Empire Beach Lighthouse
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Awesome Mitten Team Favorites: 8 Hidden Gem Michigan Beaches

Surrounded by the magnificent Great Lakes, Michigan is full of beautiful beaches.

Our writers at Awesome Mitten are letting you in on a few secrets, by revealing our favorite hidden gem Michigan beaches

Hidden Gem Michigan Beaches Green Point Dunes Beach
Green Point Dunes | photo via @kristileighmurphy

Green Point Dunes

Green Point Dunes description and pictures contributed by Kristi Murphy. Follow along on her Northern Michigan adventures on Instagram @kristileighmurphy.

Location: 1198 Green Point Rd, Frankfort, MI 49635
Entry Fee: None  

A Local Favorite Beach

When I first moved up north, I asked locals for their personal recommendations to avoid crowds in the busy summer season. This beach never disappoints, and I keep returning year after year.

Green Point Dunes is an unexpected and quiet gem; tucked away in the lush forest with a magical beach reached only by foot. My kids know this hike like the back of their hand; one mile through dense forest, down the stairs, and onto the treasured beach with Lake Michigan the only sound we hear.  

Green Point Dunes Beach
Green Point Dunes | photo via @kristileighmurphy

Awe-Inspiring Beauty

We don’t find many Petoskey stones here; instead, we fill our hands with colorful stones polished by the rushing waves. I look around me and notice how the pine trees meet the sand, creating the most perfect scene before me. My kids laugh loudly as they jump off the small, sandy cliffs to the beach below.

We all jump in the tumbling waves until our bodies find their way back to the warmth of our blanket. The turquoise blue of the water, the vivid green of the towering timbers, the smooth sand beneath my feet, and the solitude that surrounds me fills me with wonder.

I gather my children in my arms, taking it all in one more time. We raise our limbs to the sky, giving thanks to this land we are lucky enough to call home. 

The Coves At Pictured Rocks Beach
The Coves | photo via @lost_mi_backpack

The Coves

The Coves description and pictures contributed by Tammy Rappuhn. Check out her escapades on Instagram @lost_mi_backpack.

Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan
Entry Fee: National Park Entrace Pass required

An Upper Peninsula Treasure

The Pictured Rocks National Shoreline in the Upper Peninsula holds some of the most beautiful treasures Michigan has to offer.  

White sand beaches, the crystal clear mysterious waters of Lake Superior,  beaches covered with some of the most spectacular stones you’ve ever seen, and towering cliffs, arrayed with blues, greens black, browns and white – bleeding out from the earth and streaking it as though with nature’s paintbrush. 

The Coves At Pictured Rocks Beach
The Coves | photo via @lost_mi_backpack

A Little Known Secret Beach

Every year I take groups of women to the UP on hiking adventures and one of our first stops is out to the secret, pristine shore of Lake Superior as ‘The Coves’ and it just never disappoints. 

Twelvemile Beach at the Beaver Lake trailhead is where you will find this little-known gem of a spot if you’re looking to spend a day on a secluded beach.

This 1.5 mile easy one-way hike takes you through the woods, past old sea caves and rock formations that just seem to rise up out of nowhere and out to the pristine shores of the grand lady, Lake Superior. 

The Coves At Pictured Rocks Beach
The Coves | photo via @lost_mi_backpack

A Taste of the Caribbean in Michigan

At this far west end of Twelvemile beach, the landscape starts to change as the limestone begins to rise up out of Lake Superior and modify the shoreline drastically. This area is called The Coves. It is here where Lake Superior has carved small inlets out of the limestone shoreline, and where the water is an exceptionally clear Caribbean blue. 

There are pit toilet restrooms at the trailhead but nothing else on the trail or at the beach so take your water with you and pack a lunch, because you won’t want to leave! 

Tips for Visiting

  • As always be sure to leave no trace and pack out anything you bring in. 
  • No pets are allowed on this section of the trail or at the beach. 
  • You certainly will not be disappointed in this little piece of paradise. 
Empire Beach Sign
Empire Beach | photo via Stefanie Caloia

Empire Beach

Empire Beach description and pictures contributed by Stefanie Caloia. Follow her on Instagram @wonderwanderwilder.

Location: Empire, Michigan
Entry Fee: Parking costs $1 an hour. Or, park in town for free and take a short walk.

Lake Michigan Empire Beach
Empire Beach | photo via Stefanie Caloia

Rediscover Your Love of Lake Michigan

Empire Beach was where I rediscovered my love of the water. At some point in my late teens, I had stopped swimming due to a variety of reasons: a strong aversion to bathing suits, the ordeal of changing clothes twice, having to fix my hair, dealing with contact lenses, and so on.

