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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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