal are fused together in places like Opus 40, a former bluestone quarry reimagined into a creative sculpture garden and testament to the power of nature, which has long been recognized here.

Where to stay

Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern. On a former paper mill site now stand imposing brick-and-stone buildings that include a 28-room boutique hotel and, despite the tavern name, a quality chef-driven restaurant. Every room has a view of the wide, tumbling Esopus Creek waterfall, which (while not Niagara Falls) is still scenic.

Saugerties Lighthouse. For a unique overnight that will take you back at least a century, book ahead for a B&B experience in this photogenic landmark, built in 1869 to help guide Hudson River traffic. Antique quilts, rocking chairs, tide clocks and wood-burning stoves abound.

Places to eat

Road Trip: 5 hours to Saugerties | Buffalo Magazine

Love Bites Cafe. This homey breakfast and lunch cafe, decorated with estate-sale landscape paintings and bud vases of fresh flowers, serves up a mostly vegetarian menu. The sweet and spicy cauliflower wings are a crispy-but-tender revelation, with an Asian spin from sweetened-up Sriracha sauce.

The Dutch Ale House. A local institution since 1933, the Dutch Ale House was purchased and renovated in 2018 by a pair of New York City financiers who polished up its mahogany bar, exposed more of its Saugerties brick and otherwise updated its classic vibe. The scratch-made, meat-heavy menu from chef Jonathan Botta lets sausages like kielbasa and bratwurst sing.

What to do

Road Trip: 5 hours to Saugerties | Buffalo Magazine

Opus 40 Sculpture Park & Museum. Saugerties’ industrial past and creative present merge in a former bluestone quarry transformed into a sculpture garden. The late sculptor Harvey Fite, a founding faculty member of Bard College’s Fine Arts Department, devoted nearly 40 years to carving monumental works on the 12-acre site.

Falling Waters Preserve. Part of a longtime retreat for an order of nuns based in New York City is now a lovely 192-acre natural park for hiking along the Hudson. Walk right up to the riverside, or find a bench in a contemplative spot overlooking a little waterfall.

Spots to shop

Inquiring Minds Bookstore & Cafe. This rambling bookstore and coffeehouse, which occupies a can’t-miss-it space at the corner of Partition and Main streets, has been a community hub for some 15 years, hosting everyone from chess-playing preteens to couples lounging in the leather chairs over iced mochas. There’s a big section on Saugerties and Catskills history, too.

MOD Catskills. Among the many antiques stores in downtown Saugerties, MOD Catskills stands out for its emphasis on trendy midcentury modern furnishings and household goods, including a groovy collection of fondue sets.

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