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Best Northern Michigan Beaches to Visit This Summer

(Last Updated On: June 14, 2023)

There are Michigan Beaches on the Great Lakes to Explore for Everyone!

When it comes to breathtaking beauty and outdoor adventure, Northern Michigan beaches are truly unparalleled. Boasting miles of pristine sandy shores along the Great Lakes, beaches in Michigan offer something for everyone – from family-friendly activities to serene spots for relaxation.

In this blog post, we will uncover the beauty of Northern Michigan’s coastal beaches and explore their many offerings. Discover South Manitou Island’s intriguing shoreline with its shipwreck sites and ghost towns, or embark on an unforgettable journey through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s diverse hiking trails.

For those seeking a more laid-back experience, Stearns Park Beach offers plenty of leisurely activities while Clinch Park Beach provides a vibrant atmosphere at the heart of Traverse City. And if you’re searching for a hidden gem among larger counterparts, Leland’s Vans Beach is sure to impress with its charming picnic spots and awe-inspiring natural beauty.

But there are many beautiful beaches to explore besides those on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Some might argue that the best beaches in Michigan lie on the “sunrise side” of the state along the sandy shores of Lake Huron. We cover fantastic state parks and municipal beaches in the area where you can grab a bite to eat, sunbathe to your heart’s content and even launch a boat.

Still others say that if beach goers want to experience Michigan’s best beaches this summer, they should head to the Upper Peninsula. With miles of shoreline along Lake Superior, the U.P. boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the state. You can while away summer days relaxing in the sand at the beaches we recommend here, too.

Make a beach vacation a priority and dive into our comprehensive guide on Northern Michigan beaches to visit this summer. You’ll uncover the best beach in your perfect destination for an unforgettable coastal getaway on the perfect stretch of sand.

northern michigan beaches

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Discover South Manitou Island’s Stunning Shoreline

Located in the pristine waters of Lake Michigan, South Manitou Island is a must-see destination for beach lovers. With three miles of sandy beaches and unique sand dune formations, this island will leave you breathless. Southern Living Magazine even recognized it as a top beach destination.

Plus, with ten miles of pebble beaches, stunning views of the lake, and miles of hiking trails, this is one of the best places to see Michigan beauty on display.

Explore Shipwreck Sites

The waters surrounding South Manitou Island are home to approximately 50 shipwreck sites dating back centuries. These underwater treasures offer fascinating glimpses into maritime history and provide excellent opportunities for scuba diving enthusiasts or snorkelers looking for adventure beneath the waves. For more information on guided tours and dive charters, check out Manitou Dive Charters.

Visit the Island’s Historic Lighthouse

The historic South Manitou Island Lighthouse is one of the island’s main attractions. Constructed in 1871, this iconic edifice is a reminder of the island’s remarkable maritime legacy. Visitors can climb the tower for stunning panoramic views of Lake Michigan and learn about its fascinating past through guided tours provided by park rangers.

Geoffrey George, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

For nature lovers, South Manitou Island offers lightly traveled hiking routes that wind through old-growth white cedar forests and uncrowded campgrounds perfect for those seeking solitude. Plan your trip to this incredible destination by checking out ferry schedules, camping reservations, and other essential details.

Key Takeaway: 

South Manitou Island in northern Michigan is a top beach destination with three miles of sandy beaches and ten miles of pebble beaches to explore. Visitors can also discover shipwreck sites, ghost towns on wagon tours, and the historic South Manitou Island Lighthouse while enjoying lightly traveled hiking routes through old-growth white cedar forests or relaxing on the sand.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Empire Beach, an Iconic Lake Michigan Beach

Looking for adventure and relaxation? Look no further than Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This northern Michigan gem offers more than just stunning views. You can hike through the forest or climb the famous dunes themselves.

And don’t forget about the nearby pristine shorelines like Empire Beach – perfect for family exploration along beautiful Lake Michigan.

sleeping bear sand dunes northern michigan
Image by JulesKeeper777 from Pixabay

Hit the Trails

With over 100 miles of trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes has something for everyone. From easy walks along boardwalks to challenging hikes up steep sand dune slopes, you’ll find a trail that suits your skill level and interests. Check out popular trails like:

  • Dune Climb Trail: A strenuous but rewarding 3.5-mile round trip hike that takes you to the top of the towering dune formations with stunning views of Lake Michigan.
  • Cottonwood Trail: A moderate 1.4-mile loop through diverse habitats including forests, wetlands, and open dune landscapes.
  • Alligator Hill Trail: An easier 9-mile network of interconnected loops offering panoramic vistas of Glen Lake and Sleeping Bear Bay.

