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Best Places to Visit Lake Michigan Guide for 2024

The Best Places to Visit Lake Michigan Have Unique Attractions and Appeal

When it comes to touring Lake Michigan, one of the largest freshwater bodies of water in the Western Hemisphere, you’ll find an array of remarkable spots that will certainly entrance you. Lake Michigan is home to attractions in the lower peninsula like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and charming beach towns like Holland and Grand Haven. The best places to visit Lake Michigan can boast something for everyone along the scenic shoreline.

To help you decide which of these idyllic destinations along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan suits you best, I’ll briefly cover the unique attractions each location has to offer. Enjoy the beach life at Traverse City’s beautiful beaches, experience sun-soaked relaxation at Ludington State Park, or plan for solitude amidst natural surroundings in the Upper Peninsula. Your Lake Michigan vacation can be as unique as you are!

Enthusiasts looking for outdoor adventures will find Silver Lake Sand Dunes particularly appealing, with breathtaking views across Lake Michigan at the crest of the 450 foot high summit. Or ride the roller coasters or bumper boats at a nearby adventure amusement and water park for family fun!

Importantly, I’ve included wheelchair accessible locations at several beaches around Grand Traverse Bay, ensuring an inclusive travel guide for all visitors seeking the best places to visit Lake Michigan in every season. As a native to the state, I can assure you Michigan has something to draw just about anyone in.

best places to visit lake michigan
Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

Closer to Chicago lie New Buffalo, Saugatuck, and Holland offering cultural immersion in their downtown areas as well as wine-tasting experiences at local wineries. Whether you’re soaking up culture in museums or unwinding at local wineries, these Michigan gems near Chicago have something for everyone. Don’t miss your opportunity to escape and explore all the Lake Michigan beaches offer!

Note: The high season for visitors to the coast of Lake Michigan occurs between Memorial Day through Labor Day. Many Lake Michigan beaches and attractions will be crowded with throngs of visitors. Plan your summer vacation accordingly!

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Warren Dunes State Park

For those seeking a summertime escape, this Lake Michigan state park offers an array of activities centering on its sandy shoreline and impressive dunes. Six miles of hiking trails round out the offerings that attract over one million visitors each year.

Camping at Warren Dunes State Park

The combination of towering sand dunes and 3 miles of sandy Lake Michigan beach makes Warren Dunes an ideal spot for camping. There are two camping areas – the Mt. Randall modern/dunes (with electrical at all sites and modern restrooms with showers) and the Hildebrandt semi-modern, which is more rustic (with vault toilets and no electrical service available). There is a concession and camp store at the entrance to Mt. Randall camping area.

Want more information on camping and reservations at Warren Dunes? Click here.

Not a camper? Choose a place to stay and book nearby Warren Dunes with our interactive map:

Check out our complete write-up on great places to stay in the New Buffalo area if you’d like to investigate other places to stay close by.

Saugatuck: The Perfect Getaway Near the City of Chicago

Escape the hustle and bustle of Chicago and head to Saugatuck, one of the most charming Lake Michigan beach towns within a convenient drive of Chicago.Click To Tweet 

Discover Saugatuck’s Downtown Area

Saugatuck is a charming town that offers a lot of attractions for visitors.

oval beach saugatuck lake michigan
tb2bfit, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll through Saugatuck’s picturesque waterfront and explore its unique shops, art galleries, and delightful eateries. You won’t be disappointed.

Relaxing at Saugatuck’s Oval Beach

Saugatuck is a charming town that offers a lot of attractions for visitors. Of all the beaches along Lake Michigan, Oval Beach is one of my personal favorites. In Saugatuck’s downtown area you’ll find a variety of art galleries, shops, and restaurants; don’t miss the ice cream!

Finding the perfect rental in Saugatuck

Part of Saugatuck’s charm to visitors is that it offers a wide variety of vacation rentals. You could choose a charming cottage, a rustic cabin, or a family-sized house, depending on your preferences. This is perfect for those who want a more individual vacation experience outside of a traditional hotel.

Use our interactive map to find and book the perfect place to stay:

Exploring the Charming Town of Holland

The town of Holland, nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, is a gem waiting to be discovered. Known for its Dutch heritage, it offers visitors an array of unique attractions and shopping opportunities.

Discover Holland’s Dutch Heritage

Experience Holland’s Dutch heritage through its architecture and attractions like the Windmill Island Gardens. Don’t miss the vibrant farmers market, where you can find fresh produce and handmade crafts.

Discovering Nelis’ Dutch Village

Step back in time with a visit to Nelis’ Dutch Village. This theme park offers a glimpse into 19th-century Netherlands with authentic buildings, traditional crafts, and even a petting zoo.

Check out our post on finding the Best Place to See Tulips in Holland Michigan.

Shopping at the Renowned Holland Bowl Mill

Looking for a unique souvenir or gift? Check out the Holland Bowl Mill, one of America’s last commercial wooden bowl mills. Their beautifully handcrafted bowls are a perfect memento of your trip.