Swimming always seemed like too much work. But something drew me into Lake Michigan when my husband and I visited Empire.

On this mid-September day, the weather was not hot, but warm enough for a couple Michiganders to take a dip. The only other people enjoying the beach were a sweet couple from Texas who couldn’t believe anyone would swim in such chilly conditions.

The waves were big…. maybe a little too big. But I could not resist them. The initial cold shock of the water wore off quickly. Cautious at first, I did not go out too far for fear of being swept away, but soon I was diving under the waves, trying to jump over them, and letting them jostle me around.

Joyful memories of swimming as a kid came back to me and suddenly I knew I had been missing out all those years. I will not miss out again.

Empire Beach Lighthouse
Empire Beach | photo via Stefanie Caloia

Something for Everyone at Empire Beach

Beyond my little epiphany, there is much to love about Empire Beach, with great scenery at the top of the list. To the North, you can see the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes sloping into the lake and the Manitou Islands beyond them. The Empire Bluffs line the shore to the South.

And South Bar Lake – with a calmer and warmer beach option – is just to the East, in the same park. The sunset views are incredible. Plus abundant rock hunting opportunities, playgrounds, and a lighthouse – there is something for everyone at Empire Beach!

Pro Tip: The shore is rocky, so consider water shoes.

Sturgeon Point State Park Beach
Sturgeon Point State Park | photo via @exploremichiganmore

Sturgeon Point State Park

Sturgeon Point State Park description and photos contributed by Amanda Shaffer. Catch Amanda’s latest adventures on Instagram @exploremichiganmore.

Location: 6036 Point Rd, Harrisville, MI 48740
Entry Fee: Michigan Recreation Passport required

Rustic Appeal

While first visiting Sturgeon Point State Park on a recent summer adventure I wasn’t sure what to expect. Reviews varied quite a bit and I read a lot about how amenities were lacking (hello vault toilet) but often when the family and I are visiting the shoreline we aren’t there for all the bells and whistles anyways so we forged ahead. I am so glad we did.

Sturgeon Point State Park Beach
Sturgeon Point State Park | photo via @exploremichiganmore

Historical Buildings

Sturgeon Point State Park’s beach easily became a new favorite with its stunning view of the lighthouse that we were able to tour. During our visit, we also lucked out and were able to tour the Old Bailey School House which makes its home at the park as well.

I was thanking myself for bringing our water shoes because this is a very rocky beach and a rockhound’s dream.

Lakeport State Park Beach
Lakeport State Park | photo via @mimichiganphotos

Lakeport State Park

Lakeport State Park description and photos contributed by Miranda Iagnemma. See more of Miranda’s work on Instagram @mimichiganphotos.

Location: 7605 Lakeshore Rd, Lakeport, MI 48059
Entry Fee: Michigan Recreation Passport required 

Rugged, Rocky Beauty

I always appreciate Lake Huron’s rugged, rocky beauty in comparison to the sandy beaches of her sister Lake Michigan. And while stepping on plenty of pretty little pebbles to wade into deeper water comes with the territory, the beautifully colored rocks on the shoreline of Lakeport State Park are a total rock hunter’s dream. 

Since the weather was just right this summer morning, I headed up to Lakeport to spend the day. As always, the first order of business when I got to this beach was to grab my trusty sand pail and head to the water’s edge for some hunting.

The best reason behind rock hunting at this specific location is that this beach offers plenty of opportunities to find Petoskey Stones. (But you didn’t hear that from me). 

Lakeport State Park Rocky Beach
Lakeport State Park | photo via @mimichiganphotos

Outside of having lots of treasures to search for, this beach offers clear blue waters, public restrooms and picnic areas. I do want to note that while there is a nice sandy bottom of the lake to rest my toes on, I did have an “ouch ouch ouch” moment as I made my way out there, so if you have sensitive feet, water shoes would be a nice perk. 

After spending some leisurely time in the cool water, lazing about, soaking up the sun, and you know, acting like mermaids, I grabbed my pail of loot, thanked the lake for offering me such gifts and headed north to Lexington for some Wimpys burgers (if you know, you know). 

Port Crescent State Park In Port Austin
Port Crescent State Park | photo by Leslie Cieplechowicz

Port Crescent State Park

Port Crescent State Park description and photos contributed by Leslie Cieplechowicz. See more of Leslie’s work at 4AM Photography.

Location: 1775 Port Austin Rd, Port Austin, MI
Entry Fee: Michigan Recreation Passport required 

A 3-Mile Stretch of Quiet Beach

When I desire a stretch of quiet, flaxen sand, I wander to Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin. Located at the tip of the thumb, the park’s beach breaks the frothy, azure waves of Lake Huron and provides the perfect spot to dip my toes into the cool waters.