Explore Empire Beach with Your Family

If you’re looking for the perfect beach day, head to Empire Beach. This picturesque shoreline is ideal for families thanks to its shallow waters, sandy beach, and convenient facilities like restrooms, picnic tables, and a playground. The calm waters make it an excellent spot for swimming or wading with young children.

For those interested in water sports, Empire Beach also offers kayak rentals to explore the nearby coastline. If you prefer staying on land, take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline while searching for unique stones like Petoskey stones – Michigan’s state stone – or simply relax on the soft sand while soaking up some sun.

In addition to its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, Empire Beach is located just a short drive from the charming village of Empire. For those looking for a place to stay, the nearby village of Empire provides various shopping, dining and accommodation options. It’s the perfect base for exploring all that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has to offer.

Key Takeaway: 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan offers stunning views, towering sand dunes, hiking trails for all skill levels, and nearby beaches like Empire Beach – perfect for family exploration. The calm waters of Empire Beach make it an excellent spot for swimming or wading with young children, and the village of Empire is a great base to explore the area’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Relax at Stearns Park Beach on Lake Michigan

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and unwind at Stearns Park Beach in Ludington, Michigan, an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, or beachcombing.

Things to Do at Stearns Park Beach

  • Sunbathe: Soak up some rays on the sandy shores while reading your favorite book or magazine.
  • Swim: Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
  • Picnic: Enjoy a lunch with family or friends at one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the park.
  • Play Volleyball or Basketball: Challenge someone to a game on one of the nearby courts.
  • Fish or Boat: Rent a boat from Ludington Harbor or cast a line and try your luck at fishing.

Attractions Near Stearns Park Beach

  • Port of Ludington Maritime Museum – Learn about the rich maritime history of the area and explore interactive exhibits.
  • Big Sable Point Lighthouse – Climb to the top for stunning views of Lake Michigan and surrounding dunes.
  • Downtown Ludington Shopping District – Browse through unique shops, galleries, and boutiques in this charming downtown area.
  • Ludington State Park: Hike miles of trails or rent a canoe to paddle along Hamlin Lake’s scenic shoreline.

Whether you spend your time at Stearns Park Beach or explore the nearby attractions, Northern Michigan’s natural beauty will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Gather your swimsuit and towels, then set off for an extraordinary excursion on the shoreline along Lake Michigan.

Relax and unwind at Stearns Park Beach in Ludington, Michigan. Soak up the sun, swim in Lake Michigan’s crystal-clear waters, or explore nearby attractions. #NorthernMichiganBeaches #TravelTips Click to Tweet

Clinch Park Beach – Traverse City’s Heart

Located in the heart of Traverse City, Clinch Park Beach offers a beautiful and convenient spot for families to enjoy a day by the water. With easy access from various attractions around town, this popular beach provides an excellent opportunity to unwind after exploring all that Traverse City has to offer. Just a short walk away is West End Beach, another family-friendly destination with plenty of space for waterside games and relaxation under sunny skies.

Family-friendly activities at Clinch Park Beach

  • Swimming: The clear waters of Lake Michigan make for perfect swimming conditions during warm summer months. Lifeguards are on duty during peak season, ensuring safety while you splash around.
  • Sandcastle building: Soft sand makes it easy to create impressive sandcastles or dig moats with your little ones.
  • Kayaking and paddleboarding: Rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards from nearby rental shops like The Outfitter Harbor Springs.
  • Picnicking: Pack a lunch and enjoy eating al fresco on one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the park area surrounding the beach.
  • Volleyball: Bring your own ball or rent one from local vendors – there are several volleyball courts available for public use along the shoreline.

Attractions near Clinch park beach

  • The Great Lakes Children’s Museum provides an immersive, stimulating experience tailored to the interests of young ones aged 1-10.
  • City Opera House: This historic venue hosts various performances and events throughout the year, including concerts, plays, and comedy shows.
  • Traverse City State Park: Just a short drive away from Clinch Park Beach is this beautiful state park offering camping facilities, hiking trails, and even more opportunities for beach fun on Lake Michigan.

With its convenient location in the heart of Traverse City and numerous family-friendly activities available both at the beach itself and in surrounding areas, Clinch Park Beach is an excellent destination for your next northern Michigan getaway. Whether you’re interested in swimming or building sandcastles by the water’s edge or exploring local museums and parks nearby – there’s something here to suit every member of your family.

Key Takeaway: 

Clinch Park Beach in Traverse City is a popular and convenient spot for families to enjoy swimming, sandcastle building, kayaking, paddleboarding, picnicking and volleyball. With its location near various attractions like the Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Traverse City State Park, it offers something for everyone on their northern Michigan getaway.

Leland’s Vans Beach – A Tiny Gem Among Larger Counterparts

Vans Beach is perfect for those looking for something smaller but equally picturesque. This little beach is a popular stop nestled among its larger counterparts. It affords fantastic picnic opportunities coupled with breathtaking Lake Michigan vistas sure to impress any visitor regardless of size preference when choosing their ideal coastal retreat location within northern state lines.

