Summer in “The Mitten” means people are flocking to the Great Lakes with a lot of them hitting up various Lake Michigan beaches and towns. On the west side of the state, Muskegon, Holland, and Grand Haven have many visitors going to the beaches and state parks close to town where their lighthouses are located. This part of the state’s shoreline is full of other beaches and hidden gems known by locals. These are places that will give the visitor a beautiful beach experience, hiking opportunities, dune climbing, family fun, picnic and dog recreation, and so much more.
Lake Michigan is the only Great Lakes that does not border Canada. In terms of volume, it’s the second-largest of these inland seas. In terms of surface area, it’s the third largest and creates tons of Lake Michigan beaches, the majority of which are sandy.
Since the lake borders Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, there’s some debate about which side of Lake Michigan is better. Of course, we believe that the Michigan side is the best. In fact, it’s the reason why so many people flock to our beautiful Lake Michigan beaches for fun in the sand and sun. However, which ones are worth your visit? Check out our comprehensive list below.
5 Favorite Upper Peninsula Beaches on Lake Michigan
Explore Michigan’s Upper Peninsula beaches on Lake Michigan and enjoy the scenery and Michigan beauty you can expect to see at these Lake Michigan beaches and parks on the “West Coast”.
Ludington Park in Escanaba
Located on Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc, Ludington Park in Escanaba offers several amenities. Among them is Escanaba Municipal Beach, which is located on Aronson Island. You can access the island and beach via the bicycle path, and there are several miles of sand to explore. Some of the park’s other amenities include volleyball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, ice rinks, and basketball courts.
Van Cleve Park in Gladstone
Popular with families, Van Cleve Park is located along Little Bay de Noc, just north of Ludington Park. Although the area is known for having lucky fishing spots, Gladstone Beach is the main attraction. It’s a wonderful place to play in the water in July and August, and it has a waterslide. The park features a playground, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, a fitness course, and a softball field.
Sac Bay County Park in Garden
Near the southern point of the Garden Peninsula, the beach at Sac Bay County Park is something of a hidden gem. Mainly locals head to the beach in the summer, but it doesn’t get as crowded as many of the other Lake Michigan destinations on our list.
Carl D. Bradley – Lakeview Memorial Park in Manistique
There’s more than a Michigan beach at Carl D. Bradley – Lakeview Memorial Park. While splashing in the water, it’s hard to pass up a walk on the breakwater to Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse. You can walk the boardwalk to a natural wildflower area and the Carl D. Bradley Memorial as well.
US-2 Sand Dunes Beach in Moran
It’s far from a traditional beach, but US-2 Sand Dunes Beach is one of Lake Michigan’s best pet-friendly beaches. Even though the 1 mile of thick sand doesn’t have any parking or facilities, it’s worth the stop if you’re already nearby. Aside from swimming, it’s a great place for picnicking and bird-watching.
8 Best Lake Michigan Beaches in Northern Michigan
Wilderness State Park in Carp Lake
Covering more than 10,000 acres of undeveloped land, Wilderness State Park features 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. A campground along the shore has a swimming beach, and there’s a separate dog beach. On Big Stone Bay, there’s a boat launch, and the park has miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. There’s also a fishing pier, geocaching trail, picnic area, and playground.
Leelanau State Park in Northport
Taking over the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, Leelanau State Park has sand dunes and a beach for swimming and sunbathing. Close by is an interactive playground, 8.5-miles of hiking trails, and the iconic Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which is open for self-guided tours from April through October. Additionally, there’s an observation platform on the Lake Michigan Trail, where you could see the Fox Islands on a clear day.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Maple
Although the sand dunes are a major attraction, there are several beautiful beaches for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and tubing at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. For instance, the beach at Platte River Point is pretty busy during the peak of summer. Esch Beach is another popular spot for swimming, while Peterson Beach is quieter.
