If you want a good beach this summer, skip the ocean and stay in Michigan.
The state has 11,000 inland lakes and 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than the salt-water coastlines of Florida, California, Maryland and South Carolina combined.
And not a single shark.
All that water means there are plenty of places to bake on the sand and go for a cooling swim. The eastern shore of Lake Michigan alone has hundreds of miles of clean sand and clear water, and hundreds of places where you can go to enjoy both.
We chose what we believe are the best of the Lake Michigan beaches, and then roamed farther afield to include beaches on four other bodies of water.
Clean water was a primary criterion. We consulted water-quality data on 1,222 beaches compiled by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and eliminated those with persistent water-cleanliness problems. We also made use of state-park attendance data provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
What we're offering, then, are 10 of the best places to bask and bathe that you can find. Grab the sunscreen and get going.
1. Grand Haven State Park Beach
On Lake Michigan at Grand Haven
Big sand, clean water and lots of company — this is a classic summer beach that comprises the bulk of a 48-acre state park. It gets bonus points for its picturesque red lighthouse and a pleasant boardwalk that leads into the heart of town just a mile away. Another running-riding trail takes you 20 miles along the shoreline to Holland, a larger, busier lakeside city.
The beach, one of the most heavily used in the state, has full amenities. The state park fee is $9/day for out of state residents, $11/year for in-state.
2. Sleeping Bear Point Beach
On Lake Michigan near Glen Haven in the Sleeping Bear National Seashore
This treasured national seashore in northwest Michigan has many marvelous beaches, but Sleeping Bear Point may be the best: Great sand, great vistas, plenty of space to stretch out or to wander along the water line looking for rocks. National Geographic named it one of the 21 best beaches in the world.
The beach is reached by a half-mile walk through lovely dunes. The uphill return walk can be strenuous. The parking area has restrooms, as does nearby Glen Haven. The park fee is $15 for 7 days per vehicle.
3. Pere Marquette Beach
On Lake Michigan in Muskegon
A full 2.5 miles of sandy public shoreline connects this popular city park to smaller Kruse Park. It's an active but laid-back beach, and a swimmers’ delight — Pere Marquette was once honored for the quality of its water. Don't tell anyone, but the southernmost stretch of beach near Kruse welcomes dogs as well as their owners.
Food, restrooms and other amenities are located near the parking area. Entry is free.
4. Twelvemile Beach
On Lake Superior in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising
A spectacular long stretch of white sand and crystal-clear water set amid the Pictured Rocks, one of the most amazing locations on all the Great Lakes. Sure, Lake Superior can be chilly at times, but that's part of the allure. There's plenty to see here in the 73,000-acre federal park, which has 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline.
5. Belle Isle Beach
On the Detroit River in Detroit
No other Michigan beach has a view like this — a wide river backstopped by the Detroit skyline. The beach is small at 1,500 feet, but the sand and water are inviting. The historic island, the state’s most-visited park, has many other attractions (including an informal “hipster beach”).
The beach has full amenities. It can get crowded. The state park fee is $9/day for out of state residents, $11/year for in-state.
6. Empire Beach
On Lake Michigan in the village of Empire
This is a peach of a public beach — small but family-friendly, noted for good waves and great views of the dunes and bluffs of Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. On the back side of the five-acre park is access to a warm inland lake, and the cute little village of Empire is just a block away.
Restrooms are located in the parking lot. The lot, which can be crowded on weekends, costs $1 an hour. Beach entry is free.
7. Hoeft State Park Beach
On Lake Huron near Rogers City
This oft-overlooked, lightly used state park in the northeastern Lower Peninsulsa has a mile of sandy beach fronting on the clear, crisp waters of Lake Huron — in some ways the best public beach on the U.S. side of the lake. Trails lead for many more miles along the shoreline. It's an excellent ship-watching spot as well.
The 300-acre park has a campground, and the parking area near the beach has restrooms. The state park fee is $9/day for out of state residents, $11/year for in-state.
8. Stearns Park Beach
On Lake Michigan in Ludington
A half-mile of soft sand and lovely clear water adorns the public beach in this port city, whose busy downtown is just a few blocks away. A shady section of park provides respite from the sun.
Plenty of parking and amenities are available at the beach, which can be crowded at times. Entry is free.
9. Martindale Beach
On Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark, Milford
A good, old-fashioned public beach on a large inland lake with shallow sandy-bottomed water. Kensington, the largest of the regional Huron-Clinton Metroparks, is the northwestern suburbs of Detroit. It can be crowded on weekends, but that’s half the fun. A splash pad and water slides at the beach are a bonus.
The beach has a full array of amenities. The metroparks entry fee is $10/day or $35/year.
10. Saugatuck Dunes State Park Beach
On Lake Michigan, just north of Saugatuck
A beautiful 2½-mile-long sandy beach,less developed and more lightly used than others in this part of Michigan. Much of the narrow beach is lined with sand dunes, and 1,000-acre park includes numerous trails. Saugatuck, one of the trendiest of the Lake Michigan beach towns, is three miles away.
A half-mile wooded path leads from the parking area to the beach. Toilets are located at the parking lot. The state park fee is $9/day for out of state residents, $11/year for in-state.
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