The Great Lakes are the lifeblood of Michigan. They’re where we go to relax and recharge, and they were once drivers of industry. I spent many a summer trip splashing in beaches along Lake Michigan, playing a game we called “Kill the Waves” which involved us karate chopping and tackling waves to little effect. When I lived in Florida, people would try to convince me that their beaches were superior, but for a variety of reasons, Michigan’s beaches can’t be topped. Standing on the shores of the Great Lakes, you’d never know you weren’t looking out at the ocean as their crystal blue waters stretch past the horizon and one swim in their freshwater might just have you swearing off of saltwater forever. This list of the best beaches in Michigan should sway you to my point of view and maybe even inspire your next vacation.
Ludington State Park
Sparkling crystal clear water, sugar sand beach, beach grass waving gently in the wind. No, it’s not Nantucket, but the beautiful beaches located in Ludington, MI along Lake Michigan. By far my favorite beach in Michigan, Ludington State Park offers miles of pristine beaches flanked on one side by soft dunes. At the main beach, grab a frozen treat at the pavilion area before taking a swim and lounging on the large beach area.
If you prefer a quieter beach experience and don’t mind forgoing changing rooms and restrooms, grab a spot of your choosing along the miles long lakeside park entrance road. A short climb over the dunes will greet you with your own peaceful strip of beach to claim as your own for the day. If you prefer to stay a little longer, there are three modern campgrounds on site, but be sure to book early, as they fill up quickly. Mid-July through Labor Day, water temperatures on the lake are usually perfect , so grab a tube, paddle board or jet ski from a nearby rental shop, and hit the waves!
Silver Lake State Park
One of the most important parts of a beach is of course, sand! Silver Lake State Park is home to amazing sand dunes, bordering Lake Michigan on one side and Silver Lake on the other! There’s a pedestrian area of the dunes for hiking and sand boarding and a separate area for ATVS and off-roading. For those looking for something a little more relaxing, further around Silver Lake is a large parking area with a small beach complete with a playground, barbecues and toilet facilities, which is a great space for families. History fans may like a visit to the Little Sable Point Lighthouse. Visitors can climb the 130 stairs to the top during the summer months and enjoy views of Lake Michigan and Silver Lake Sand Dunes! So when looking for beaches along Lake Michigan, a trip to Mears has plenty of opportunities for all different types of people and a lot of different accommodation options to choose from!
Muskegon is another absolutely delightful town home to some of my favorite beaches along Lake Michigan (Remember that “Kill the Waves” anecdote from earlier? This is where that game came to life). There’s a gorgeous state park right along the shore with several different camping areas and lots of beach access. You can also swim from public beaches right in town at Pere Marquette Park and explore the pier and lighthouse. The beaches in Muskegon are also some of my favorite spots to catch a sunset in Michigan. Even better? Some areas are dog friendly.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
You have to work a little for some of the beaches along Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as some of them require a hike across (or up) sand dunes. Once you arrive at the gorgeous beach along Lake Michigan, you’ll know it was worth the effort. The water here is an unbelievable turquoise blue and this area has been ranked as a top beach by more than one national publication. And if you somehow get bored of Sleeping Bear Point, there are plenty of other places to swim in the park and nearby at the many beaches in Traverse City.
Oscoda is a little out-of-the-way, but it’s gorgeous. Michigan’s Lake Huron beaches tend to be rockier and less fun than the Lake Michigan side, but Oscoda was blessed with the kind of sugar white sand you usually associate with the Caribbean. In fact, when I visited shortly after moving back from Orlando and posted some pictures on Facebook, one of my Florida friends demanded to know why I hadn’t told him I was visiting. It was hard to keep the “I told you so” smile off of my face when I informed him that the crystal blue water stretching out to the horizon and smooth white sand was in fact located in the heart of the Midwest. Go here if you want to feel like you escaped to an island paradise.
Being a Michigander one of my favorite beaches to go to when I was growing up was Grand Haven Beach. Located in Western Michigan, Grand Haven is the perfect place to go for a weekend getaway in Michigan. The sand is pure heaven and is soft and white, while the water is crystal blue with decent waves for a lake.
There is so much to do at the beach you can easily spend a few days here and never get bored. Personally, I love playing on the many volleyball courts with a group of people. It’s also fun to walk on the lighthouse and enjoy playing frisbee. Grand Haven was also designated Coast Guard City, USA and every July they have the Coast Guard Festival, which brings in bands and family-friendly events.
There are plenty of beach rentals around, but there is also the Grand Haven State Park nearby and it’s possible to camp there. Head there this summer for a fabulous time in Michigan.
South Haven is the quintessential little Michigan beach town. It’s bustling during the summer, with visitors flocking to its sandy beaches along Lake Michigan and exploring the long pier leading out to a lighthouse, and then pretty much a ghost town during the winter. I would know – I got sent there for work two Marches in a row. I’ve always loved Lake Michigan beaches because they seem to get bigger waves. During storms, you’d think you were watching an ocean. I like the South Haven beaches – especially South Beach (no, not the one in Miami) – because they’re walkable from the downtown area and there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and places to get ice cream – very important on hot summer days.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
You have to be a little bit tough to go for a swim at Miners Beach, but it’s one of the best Lake Superior beaches in Michigan. Located in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the water is chilly even in the warmest months, but the scenery more than makes up for it. With beautiful rock formations in every direction and a prime view of the famous Miners Castle, even if you don’t get in the water, you’ll thoroughly enjoy yourself. Sand Beach is another easily accessible spot to relax on the beach and enjoy the view. Pro tip: bring bug spray in addition to sunscreen.
Check out more great things to do in Michigan:
- Nine Reasons to Visit Michigan This Summer
- Six Reasons to Visit Michigan This Spring
- Ten Reasons to Visit Michigan in Winter
- Eight Reasons to visit Michigan This Fall
- Summer on Mackinac Island