Recreation at Holland State Park

Holland State Park is one of the most beautiful state parks in Michigan. Visitors can bike down the miles of trails, enjoy a game at the volleyball courts, take in scenic views of Lake Michigan, or relax on the beach.

Grand Haven State Park – A Hub for Water-Based Activities

If you’re a fan of activities on the water, then Grand Haven is the place to be. This picturesque town along Lake Michigan’s shoreline offers an array of exciting attractions and landmarks.

Visiting the Grand Haven Musical Fountain

A must-see attraction in Grand Haven is the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. This mesmerizing spectacle combines music, lights, and water choreography into one unforgettable show that enchants visitors every evening during summer months.

Experiencing Nature at Galien River County Park

Beyond its urban charm, Grand Haven also provides opportunities for nature exploration. The Galien River County Park, with its boardwalks winding through wetlands and forests, offers a serene escape from city life. Whether you prefer kayaking down tranquil rivers or simply enjoying scenic views from observation decks, this park has something for everyone.

In addition to these highlights, don’t forget about sailing tours on Lake Michigan or fishing trips off the pier – both popular pastimes among locals and tourists alike.

Check out the best things to do in Grand Haven.

Use our interactive map to find and book a place to stay in Grand Haven:

Experience Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon

At Pere Marquette Park, you’ll want to check out the Pere Marquette Lighthouse Museum, and the Muskegon Channel with the USS Silversides, a WWII era submarine. Visitors with differing abilities will appreciate an accessible walkway to the beach. This location is popular with kite-boarders and paddlers.

Places to stay in Muskegon:

Silver Lake Sand Dunes for Adventure Enthusiasts

If you’re an adventure enthusiast, the sheer enormity of Silver Lake Sand Dunes are sure to provide adrenaline-pumping vacations.

Breathtaking Geological Attractions of Silver Lake Sand Dunes

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes offer a unique landscape that’s perfect for thrill-seekers. Whether it’s sandboarding down steep dune faces or taking a scenic drive along the shoreline, there are plenty of ways to experience these natural wonders firsthand.

See our write-up on 10 Fun Things to Do in Silver Lake.

Pack your stuff and prepare for an extraordinary excursion. Check out and book places to stay in Silver Lake with our interactive map:

Ludington State Park – A Solitude Seeker’s Paradise

If you’re craving a peaceful escape, look no further than Ludington State Park. Nestled near the historic Big Sable Point Lighthouse, this state park boasts pristine Lake Michigan beaches that offer more tranquility than other popular spots.

Experience a tranquil haven at Ludington State Park, where the picturesque views and calming ambiance make it an ideal spot for anyone seeking peace. Take a peaceful walk along the shoreline, observe avian life, or just take in the stunning scenery. Click To Tweet 

History buffs won’t want to miss a visit to the nearby Big Sable Point Lighthouse. This iconic beacon has been guiding mariners since 1867 and offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan from its tower.

But Ludington State Park isn’t just a pretty face. For those seeking an outdoor escape, Ludington State Park offers a variety of activities such as fishing, hiking trails and camping facilities.

Discover great places to stay in Ludington and book with our interactive map:

Traverse City and Its Beautiful Beaches

For a beach retreat, Traverse City is an ideal destination with its picturesque sandy beaches perfect for scaling the dunes at North Beach. This charming town on Lake Michigan’s shoreline is known for its stunning white-sand beaches that are perfect for dune climbing.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park extends beyond North Beach. With over 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and numerous hiking trails, it provides endless opportunities for nature lovers. Whether you prefer bird watching, fishing, or just relaxing by the water, this state park has something to offer everyone.

Dune Climbing at North Beach

North Beach, located within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, is one of the top attractions near Traverse City. The park offers an unforgettable experience with its forests, bluffs, lakes, and miles-long sandy beach. Climbing the dunes can be strenuous, but the run back down to the shore is exhilarating!

Check out places to stay in the Traverse City area, and book with our interactive map:

Wheelchair Accessible Locations

If you’re organizing a journey to Michigan and require wheelchair access, Traverse City and other locations within the Michigan State Park system have it all sorted out.

The shoreline of these areas has been designed with wheelchair users in mind, with accessible beach walkways and beach wheelchair rentals ensuring that everyone can experience their beauty regardless of mobility levels.

Some notable accessible locations include Traverse City State Park, where paved trails provide easy access to scenic views of Lake Michigan. Beyond accessibility features, the area boasts an array of attractions, such as wineries, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants, making it an ideal vacation spot for all travelers.

Other accessible beach access locations in the Lake Michigan State Park system are: Grand Haven State Park, Holland State Park, Interlochen State Park, Ludington State Park, Mears State Park, Muskegon State Park, Petoskey State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, and Wilderness State Park.

A Day Out in Manistique

Last but not least is Manistique, one of my favorite small towns situated right on Lake Michigan’s shore offering picturesque views and plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and bird watching. Escape the clamor of urban life and relish in the serenity of nature in the Upper Peninsula northwest of the Mackinac Bridge.

