This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Silver Lake Sand Dunes – Hart Visitors Bureau.
Located in Mears next to Silver Lake and Silver Lake State Park, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides offers one-of-a-kind tours of the sand dunes at Silver Lake. The dunes cover about 2,000 acres along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and the area is divided into three sections for hikers, off-road vehicles, and Mac Wood’s Dune Rides. That’s right! The company leases part of the land in order to provide a unique, family-friendly experience without large crowds.
Best Time to Ride the Dunes at Silver Lake
Offering thrilling adventures on the dunes and along Lake Michigan, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides operates tours from about mid-May until early October. You don’t have to reserve a spot on a tour, but keep in mind that the seats are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Aside from these operating hours, the Silver Lake sand dunes are open every day for adventures from the beginning of April through the end of October.
The peak season for visitors on the sand dunes is between June and August. The summer temperatures, lake water, and sands are abuzz with excitement, and seasonal attractions are open. However, the spring offers cooler temperatures, new blossoms, emerging wildlife, and fewer people. There are also fewer people at the beginning of fall when you can enjoy the changing leaves. No matter when you decide to go, there’s plenty to do at the dunes.
The Mac Wood’s Dune Rides Tour
During the Mac Wood’s Dune Rides tour, you’ll be driven around the dunes for about 40 minutes, covering 7 miles. The knowledgeable drivers understand the environment and history of the changing sand mounds. The drivers take the buggies down sweeps into valleys and past Silver Lake. At the top of the tallest dune, you’ll be able to get out of the buggy to get a panoramic view of Lake Michigan, Silver Lake, and other nature all around you.
The tour usually stops at a beach along the way. Plus, piping plovers have made their nests on the beach that’s left. These shorebirds are native to the Great Lakes and protected as an endangered and rare species. Because of that, the tour can’t go near the bird nests. After your tour, though, you can visit the Golden Township Park at Lake Michigan, which is about 1.5 miles away and has a beautiful beach.
Before you go, stop by the Dune Mountain Gift Shop, the biggest gift shop on Silver Lake. You can pick up snacks, shirts, toys, souvenirs, gifts, and more. Additionally, you should check out Mac Wood’s Dune Rides collection of fulgurites, which are slender glass tubes created when lightning strikes sand. Silver Lake is one of the few places where fulgurites can be found, and the Mac Wood’s collection includes an impressive 9-foot piece!
History of Mac Wood’s Dune Rides
The tours with Mac Wood’s Dune Rides have been ongoing since 1930. Mac Wood initially began the tours as a form of entertainment for his family. Soon, neighbors and passersby became so interested that they talked him into making a business out of it. Now, Mac Wood’s Dune Rides is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Michigan. There’s a museum with the first dune buggies, signs, and pictures on display.
More Things to Do at Silver Lake Sand Dunes
At Silver Lake State Park, the sand dunes have a dedicated section for off-road vehicles. You can bring your own dune-ready ORV or rent one from a nearby business — such as Silver Lake Buggy Rentals or Wild Bill’s ATV’s. Here’s more information about permits, dune rules, and safety.
In addition to riding the dunes, the area has miles of shoreline with beaches, scenic parks and trails, lush farmland, and historic sites. For instance, you can find great beaches at Charles Mears State Park and Claybanks Township Park.
East of Silver Lake, the Hart-Montague Bike Trail State Park-William Field Memorial Bike Trail is a 22-mile paved trail that passes through rural forests and has picnic areas and scenic overlooks. To the northeast, the Pentwater Pathways Trail consists of four trail loops that total 15 miles and are ideal for hiking and mountain biking all year and cross-country skiing during the winter.
Also, you can’t visit the area without going to Little Sable Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest working light towers on Lake Michigan at 115 feet. Ships that pass the Silver Lake sand dunes can see it from 19 miles away. Tours of the lighthouse are available from mid-May to mid-September.
If you’re looking for more adventure, check out the Craig’s Cruisers family fun park. Along with Go-Karts, kiddie karts, and a slick track, the property has miniature golf, a large arcade, bumper boats, and paddle boats. It even has a zip line with a view of Silver Lake and the sand dunes.
To see a working dairy farm, visit Country Dairy, Inc., which milks more than 1,000 cows every day! The milk is bottled on-site, and some of it is turned into butter, cheese, and ice cream. You can taste the ice cream in the Country Dairy parlor. For more animal fun, the Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo offers unique animal encounters, has more than 75 unusual animals, and entertains with 46-plus farm attractions and family-friendly activities.
Restaurants Near Mac Wood’s Dune Rides
Silver Lake and the surrounding communities of Mears and Hart offer many unique dining opportunities. Whether you want quick or sit-down service, the restaurants will keep you fueled during your sand dunes adventures.
Silver Lake Chicken Shack has some of the best-seasoned rotisserie chicken and touts having the “Best Ever Wings.” The family-friendly Mears restaurant has a full bar and live music too. At Silver Scoops Cafe and Creamery, you can get a gourmet sandwich and follow it with one of 20 hand-dipped ice cream flavors. On the other hand, you can enjoy sandwiches, subs, coney dogs, and burgers at Silver Lake Whippy Dip, which also serves soft and hard ice cream.
If you want table service in Mears, you can get amazing pizza at Silver Lake Pizza Factory. The menu includes gluten-free pizza, beer, and wine as well. Or, you could go to Open Hearth Grille & Bar for a hearty American meal. The restaurant is known for its deep-fried onion rings and asparagus, prime rib and lake perch, and decadent volcano cake for dessert.
A little farther east, you can have homemade pizza, breadsticks, and subs at Hart Pizza in downtown Hart. The restaurant has an espresso bar too. On the other hand, you could visit the hidden gem La Probadita, which is located in the back of a grocery store and serves authentic Mexican cuisine. Just make sure that you have cash.
Where to Stay Near Silver Lake Sand Dunes
Surrounding the sand dunes at Silver Lake are plenty of places for you to rest and stay for a while. From hotels, bed and breakfasts, and cottages, there are lodging options for everyone. Here are a few favorites:
Mears & Silver Lake Lodging
Silver Lake Campgrounds
Camping is popular in the area, and there’s a campground at Silver Lake State Park. The 200 modern campsites feature electric service, picnic tables, and fire rings. Additionally, the campground features shower/toilet buildings, a sandy beach on Silver Lake with a swim area, and a public boat launch. Here are some other campgrounds in the area to consider:
- Sandy Shores Campground
- Silver Lake Resort & Campground
- Dunes Harbor Family Camp
- Hideaway Campground Resort
- Jellystone Park
- Silver Creek Luxury RV Resort
- Silver Hills Campground
- Val-Du Lakes