Michigan's Freshwater Seas
Take advantage of sunny skies and warm days to explore our Great Lakes and experience the many activities, sites and pleasures that our lakes and beaches make possible. From lighthouse tours to sand dunes, from shipwrecks to scuba diving and from deep-sea fishing to yacht racesour Great Lakes beckon you to our shores.
Michigan's very name is rooted in the Ojibwa word for "large lake," and its handprint on the earth, the mitten-like Lower Peninsula and jagged-edged Upper Peninsula, is shaped by four of the five Great Lakes. Sailors called them the "Sweetwater Seas." Carved by glaciers more than 12,000 years ago, the Great Lakes regions are the planet's largest bodies of freshwater which are visible from the moon and instantly recognizable on any globe or atlas.
Dotted with sailboats and other pleasure craft and fishing vessels, massive ore carriers and the occasional cruise ship, the Michigan Great Lakes-regions stretch far and wide to the horizon, delivering spectacular sunrises over Lake Huron to the East, and sunsets that appear to drop into the Lake Michigan on the western shore. At the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow strip of water where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet, the five-mile span of the Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
The waters of our Great Lakes lap against 3,200 miles of coastline onto sandy beaches and rocky shores, dotted with more than 100 public beaches, and two National Lakeshores. Along the beaches are multi-colored sandstone cliffs known as Pictured Rocks in the state's Upper Peninsula, and the highest freshwater sand dunes in the world at Sleeping Bear in the Lower Peninsula.
Spectacular dunes dot Lake Michigan beaches along the west coast of the Lower Peninsula, from Sleeping Bear south to the Nordhouse Dunes at Ludington and Warren Dunes State Park, as well as Grand Sable Dunes on Lake Superior. The Gillette Sand Dune Visitors Center at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon features exhibits and nature programs that explore and explain the importance of the natural resource of the Great Lakes regions.
While exploring Great Lakes beaches, you'll also want to check out the 129 lighthouses that stand watch over the temperamental inland seas. Through the centuries the Great Lakes have served Native Americans, voyageurs, explorers, traders, and missionaries as vital transportation and commercial shipping routes, and since the late 1800's the lakes and beaches have been a draw for vacationers at summertime resorts. These bountiful waters welcome anglers, sailors and kayakers. These freshwater seas also serve as the final resting place of nearly 5,000 shipwrecks that scuba divers explore at a dozen underwater preserves.