When many people think of beach destinations, certain warm-weather places spring to mind first. But no state, other than Alaska, has more coastline than Michigan. When the snow melts and the warm days come back, its miles of sand offer some of the best beach days in the country.
Many of the best beaches in Michigan are found within state parks and along famous national lakeshores. This means all who visit will be able to enjoy the sun, sand and lake, but also some incredible natural landmarks. These include prismatic rocks and towering sand dunes.
Beyond the pristine beaches are classic Michigan small towns. They’re vibrant, eclectic and downright endearing, blending romance, family-friendly amenities and vacation fun.
14. Grand Haven State Park
Slightly west of Grand Rapids, Grand Haven State Park boasts a classic Michigan beach. Not only does it have crystal clear swimming and soft golden sand but also a quintessential red lighthouse, pier and plenty of nature trails.
Like many of the best beaches in the Great Lake State, it’s a well-rounded experience. You can laze on the sun-soaked sand, venture out into the azure blue water or challenge your friends to a game of beach volleyball.
After some fun and relaxation, wander along the pier where you can enjoy even better vistas or cast a reel into Lake Michigan. If you didn’t catch lunch, you can dine at one of the lakefront restaurants before venturing into the sprawling state park.
13. South Beach, South Haven
There are two main beaches in South Haven, but it’s fair to say that South Beach takes the cake. The beach boasts kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, plus on-site concession stand and a playground for the kids.
Wherever you choose to lay down the beach towel, you’ll have a lovely view of the bright red South Pierhead Lighthouse, which is one for the photo album. You can also wander along the pier for views back to the beach and further out into Lake Michigan.
With its location in the state’s southwest, the beach and town are popular among travelers from all over the Midwest. The crowds can be big in summer, but it’s only because the surrounding area is so well developed for families.
12. Pere Marquette Park
Just north of the popular Hoffmaster State Park Beach, Pere Marquette Park is another beach to add to your already crowded itinerary. Beachgoers will be blessed with almost three miles of certified clean white sand beach with beautiful vistas of Lake Michigan.
But the lake won’t be the only thing capturing your attention. The wind-swept beach is a popular place for kite boarders who you can watch zoom across the waterfront. You can hire kayaks and SUPs nearby to join them on the water and get up close to the Pierhead Lighthouse. On land activities include beach volleyball and a playground plus several nearby restaurants.
11. Tawas Point State Park
Known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Tawas Point State Park has an endearing personality, best exemplified by its resident lighthouse. Just like in Cape Cod, the fishermen roll in and out with the same consistency as the park’s stunning sunrises and sunsets.
On the weekends, locals pack up their beach gear and settle in for a day in the park, looking over Lake Huron as the gulls fly overhead. Tawas Point State Park may not make the front pages because of its diminutive size, but maybe that’s exactly the point. Beachgoers can enjoy an utterly pleasant day by the water without a worry in the world.
10. Mackinaw City Beach
In northern Michigan, locals and travelers alike flock to the warm waters of Mackinaw City Beach. The beach offers a long stretch of soft white sand that leads to the pleasant waters of Lake Huron. You could easily spend a whole day swimming and enjoying the views of the lake and the Mackinac Bridge that runs into the distance to St. Ignace.
But you’d be doing yourself a disservice. The beach features a waterfront trail that connects multiple local beaches along the cape. Walk from Mackinaw City Beach through Wawatam Park, past a duo of classic lighthouses all the way to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.
9. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
On the banks of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a prismatic display of nature’s artistic talent. The kaleidoscopic cliffs made this the first national lakeshore in the United States and, even for returning visitors, it’s never lost its splendor.
There are many beaches along the lakeshore that not only provide a front-row seat to the colorful cliffs but also the chance to enjoy the beautiful lake. Two popular locations are Twelvemile Beach and Miners Beach. These also offer fantastic nature walks that allow you to explore the surrounding forest. Scuba diving is also a popular option to see the Alger Underwater Diving Preserve.
8. Frankfort Beach
The town of Frankfort is considered the gateway to the majestic Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park. Yet its own local beach is one worth stopping at along the way. Enveloped in beautiful sandstone bluffs, Frankfort Beach is known for its pristine sand and breathtaking sunsets.
The beach is just a short walk from the classic Michigan town, where you’ll find boutique stores, bakeries and microbreweries. So you know when it’s time for lunch, that a cute cafe or down-home restaurant is just a few minutes away.
