This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Visit Manistee County.
Michigan is almost completely surrounded by the Great Lakes, and beaches litter the state’s borders. While they might not be as expansive as those along the nation’s coastlines, many of them are more beautiful and picturesque. You’ll see what we mean when you visit 5th Avenue Beach in Manistee.
In fact, this city has more than 130 acres of parks that rest along the shorelines of Lake Michigan and the Manistee River Channel. Although they’re less well known than beaches in Ludington or other cities, they’re never crowded, and the sugar sand offers easy access to the water for swimming and a host of other beach activities.
On top of that, the Manistee beaches get a high-tech cleaning every week. Because of that, the water is always clear and inviting. Let’s take a look at more reasons why you should plan a beach day in Manistee.
5th Avenue Beach, Pier, & Lighthouse
On the north side of the Manistee River Channel, which runs through the heart of downtown Manistee, 5th Avenue Beach is one of the most stunning in the city. There’s plenty of parking next to the beach, and barrier-free walkways and Brock decking make getting around simple and provide universal access to the water.
The City of Manistee purchased the beach area in 1912 and has made wonderful improvements over the years to make it a community gathering place. Everything in downtown Manistee is so walkable and bikeable that the city installed bike racks. Benches are placed all around for anyone who just stops by the beach for a breather or to watch the sunset. Even Wi-Fi is available on the beach for free.
The Picnic Area, Boat House, & Playground
Anyone can use the picnic area, which is located next to the U.S. Coast Guard Station beside the park. The area features grills, sheltered tables, and a decent amount of green space for playing.
The universally accessible beach house has been reconstructed recently and houses restrooms, showers, and Lake Gulls Concessions & Rentals. The vendor is popular for bringing gourmet, creative food to the beach. You won’t find the items on its menu at other concession stands. It includes dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. In addition, you can buy ice and rent beach essentials — chairs, towels, umbrellas, sunscreen, boogie boards, and more.
Popular with kids, the old-school playground features favorites such as swings, a merry-go-round, and a giant slide. There are also courts for playing tennis and nets on the beach for volleyball. You can rent volleyballs at Lake Gulls Concessions.
The Pier and Lighthouse
If beach activities aren’t your thing, you can walk the pier to the Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse. Connected to 5th Avenue Beach, the pier sits next to the Coast Guard Station and you can walk down it to the iconic tower.
Built in 1927, the lighthouse has guided countless vessels into Manistee Harbor safely. You can’t tour the lighthouse, but it makes for a great photo opportunity, especially at sunset. Actually, sunset is the best time to walk the pier and view the lighthouse.
You can do more than walk the north pier. If you like to go fishing, the pier has specific spots along the catwalk where you can do that. And, you don’t have to go too far to clean your catch. Just on the other side of the channel is a fish cleaning station at First Street Beach + Douglas Park.
First Street Beach + Douglas Park
While you’re visiting Manistee, you should check out First Street Beach + Douglas Park on the south side of the Manistee River Channel. It’s one of the largest recreation and beach areas in the city because it’s a beach and park combined. Even with a designated swimming area, the beach itself isn’t the main attraction on this side of the river.
Most people visit Douglas Park, which is full of amenities. The playground features classic structures, including a 50-foot metal slide. There are multiple basketball courts, baseball and softball fields, and tennis courts too. The public boat launch has eight docks — four of which are universally accessible — restrooms, and the fish cleaning station.
Additionally, Douglas Park has separate picnic areas with charcoal grills. A shorter walkable pier connects to the Manistee Riverwalk that runs along the channel and offers access to downtown sites, shopping, and restaurants.
The Explore the Shores site is an additional feature. This network of sites is designed to offer locals and visitors educational opportunities that connect to fishing and recreation spots throughout Manistee County. You can find more sites around the city and county here.
A Natural Wonders Self-Guided Tour
If visiting 5th Avenue Beach and First Street Beach isn’t enough nature exposure for you, check out this Natural Wonders Self-Guided Tour. It includes nine sites that were selected because of their amazing stories. Two of them are located in Manistee — the Tunnel of Trees and the Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary. You can use the recommended route map to find these and other places throughout Manistee County while learning more about their natural or man-made landscapes.
Manistee Restaurants With Top-Notch Food
One thing that Manistee is known for is the Friday Night Fish Fry. You’re sure to find restaurants that serve cod, walleye, whitefish, and perch across the city. However, that’s not all you’ll find on the menu. The city offers many gourmet and local produce dining options.
For a jolt of caffeine in the morning or afternoon, visit The Outpost Coffee Bar. Located in The Outpost of Manistee clothing and accessories store, this family-owned business understands the need to stay energized. It has a full-service coffee, espresso, and tea bar in a laid-back atmosphere.
At The Glenwood Market on historic River Street, you can stop for fresh-baked breads and pies. You can shop for other housemade products from The Glenwood Restaurant in Onekama as well — barbecue sauce, jam, salad dressing, and more. Plus, the market sells other Michigan-made products.
Serving classic American fare in a comfortable setting, Diner 31 has an extensive, traditional breakfast menu. From biscuits and gravy to six types of eggs Benedict, it’s an excellent place to start your morning. You can visit for lunch, too, when it serves a variety of sandwiches, soups, burgers, baskets, and more.
Making everything in-house and fresh to order with local ingredients, The Fillmore has a seasonal menu of full entrees and wood-fired pizzas. Although, the restaurant is more of a gathering place for its great selection of beer, wine, and specialty drinks.
For the best pizza in Manistee, though, you have to go to Big Al’s Pizza. Even Pure Michigan rates the restaurant’s pizza among the Top 10 in the state! Also on the menu are sub sandwiches, pastas, wings, tacos, and more, offering something for everyone to eat.
Waterfront Lodging for Every Budget
With so much waterfront space in Manistee, it’s easy to find lodging along the water. Lakeshore Motel next to First Street Beach + Douglas Park is the only motel located on Lake Michigan. All 21 rooms have a great view of the water and are near the many amenities at the park for a budget price.
Located in the heart of Manistee, the Riverside Motel & Marina overlooks the Manistee Riverwalk and offers laid-back accommodations, some of which have views of the Manistee River Channel. Because of its location, a range of restaurants, shopping, and activities are within walking distance. You can use the docks if you want to do some boating.
The Manistee Inn & Marina is located on the channel as well but on the east side of the Maple Street Bridge from Riverside. As such, it has access to the riverwalk and is within walking distance of downtown restaurants and attractions.
For a unique lodging experience on the water, book a night on the S.S. City of Milwaukee Boatel. This historic landmark offers overnight rentals for an affordable price and is only available during the summer.
Are you looking for accommodations in other parts of Manistee or Manistee County? Check out more lodging options here.
Photos of 5th Avenue Beach in Manistee