Frankfort Public Beach and Playground in Frankfort
The soft sand at Frankfort Public Beach and Playground attracts many visitors throughout the year. It has walkways for easy beach access and benches if you just want to take in the view for a while. Nearby on Lake Michigan’s shore is Point Betsie Lighthouse, which is open for semi-guided and self-guided tours.
Ludington State Park in Ludington
With scenic sand dunes, Ludington State Park is home to marshlands, forests, and wetlands. It sits between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, offering several miles of shoreline. Designated swim beaches are located on both lakes, and Hamlin Lake has a boat launch. The Lake Michigan beach area is also home to Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which is open for tours from May to October. In addition, the park has miles of hiking trails and a paved biking trail.
Stearns Park in Ludington
South of Ludington State Park is Stearns Park, where the half-mile of coastline is a wonderful place to sunbathe and swim. A playground, shaded picnic area with grills, sandy volleyball courts, shuffleboard, and miniature golf course are a few park amenities. There’s even a skate park. Ludington North Breakwater Light and the downtown area and its amenities are within walking distance too.
Charles Mears State Park in Pentwater
Located in a quaint beach town, Charles Mears State Park features a swimming beach next to the harbor pier. This sandy park beach has horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, and picnic tables with grills. The southernmost part of the beach is a pet-friendly area. Fishing and hiking are other activities at the park.
Silver Lake State Park in Mears
Amid the 3,000 acres of Silver Lake State Park is nearly 2,000 acres of sand dunes. At the campground’s day-use area, there’s a playground and designated swim area on one of the most popular Lake Michigan beaches in the area. However, there are many other beach access points along the shoreline. Plus, the park is home to Little Sable Point Lighthouse, hiking trails, a boat launch, a fishing pier, and picnic areas with fire pits or grills.
14 Top Western Michigan Beaches on Lake Michigan
There are so many Lake Michigan beaches worth mentioning in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, but these are the best West Michigan beaches to explore.
Norman F. Kruse Park in Muskegon
Just outside downtown Muskegon sits Norman F. Kruse Park and its one mile of beach. The north end of the beach is dog-friendly, catering specifically to dogs. When down at the shoreline, you can look to your right and you see the Muskegon South Pierhead Lighthouse and pier off in the distance. If you look behind you inland, you’ll see sand dunes with vast, aged wooden staircases leading upwards.
P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon
As a quiet getaway, P.J. Hoffmaster State Park is just 20 minutes south of downtown Muskegon. There are more than 3 miles of shore on Lake Michigan for splashing, sunbathing, and just walking. You can climb the towering sand dunes, and get a panoramic view of the lake and dunes from the observation deck. The park has over 10 miles of trails for hiking as well.
Lake Harbor Park in Norton Shores
Off Lake Harbor Road, Lake Harbor Park in Norton Shores is on our list of the best Lake Michigan beaches. The park boasts vast elevation changes over its 189 acres. Gravitating due north brings vast dunes, the dense Whitey’s Woods, forests, and plenty of hiking opportunities.
Besides Lake Michigan, this park also sits along the Mona Lake Channel and Mona Lake. Heading east from the main parking area and going under the main road, I came upon fishermen and a long path that continued on hugging the scenic inland lake. No animals are allowed on the beach but are ok in the park if on a leash. You’ll find plenty of picnic tables at the entrance.
North Beach Park in Ferrysburg
Just outside of Grand Haven in Ferrysburg, North Beach Park is a family-friendly beach on Lake Michigan. Here, you will find covered picnic tables and a playground with a walkway through the clean beach to the water. Dogs are permitted during the off-season. The water here is really turquoise. If you head across the street to the North Ottawa Dunes, and take the lengthy, steep staircases to the top, you can look from either side and stare down at the park or out into Lake Michigan.
Tip: Continue two miles southward down North Shore Drive to experience the Grand Haven lighthouse and pier from a different perspective than most visitors at the North Shore Fishermen’s Pier.