Before setting up shop on the beach, wander to the top of the bluffs to enjoy startling views of Lake Michigan, with its sky-blue water sparkling under the sun.
7. New Buffalo Public Beach
With 800 feet of shoreline, New Buffalo Public Beach is one of the smaller beaches on our list. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere and amenities.
In the center of the beach is a rock wall that juts out into the lake. This cuts off the currents, leaving one side to feature fun rolling waves, and the other dead still water, perfect for swimming with the little ones.
The public beach combines with the Lakefront Park to offer restrooms, showers, concession stands plus playgrounds and picnic areas. Between them is an accessible boardwalk that explores the local dunes. There is also a nearby boat ramp to get out on the lake.
6. Hoffmaster State Park
Three miles of resplendent shoreline isn’t the only thing that awaits those who visit Hoffmaster State Park. As you lay down the beach towel, you’ll notice that the sand blends in with the rolling sand dunes, so it’s impossible to tell where the beach begins and ends.
The wide open beach leaves plenty of room to spread out. You’ll find public restrooms and picnic areas, complete with tables and BBQs. If you’re up for some friendly competition, there are even beach volleyball nets.
You’ll love diving into the beach’s turquoise water. But nothing quite prepares you for the colors from atop the sand dunes. Hike up to the viewpoint where you can watch the dunes roll sharply down to the bright blue water.
5. Silver Lake Sand Dunes
Along four miles of picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline, Silver Lake Sand Dunes is a beach as much for adventurers as sun tanners. Arriving on the shoreline requires a decent walk from the nearest car park. This, of course, means fewer crowds for all who make the journey.
The trails to the beach are ADA accessible and along the way you’ll pass several trailheads that explore the rest of what is a sprawling state park. But once you reach the banks of Lake Michigan, you’ll enjoy a great swimming beach plus shore fishing opportunities.
Beachgoers should take advantage of the four-wheel-drives that you can rent in the park. These allow you to explore one of the few sand dunes in the country that allows vehicles.
4. Holland State Park Beach
The town of Holland offers panoramic views of both Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. But it’s the nearby state park that brings nature and beautiful beaches to your doorstep.
Holland State Park Beach, also known as Ottawa Beach, is on the western end of the park facing out to Lake Michigan. Guests will be able to spread out and enjoy the sights, especially of the neighboring lighthouse. The Hollar Harbor Lighthouse, aka Big Red, is a unique lighthouse that just might be the most photographed structure in Michigan.
Beachgoers can then explore the state park on the miles of walking and biking trails before setting up campground just a few steps away from Ottawa Beach.
3. Oval Beach, Saugatuck
Minutes from the charming and laid back beach town of Saugatuck, Oval Beach is, according to National Geographic, one of the world’s best beaches. It’s a huge call, and one we will leave for you to decide. But what you can expect is the beach’s crystal clear water and smooth golden sand.
Oval Beach best exemplifies Saugatuck’s carefree attitude, especially in the summer months. It’s an atmospheric place to be, complete with pleasant swimming and lively concession stands. From the beach, you can view the soaring sand dunes of Saugatuck Dunes State Park. But it’s the sunset that promises to be the most memorable part of the experience.
2. Warren Dunes State Park
On a sunshiny day at Warren Dunes State Park, you can spot the skyline of Chicago. But the stunning vistas are just a small part of what makes the state park one of the most popular in Michigan.
Towards the bottom end of Lake Michigan, Warren Dunes offers a gorgeous three miles of sandy beachfront and six miles of leisurely hiking trails. Like many beaches in the state, you’ll find more to do than beach reading and swimming in the bright blue water.
Spend your day relaxing and embark on numerous adventures such as hunting for beach glass and treasures from the lake’s long-lost ships. Along the hiking trails, you’ll also find Tower Hill. A towering dune you can sandboard down.
1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Featuring 60 miles of impeccable coast on the edge of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most spectacular locations in the United States. So it belongs at number one on our list of Michigan’s top beaches.
The blue waters of the lakeshore are the kinds of colors usually reserved for the Caribbean. But you can find them right here. On a beautiful, sunny day, Sleeping Bear Dunes offers calm swimming conditions and soft white sand that will soon become your favorite mattress.
From your spot on the sand, you’ll be able to look out upon the lake towards the distant Manitou Islands. After sunbathing and swimming, check out the dunes that reach enormous heights of up to 450 feet. Not to mention, the park’s epic hiking and biking trails.