Picnic Spots at Leland’s Vans Beach

One of the best ways to enjoy a day at Leland’s Vans Beach is by packing a delicious picnic and finding the perfect spot along its sandy shores. Relax in the picturesque setting of Lake Michigan’s shoreline while indulging in your picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, take your lunch on one of the nearby hiking trails that offer even more incredible panoramas.

  • The Sand Dunes: Find a secluded spot among the dunes where you can enjoy your meal while taking in panoramic views.
  • Nearby Picnic Tables: Grab one of the available tables close to parking areas if you prefer convenience over seclusion.
  • Hiking Trails: Take advantage of nearby trails like Whaleback Natural Area or Clay Cliffs Natural Area, which provide unique vantage points overlooking both water and land features.

Breathtaking Views and Natural Beauty of the Beach

The natural beauty surrounding Leland’s Vans Beach makes it an unforgettable destination for anyone visiting Northern Michigan. With its crystal-clear waters reflecting vibrant shades of blue and green, this small yet captivating shoreline provides endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation amidst a picturesque backdrop.

Visitors can take advantage of the following activities to fully immerse themselves in the stunning surroundings:

  1. Sunset Watching: Vans Beach is known for its incredible sunsets, which paint the sky with vibrant colors as they dip below Lake Michigan’s horizon. Be sure to stick around until dusk and witness this breathtaking display of nature’s beauty.
  2. Photography: This beach is great for capturing beautiful images, whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer. From sweeping landscapes to close-ups of unique flora and fauna, there’s no shortage of subjects worth snapping.
  3. Hiking and Exploring: Venture beyond the shoreline by exploring nearby hiking trails that showcase even more natural wonders. Trails like Whaleback Natural Area or Clay Cliffs Natural Area offer diverse terrain and scenic vistas perfect for adventurers looking to connect with nature on a deeper level.

In addition to these activities, Leland’s Vans Beach also provides easy access to other attractions within Northern Michigan, such as charming small towns like Leland itself, historic lighthouses, wineries, and much more. If you’d rather spend the day away from town, head south on M-22 to Good Harbor Bay Beach, a secluded Lake Michigan beach known for spectacular sunsets and aurora hunting.

Key Takeaway: 

Leland’s Vans Beach is a small yet picturesque gem among larger counterparts in Northern Michigan. Visitors can enjoy picnics with breathtaking views, explore nearby hiking trails for panoramic vistas, and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of crystal-clear waters reflecting vibrant shades of blue and green while watching incredible sunsets.

Beaches in Northern Michigan on the Lake Huron Side

Northern Michigan’s Lake Huron beaches offer some of the best scenery, recreational activities, and opportunities for relaxation in the state. From Port Huron to Mackinaw City, there are many beaches to explore, each providing unique charm and attractions.

Cheboygan State Park

One such beach is at the Cheboygan State Park in Cheboygan, Michigan, featuring five miles of beautiful sandy beaches. The bay’s shallow waters warm quickly, making it an excellent swimming beach. The park also offers trails for hiking and biking and a boat launch in Duncan’s Bay for boating and fishing adventures.

Oscoda Beach Park

Not too far from there, Oscoda Beach Park offers another great beach destination. Its appealing environment serves both relaxation-seekers and active vacationers with equal charm.

Hoeft State Park

Next, Hoeft State Park beach in Rogers City offers a sandy spot that spans one mile, perfect for sunbathing and swimming in shallow water. The park is set against a backdrop of rolling dunes and dense woods, creating a picturesque setting for outdoor activities. The park also boasts miles of trails for mountain biking and hiking, playgrounds, volleyball pits, and a trail that connects to the Huron Sunrise Trail.

Lakeside Park in Rogers City

For a more urban beach experience, Lakeside Park in Rogers City provides not only a charming beach but also various recreational facilities. These include two playgrounds, volleyball and basketball courts, and fishing spots. The park also has food and ice cream stands, and during the summer, it often hosts concerts at the bandshell.

Beaches in Alpena

In Alpena, you’ll find Starlite Beach and Mich-E-Ke-Wis Park. Starlite Beach is a long sandy beach popular with families due to its proximity to numerous amenities such as play structures, a picnic area, public restrooms, and a splash park. Mich-E-Ke-Wis Park, just down the road from Starlite Beach, offers more beachside fun and activities.

These are just a few of the best Northern Michigan beaches on Lake Huron, each promising a blend of natural beauty and enjoyable activities for the whole family. From the tranquility of secluded spots to the bustling beach towns brimming with activities, Lake Huron has something for every beachgoer.