Grand Haven State Park in Grand Haven
With 48 acres of land, Grand Haven State Park has a charming beach with picturesque views of the water. The sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, picnicking, and playing volleyball or on the playground equipment. Also, there’s a fishing pier in the park, hiking trails, and two Grand Haven lighthouses that you can walk to.
Kirk Park in West Olive
Kirk Park in West Olive is just a short, paved, and wooded walk to the beach. The south end of this Lake Michigan beach is dog-friendly, with no leash required. Right before you get to the beach, there is a small staircase leading to an observation deck. For a longer adventure, you can continue onto more stairs for more viewing points and hike the nature trails available.
Tunnel Park in Holland
Named for a tunnel that passes through a sand dune to grant access to Lake Michigan, Tunnel Park consists of 22 acres. It has an extensive beachfront for picnicking, sunbathing, and swimming. You’ll find a dune climb for kids, a playground, as well as picnic and grilling opportunities throughout the park. Dogs, unfortunately, are not permitted during the summer months. You can park for free across the street from the park’s entrance.
Holland State Park in Holland
A wonderful spot for family recreation, Holland State Park is one of the most visited state parks in West Michigan. The park beach on Lake Michigan is designated for swimming and has a playground structure. There are opportunities for fishing, paddle sports, hiking, and metal detecting throughout the park. Additionally, you can see Holland Harbor Lighthouse from the beach.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park in Saugatuck
Another one of the most popular Lake Michigan beaches is Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The sand dunes are quite impressive, reaching 200 feet tall, while the pet-friendly, sandy park beach stretches along 2.5 miles of lake. The walk to the beach is less than 1 mile, but there are more hiking trails through the wild, underdeveloped terrain.
Oval Beach in Saugatuck
At Oval Beach, you’ll find soft sand and rather calm waters. There’s even playground equipment, picnic tables and grills, and concessions. Because of these features, several magazines have named it a top beach park in the United States. A walk through the neighboring Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area leads to a nearby pier.
South Beach in South Haven
With a golden beach and views of the brilliant red South Haven Light, South Beach is one of the most family-friendly beach parks on Lake Michigan. The calm water makes swimming a lot of fun, and the sand is comfortable and soft for picnics and sunbathing. For many visitors, the skate park and volleyball nets are favorite features.
Tiscornia Park in St. Joseph
Even though it’s less well known than most of the locations on our list, Tiscornia Park has a lot to offer. Its Lake Michigan beach has warm, shallow water for splashing around and soft sand for creating sandcastles. Aside from the water, the sand dunes are fun to explore. The pier on the south end of the park has two lighthouses that you can walk to.
Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph
Extended along Lake Michigan for 2,450 feet, Silver Beach County Park is a popular hangout during the summer. Of this shoreline, 1,600 feet is a dedicated swim beach, which is clean and wide. Some of the amenities include playgrounds, volleyball courts, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, and picnic tables and grills. In addition, the Silver Beach Carousel and attached museum are unique, must-see attractions close by.
Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer
Considered to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park offers nearly 2,000 acres of recreational activities. The beach accounts for 3 miles of shore and is a designated swimming area. A sand dune formation reaches 260 feet, which makes it an exceptional spot for hang gliding and simply taking in the view. Furthermore, the park has 6 miles of hiking trails, a concession stand, and a picnic area.
Rumors of Sharks and Crocodiles in Lake Michigan
The sheer sizes of the Great Lakes make them seem like oceans. That’s one reason why rumors exist that there are sharks in Lake Michigan, but the salt-free sea is void of sharks. Likewise, rumors that there are alligators or crocodiles in Lake Michigan are unfounded (though there is an alligator farm just an hour away in Battle Creek, Michigan).
Check Out More Great Lakes and Inland Beaches in Michigan
Despite our exhaustive list of the best Lake Michigan beaches to visit, there are many more Michigan beaches to explore. While many of them are on other Great Lakes, others are located on inland lakes and rivers. For extra inspiration about where to go on your next Michigan beach vacation, look at our list of Lake Huron beaches.