Manistique is a gateway to one of Michigan’s natural wonders, Kitchi-Iti-Kipi Spring, called the “Mirror of Heaven” because of its crystal clear water in Native American lore. You’ll want to leave the beach for a day to see it!

Close by is the Garden Peninsula, with the historic Fayette Townsite. On the water’s edge of the east shore of Big Bay de Noc, this is the first ghost town I ever visited and one of my favorite historic sites. With thoughtfully laid out historic buildings, it is a great place to get the kids interested in history.

Book your family vacation in or around Manistique using our interactive map:

What makes Lake Michigan a great vacation spot?

Visitors can explore the sandy beaches and picturesque towns all along the coast. They can also visit more than 100 lighthouses, which evoke the extensive maritime history of the Great Lakes. Or, just chill out, one of the most popular activities visitors can do on their summer vacation.

What are the best beach towns to visit on Lake Michigan?

Petoskey, Traverse City, and Saugatuck are among the most popular destinations. Our write-up of top 5 beach towns on Lake Michigan includes: Leland, Bay View (Petoskey, Saugatuck, Manistique, and Charlevoix.

Discovering the charm of Petoskey

Petoskey is a charming town that offers a lot of attractions: art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and a marina. Petoskey also has a beautiful beach that’s perfect for relaxing and swimming.

Find and book a great place to stay in Petoskey:

Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Lake Michigan’s most popular destinations, with vast sand dunes to climb, several trails of varying difficulty to hike, and cold, crystal-clear water to swim in, if you dare!

Which state parks are a must-visit on Lake Michigan?

Ludington State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, and Holland State Park are among the most popular destinations.

Discovering the beauty of Ludington State Park

Between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, Ludington State Park has sand dunes, miles of trails, and a relaxing beach.

Exploring the sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park

Visitors to Warren Dunes State Park can climb the dunes, hike miles of trails, or swim in Lake Michigan.

What are the best Lake Michigan beaches?

Grand Haven State Park Beach, Silver Lake State Park, and Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach are among the best.

Relaxing at Grand Haven State Park beach

Grand Haven State Park, where the Grand River flows into Lake Michigan, has one of the best beaches in Michigan. Visitors can relax, swim, or take a walk along the pier.

Exploring the sand dunes at Silver Lake State Park

Silver Lake State Park is a great place to climb, hike or explore on an off-road vehicle. The park also has a beautiful swimming beach.

Sunbathing at Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach

Saugatuck Dunes State Park beach is one of the best beaches in Michigan. Visitors can relax on 2.5 miles of sand, swim and sunbathe, or hike 13 miles of trails.

Wineries near Traverse City, the northern Michigan shoreline, and Muskegon’s beaches are among the most popular destinations for Michigan travel other than the ones mentioned above.

Visiting wineries near Traverse City

Traverse City is known for its wineries. Visitors can take a tour of the wineries, sample the local wines, and learn about the winemaking process. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Michigan.

See our comprehensive write-ups on wineries you’ll want to visit:

Best Leelanau Peninsula Wineries and Vineyards Guide

Michigan Wineries and Vineyards Guide: Michigan’s Best Wine

Exploring the Northern Michigan shoreline

The northern Michigan shoreline is one of the most beautiful in the country. Visitors can explore the charming towns, take in the natural beauty of the area, or relax on the sandy beaches.

Check out our write-up on Best Northern Michigan Beaches to Visit This Summer

Relaxing at Muskegon’s beaches

Muskegon is a beautiful town that offers a lot of attractions: sandy beaches, unique shopping, and a marina.

Where can I find the best Lake Michigan rentals and campgrounds?

Michigan has many great rental properties and campgrounds along Lake Michigan.

Check out our write-ups on great places to visit in Michigan with recommendations and interactive maps you can use to find places to stay:

13 Best Places to Stay in New Buffalo Michigan

5 Best Small Towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan

Best Northern Michigan Beaches to Visit This Summer

Camping at Ludington State Park or Warren Dunes State Park

Ludington State Park and Warren Dunes State Park are great camping destinations in Michigan for a family getaway along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Campers can pitch a tent or park their RV, and enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan with lots of amenities, including hiking trails, picnic areas, family-friendly beaches and playgrounds.

Hiking at Silver Lake State Park or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Warren Dunes State Park, Silver Lake State Park, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offer miles of hiking trails that wind through the beautiful sand dunes with great Lake Michigan views.

Which location on Lake Michigan has a 26-mile long beach?

Wilderness State Park near Mackinaw City has 26 miles of pristine, natural shoreline and a wide variety of campsites and cabins.

Discover the Best Fit for Your Interests on the Scenic Shores of Lake Michigan

I have traveled around the world to around 50 countries, and I can attest the Lake Michigan shore is an ideal place to plan a great getaway at one of the most scenic destinations within the largest freshwater system in the world. With gorgeous beaches, magnificent sand dunes, charming towns, and year-round activities for visitors, the best places to visit Lake Michigan will provide a lifetime of memories to savor.

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