Michigan Bucket List: Best Local Beaches 

Shandra Martinez

| 4 min read

Sunset on Lake Michigan shot from the dunes of Saugatuck Michigan
One of the many wonderful things about living in The Great Lakes State is the bounty of beaches. Michigan has soft, sandy stretches preferred by swimmers and stony corridors that delight rock hunters. It has wide, flat beaches in the Lower Peninsula that encourage people to stay and play, and it has skinny strips that skirt the base of huge sandstone cliffs in the Upper Peninsula. Everybody has their own idea of what makes a perfect beach. Some love swimming areas while others search for forested solitude – or long piers for strolling and people watching. Let’s look at some of the best local beaches across the state.
Michigan has nearly 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It also has more than 11,000 inland lakes, many of which have their own beaches. The beaches we are highlighting here are a mix of big and small, but all have their own charm and unique amenities.

Southeast Michigan / The Thumb

Lake St. Clair Metropark: Located in Harrison Township, this beach area has lots of water options, including swimming, kiteboarding, windsurfing and boating. There is also a huge swimming pool with waterslides and even a spray area.
Philp County Park: This one feels a bit like a secret beach. Once you park, you have to go down a wooden staircase to reach the shoreline. It’s located along Lake Huron between Caseville and Port Austin. Locals love it as a quiet picnic spot.

Southwest Michigan

Grand Haven City Beach: This city beach on Lake Michigan is all about a big sandy area and gorgeous views of Grand Haven’s pier and lighthouse. It is adjacent to the state park, has its own restrooms and offers free parking. Dogs are also allowed during hours that vary by the season.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park: This 1,000-acre park is a great mix of forested backdune trails leading to a 2.5-mile ribbon of sandy beach. Hikers love this because by the time they’ve reached Lake Michigan, they feel like they’ve earned their beach time.

Northeast Michigan

Tawas Point State Park: The park and campground combination along Lake Huron is known for its shallow-water beach and “Cape Cod of the Midwest” vibe. It also features a lighthouse built in a Victorian-era style that attracts a lot of maritime enthusiasts.
Starlite Beach: This Alpena city beach is a hometown favorite for families with small children. It has a playground, a nice sandy stretch of beach on Lake Huron, and a splash park.

Northwest Michigan

Hamlin Lake Beach: This beach tucked along the east side of Ludington State Park is often overlooked as a destination. The park’s Lake Michigan beach gets plenty of attention and its multiple campground loops are among the busiest in the state. But it also has a beach with its own food concession and kayak rental area along the 5,000-acre Hamlin Lake, which is an inland water body that makes up part of the park’s eastern boundary. There is a wooden boardwalk trail nearby, plenty of scenic foot trails near the beach, and an adjacent dam area that’s a popular fishing spot.
Esch Beach: A gorgeous spot within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this beach area has the added bonus of Otter Creek. This shallow waterway flows into Lake Michigan, making a fun place to wade and look for wildflowers.
Petoskey State Park: Known for its namesake Petoskey stones, rock hunters love this wide beach at the edge of Little Traverse Bay. There’s a separate campground area, lots of wooded trails, and easy access to the Little Traverse Wheelway for bikers and walkers.

Upper Peninsula

Hurricane River Beach: This Lake Superior beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore feels a little wild, with its mix of rock and sand changing each year, depending on weather conditions. When water levels are lower, it’s a great beach for walking. Shipwreck remains can even be spotted along this stretch.
White City Beach: Michigan’s northernmost Keweenaw Peninsula has some really beautiful beaches. One of those is White City Beach. It’s known for its calm pocket of waters and white sand. It offers huge Lake Superior views on one side, and a view of the Huron Mountains looking inland. A long breakwall leads to a steel lighthouse.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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