Michigan has hundreds of beaches on lakes of all sizes, each with its own vibe –from the bustle of a resort town to the solitude of the wilderness.
What makes a good beach town? Souvenir shops selling sunscreen, flip flops and beach toys. At least one good ice cream shop. And, of course, the sand itself.
You’ll find all of the above and much more in the string of nine waterfront communities, starting just past the Indiana border up to Ludington, called the Michigan Beachtowns. This stretch of Lake Michigan shore is known for its “singing sands,” a unique sound made while walking on the beaches. Saugatuck and Douglas, neighboring Beachtowns, boast Oval Beach, which consistently ranks on “top beach” lists for its beauty and location on Michigan’s “Art Coast.”
With its sugar sand beaches and turquoise, teal and jade green waters the Grand Traverse region has been called the “Caribbean of the North.” Traverse City is the hub of the area, where you can dig your toes into nearly 40 public beaches and enjoy the water lapping against 181 miles of coastline on Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan, and 149 inland lakes.
The Lake Huron shore, “The Sunrise Side” of the state, offers many roadside and state parks with beaches along Heritage Route U.S. 23, a 200-mile scenic road between Mackinaw City and Standish. The northern Lower Peninsula is also home to several beautiful inland lakes, including Houghton and Higgins Lakes. Access Houghton Lake at Roscommon Township Beach and enjoy lovely Higgins Lake at two state parks with a mile of shoreline.
Beaches dot the Lake Huron shoreline around the Thumb, from the aptly named Bathing Beach Park in Harbor Beach to the three-mile coast at Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin. Albert E. Sleeper State Park near Caseville has dunes and a half-mile of sandy beach where you can watch the sunrise and set.
There may be just one Michigan state park on Lake Erie, but the William C. Sterling State Park near Monroe has a mile of beach access to the smallest Great Lake. Public beaches and parks are the heart of the Lake Erie resort town of Luna Pier, near the Ohio border.
Travelers cruising across the Upper Peninsula on U.S. 2 on a warm day can’t resist pulling over to splash in Lake Michigan near Brevort, where there’s roadside parking and free access to long stretches of sandy beach and warm and shallow water.
On the north shore of the UP much of the Lake Superior coast is quite rocky and the water notoriously chilly, so Sand Point Beach in Munising is a favorite for its location in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and its relatively warm water. Popular swimming beaches in Copper Country include the inland Lake Manganese and Lake Roland at Twin Lakes State Park.
For a blissfully quiet day at the beach head to Clark Lake in the Sylvania Wilderness Area near Watersmeet in the western UP, where motorized watercraft are prohibited.