The park boasts three miles of shoreline to hike with my pants rolled up, to bathe in some warming rays, or to bob in ripples with my swimsuit on. I love to catch the morning sun painting the horizon with crimson and orange streaks while inhaling the fresh air.

Port Crescent State Park In Port Austin
Port Crescent State Park | photo by Leslie Cieplechowicz

Dog-Friendly & Dark Sky Adventures

The park is dog-friendly so on the days I forego the beach, I take my two shepherds on an adventurous hike on one of the four trails meandering through the area. The trails have sandy, rolling paths, and are scented with heavenly pine.

There is also a dark sky park, so sometimes after a leisurely stroll on the beach while watching the sun set, I then catch a glimpse of the twinkling stars up above. I recommend packing a picnic and spending the day there.

Sunset On Brevoort Lake
Sunset on Brevoort Lake | photo via Brian Wheeler

Brevoort Lake

Brevoort Lake description and picture contributed by Brian Wheeler. You can find Brian on Instagram @brianlwheeler.

Location: Hiawatha National Forest in Moran, Michigan
Entry Fee: None

The Perfect Spot for Fishing, Camping & Recreation

Located less than a one-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge, Brevoort Lake is a relatively quiet 4,200-acre lake in the Upper Peninsula. Known for its fishing, camping, and recreational activities, much of Brevoort’s (or Brevort) shoreline is owned and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. 

What makes this lake so unique, other than it’s not overcrowded like some recreational lakes in Michigan, is that there are several waterfront camping sites and private beach areas for boaters.

One of my favorite stops on the lake, to me, resembles a smaller version of Sleeping Bear Dunes. With steep, sandy hills, a rope swing, and clear Michigan water awaiting at the bottom, this secluded beach location has been a favorite for both adults and kids in our family and friend groups when visiting Brevoort.

And one thing certainly not to miss while on Brevoort is the stunning U.P. sunset. 

Oval Beach Saugatuck
Oval Beach in Saugatuck | photo via @kassaandra13

Oval Beach

Oval Beach description and pictures contributed by Kassandra Olschanski. Follow Kassandra’s adventures on Instagram @kassaandra13.

Location: Perryman St. & Oval Beach Drive in Saugatuck, Michigan
Entry Fee: $10 per car (collected 9am-8pm, Memorial Day-Labor Day), $50 season pass. Day passes & season passes are purchased at the beach gate. Cash and credit cards are accepted. 

Small-Town Charm

One of my favorite Michigan towns to visit is Saugatuck. The small-town charm is mixed with yachts and welcoming locals. On my first trip to Saugatuck my goal was to go to the beach to watch the sunset. I loved sunsets, especially at the beach where they set over the water.

I got a recommendation for this beach by a local and I figured because I had clear skies all day, I was in for the sunset of a lifetime. I was right.

Oval Beach is tucked away through some trees and once you find it, it opens up and there is an overlook out to the lake. You can choose to watch the sunset from your car or head down the small sand mound and get closer to the water and soak up the last bit of sun while dipping your toes in the water for a taste.

Oval Beach Saugatuck
Oval Beach in Saugatuck | photo via @kassaandra13

Breathtaking Sunsets

This hidden beach is breathtakingly beautiful on a normal day, but even more so at sunset. Everytime I visit Saugatuck I take all my friends here. The first time I took my boyfriend it was October and it snowed a little bit on the beach. It was a truly magical experience.

Keep Our Michigan Beaches Beautiful

If you visit one of these hidden gem Michigan beaches, adventure responsibly and always carry out whatever you carry in.

Let’s keep our hidden gem Michgan beaches beautiful!

3 Comments

  1. I recently moved back after living in south Carolina for 25 years. It drew me back and I had to finally come home. Just like in the wizard of oz,if you go looking for your heart’s desire, don’t go any farther than your own back yard, because there’s no place like home.

  2. I’d put forth for consideration as among Michigan’s best beaches the stretch of public land along US 2 that lies along the north shore of Lake Michigan between St. Ignace and Naubinway. My family has loved these beaches since I was a child (I’m 66 now) and they are so beautiful. You just park on the shoulder and enjoy! You can climb over dunes and be isolated from the highway noise or choose one of the spots that are more at road level. Either way you are in for a treat!

  3. Ossineke State Park is on Thunder Bay, south of Alpena and offers quiet, sandy beaches. We just moved “up north” and left our beloved Port Huron beaches. So, we are still looking for rocks and treasues. We hear there are geodes nearby.

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