Tunnel Park Beach in Holland Michigan Lake Michigan by Annie Fairfax
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The 7 Best Beaches in Michigan

Michigan is surrounded by all 5 of the gorgeous Great Lakes, all of which are salt free, shark free, and worry free, as the saying goes. Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I spent much of the year swimming, when it was warm enough, in water that was so pure we could drink it straight to of the lake, if we wanted to do so. With around 3,300 miles of lakeshore, the longest coastline in the United States, second only to Alaska, it’s no wonder that Michigan’s incredible fresh water lakes and thousands of miles of shoreline make our state home to some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Here are 7 of my favorite Michigan beaches, in no particular order.

Day Trips from Traverse City, MI Leland Historic Fishtown

Van’s Beach in Leland

Leland is a small, traditional fishing village in northern Michigan, about 20 miles from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In fact, on clear days, it’s possible to see the edge of the sand dunes across the photo, as in the photo below! The water here is gorgeous, clear, cool, and refreshing, the views are incredible, and the beach itself is always clean and uncrowded.

Torch Lake The Complete Traveler's Guide to Traverse City, MI Where to Eat, Where to Stay, What to Do, Day Trips and More

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most incredible natural areas in the United States. The massive sand dunes are as high as a 40 story building in some places, and the hike is challenging, yet very rewarding, because at the end of the main hike, you’ll reach one of the most pristine beaches in the state. To reach this beach is about a 3.5 mile hike up and down towering sand dunes, making it challenging for those who aren’t in good physical health, however the crystal clear, turquoise water is absolutely worth the time it takes to reach it. Just be aware, that there are some clearly marked areas where swimming is NOT permitted around the lakeshore (not near this beach), because the dunes are too steep to climb back up, making it the most dangerous of all of Michigan’s beaches.

The Beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Incredible Hiking, Swimming, and Birding Most Beautiful Place in America by Annie Fairfax

Petoskey State Park Beach

Having visited this beach, that originally was part of the domain of the honorable Ottawa people, several times a week from the time I was a baby until around my 10th birthday, I can honestly say this is one of the cleanest, most beautiful beaches I’ve been to in the entire world. The Petoskey State Park Rangers and teams of volunteers take great care to keep the beach clean, enjoyable, and accessible to all, all year long. Those who live nearby take great pride in the beach, and treat it respectfully, and make regular efforts to clean it of any debris or sharp rocks that might disrupt the enjoyment of the beach. Of course, it’s too cold to swim in the winter, but hiking along the beach during the colder months has always been one of my favorite winter activities. Rainy days at the beach are my favorite, because the sand becomes the most brilliant shades of orange, brown, and mode, it’s usually empty, and it’s always so peaceful.

Petoskey State Park Beach on a rainy day by Annie Fairfax Best Michigan Beaches Travel Guide

This beach has beautiful sand dunes (but climbing is NOT permitted, as they are very fragile and important ecological areas), a playground, a large modern campground, an RV camping area,  303 acres of hiking and walking trails, a summertime concession stand, and several miles of lakeshore beach. It’s truly a beautiful place to enjoy the gorgeous lakes. Technically, the body of water is Little Traverse Bay, but it feeds into Lake Michigan.

Petoskey State Park Beach on a rainy day by Annie Fairfax Best Michigan Beaches Travel Guide

Harbor Springs Zorn Beach

This beautiful town has tons of gorgeous beach access areas, and the main public beach is Zorn Beach. While it’s technically my second favorite beach in the city, I thought it a worthy inclusion. My favorite beach is on private property, so I can’t share it’s exact location, but I can tell you that you can’t go wrong swimming in Little Traverse Bay. Unless of course, you get pulled into a rare rip current, in which case you simply need to swim parallel to the shore to get out of it easily.

Harbor Springs The Official Travel Guide by Annie Fairfax

Mackinac Island British Landing Beach

This beach, where invading Englishman, natives, and voyageurs famously landed to attack natives and American settlers in 1812, who were unaware any war had been declared. They surrendered to the English without any fighting, since they were hopelessly outnumbered, and the rest, as they say, is history. The area where they landed has since been turned into a beach, and it’s a great spot, safely removed from speeding ferries or sailboats, to swim and enjoy the shallow, clear, fresh waters of the lake.

Mackinac Island The Ultimate Travel Guide Where to Eat, What to Do, Where to Stay by Annie Fairfax

Tunnel Park Beach in Holland

This beautiful beach is where my (now) husband first told he loved me, so it not only has lots of natural beauty, but it also has many happy memories for the two of us. This beach has lots of small sand dunes that can be climbed, so check it out if you want to swim, hike, or sunbathe.

Tunnel Park Beach in Holland Michigan Lake Michigan by Annie Fairfax

South Haven Beach

This is my favorite beach to play volleyball with friends, because they have around dozen volleyball nets, and beautiful views of Lake Michigan. This beach gets busy in the middle of the day, but despite the heavy traffic it’s very clean, and the water is refreshing on a hot day. If the flags aren’t green, do not go swimming in the water. The last time we were there, the flags were red which warned people to stay out of the water because of high waves and strong rip currents that drag people out into the lake, and a person is still missing 5 days later after being pulled under water. This can happen in any lake, but trust the flags when it’s safe or when it isn’t. If you visit on a day you can’t swim, walk along the beautiful beach, check out the food trucks in the parking lot, and if it’s safe, walk to the lighthouse!

South Haven State Park Beach Best Michigan Beaches by Annie Fairfax

Torch Lake

Torch lake, about an hour and 15 minutes from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and 40 minutes from Traverse City, is Michigan’s longest inland lake, and the state’s second largest inland lake. The water is some of the clearest in the entire country, and its stunning turquoise-green color is reminiscent of the Caribbean.

Torch Lake The Complete Traveler's Guide to Traverse City, MI Where to Eat, Where to Stay, What to Do, Day Trips and More

Safe travels!

xAnnie Fairfax
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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Oh my goodness, these beaches are straight out of a fairytale! Absolutely gorgeous!! I so want to plan a trip to michigan!


  2. wow I never knew that Michigan had so many beautiful beaches!! my husband has family in Michigan so hopefully we will get up there someday!

    xx Abigail

    1. Christina H. says:

      These Michigan beaches are beautiful! The water looks so blue.

  3. All of these beaches look so beautiful and so peaceful! I would love to dip my toes in the water at all of these!

    cute & little

  4. I’ve never been to Michigan but I hear it’s so lovely over the summer! A beach day sounds heavenly right now!

  5. Adding all these beaches to my list!! I’m trying to make a better effort visiting more of Michigan!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was born in Michigan and have not been back since I was 7 months old… I have always wanted to visit and this post makes me want to even more!

  7. My cousin recently traveled throughout Michigan visiting all the beaches and parks. So inspired to go!

  8. Karen arnold says:

    My husband worked in the Lansing area for a few years and we always wanted to visit some of the lakes around. Maybe this will motivate us!

  9. Growing up going up to a lake near Travers City I was able to hit a few of these beaches: Sand Dunes and Torch Lake. I can’t wait to check some more off my list!

  10. Trey N Dana Belangia says:

    I wish SC beaches looked this amazing! I’d love to visit here!

  11. Christina H. says:

    These Michigan beaches are beautiful! The water looks so blue.

  12. Beautiful! My husband and I have discussed a trip to Michigan. This list provides some great ideas. Thanks!

  13. Kemari Ihlenfeldt says:

    Such pretty views! Love the lighthouse too!!