Top Beaches on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula

Northern Michigan beaches on Lake Superior offer an exceptional combination of raw beauty, pristine waters, and diverse natural landscapes, providing a tranquil escape for travelers looking for either adventure or relaxation. Whether you’re an avid rock hunter, a seasoned kayaker, or just in search of a peaceful place to lay your towel and soak up the sun, there are several notable beaches that deserve to be at the top of your must-visit list.

Twelvemile Beach

Twelvemile Beach, as the name suggests, stretches out over twelve miles and provides beautiful ocean-like views with each turn. This secluded and spectacular spot is characterized by its golden dunes, lush green nature, and white sandy beach facing the lake. Recent years have seen improvements in its campground facilities, offering a more comfortable camping experience without losing the wild, untouched feel of the beach area. A plethora of hiking paths nearby make it an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts. Moreover, boating, particularly kayaking, is a popular activity, with several guided tours leading through the amazing Pictured Rocks area.

Sand Point Beach

If you’re searching for something family-friendly and widely renowned, consider Sand Point Beach. Known for its fine golden sand and deep blue lake water, it offers a wide range of activities like swimming, scuba diving, and picnicking. The beach is also wheelchair accessible, making it an inclusive spot for everyone. Do keep in mind that it tends to get crowded in the afternoon due to its popularity, so arriving early might give you a quieter experience.

Sable Falls Beach

For a different, more nature-immersed experience, Sable Falls Beach is a unique choice. This rocky beach is bordered by unspoiled nature, but its main attraction is the stunning Sable Falls that cascade into Lake Superior, offering a truly exceptional sight. A hike to the top leads to a viewpoint that overlooks the falls and lake, and another path leads down to the beach and the famous sand dunes.

Other Lake Superior Beaches

The Lake Superior shoreline also offers several other noteworthy beaches, such as Miners Beach, Chapel Beach, Hurricane River Beach, Lake Superior Overlook Beach, and Sable Beach, within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Many of these beaches offer stunning views, tranquil atmospheres, and opportunities for camping near the beach, making for a perfect lakeside escape.

Remember that Lake Superior’s water temperature doesn’t typically warm up even in summer, often ranging from the upper 50s to the upper 60s[2]. So, while swimming is possible, be prepared for a refreshing, if not chilly, dip.

FAQs in Relation to Northern Michigan Beaches – People Also Ask:

Where to Find the Clearest Water in Michigan?

Escape to Torch Lake in Northern Michigan for a Caribbean-like experience with crystal-clear turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and perfect swimming and boating conditions. Learn more about Torch Lake.

Which Michigan Beach Looks Like the Caribbean?

Escape to Torch Lake in Antrim County, Michigan, for a tropical paradise experience with vibrant turquoise waters and soft white sand on what might be the most famous of all the inland lakes in Michigan.

What Makes Northern Michigan Famous?

Discover the picturesque landscapes of Northern Michigan, including vast forests, pristine lakes, and beautiful beaches along the Great Lakes shoreline. Don’t miss popular attractions like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Mackinac Island, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, as well as charming small towns like Traverse City and Petoskey.

What Are Michigan’s Prettiest Beaches?

Northern Michigan Beaches Offer Something for Everyone

Beaches in Northern Michigan are plentiful and varied, with unique characteristics. If you’re looking for the best fit, the following summarizes what we’ve covered in this post:

Escape the daily grind and explore the shipwreck sites and ghost towns of South Manitou Island’s stunning shoreline.

Experience the natural beauty and family-friendly adventures of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s hiking trails and attractions.

Relax and unwind at Stearns Park Beach while exploring nearby attractions.

Enjoy the many activities and perfect family atmosphere of Traverse City’s Clinch Park Beach.

Take in the breathtaking views and natural beauty of Leland’s Vans Beach.

Swim, boat and fish in the welcoming waters of Cheboygan State Park or Oscoda Beach Park.

In Rogers City, choose from Hoeft State Park or Lakeside Park for a wide variety of activities and amenities.

Alpena boasts two attractive beaches: Starlite Beach is one and Mich-E-Ke-Wis Park is the second.

Take in the ocean-like views at Twelvemile Beach.

Join other revelers and visit one of the most popular beaches on Lake Superior: Sand Point Beach.

Immerse yourself in nature at Sable Falls Beach, one of the best beaches to get away from it all.

Info on Silver Lake – One of the Best Beaches in Michigan

See our write up on 10 Fun Things to Do in Silver Lake – Silver Lake Sand Dunes is another West Michigan destination with great beaches on Lake Michigan.

Discover the Best Beach Towns on Lake Michigan

See our writeup on the 5 Best Small Towns on Lake Michigan.

For more information on Northern Michigan beaches, check out these credible sources: Michigan.org and NorthernMichiganBeaches.org.

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