Best Lake Michigan Beaches
No question that the biggest draw to western Michigan in the summer is the beach. Beaches, that is. Plural. Tons of them. Too many to choose from, really. With water temps in the 60’s all summer, peaking in the low 70’s in August, and the promise of sweetwater waves, volleyball, lighthouses, swimming and strolling, you can’t go wrong with the following five great choices:
Pack up the mini van and head for Village Park Beach in Empire, home to a great two-option beach for families. On the big lake side, you have open water and great Lake Michigan waves and sand. Right across the parking lot, on the inland side, you have the gentle, warmer waters of South Bar Lake. Dial in your excitement for the day, or split up the crew and have a blast. Basketball and volleyball courts too, along with a great old-school playground.
For Gorgeous Water
Orchard Beach State Park, just north of Manistee, has a knack for reflecting light just so, making it hard for seasoned travelers to remember they’re in Michigan, instead of the Caribbean. Seriously, it can be a surreal, blue-green glowing wonder. You have to see for yourself. There’s a bluff above the beach that offers great views, enjoy an outdoor workout with stairs up and down from the beach. It’s so worth it.
or Scenic Views
We can’t really argue with Good Morning America, Dr. Beach, National Geographic, or any of the other authorities that have showered Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore with accolades in recent years, including naming it one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Just knowing it’s there make it easy to take for granted, or decide for some reason that scaling those dunes is too much work. That would be a mistake. You owe it to yourself to explore the full length of those dunes and take in that incredible view out over Lake Michigan. It’s truly once-in-a-lifetime. And the rivers and other beaches nearby make this entire area a place worth exploring for a full weekend.
To Avoid Crowds
A lesser-known little brother to Sleeping Bear, the Bluffs north of Arcadia, Michigan offer spectacular views as well, with greater accessibility and smaller crowds. There are a series of platforms and sets of stairs to get higher and higher views out over the water. Sunset from here is to die for. And if you want to get sand between your toes, there’s a great public beach right in the heart of Arcadia as well.
This might be a bit further south, but any serious beach volleyball player will want to make a stop at Grand Haven State Park. And bring the whole family too, because there’s plenty else to do at this “everything” beach. Wide-open sand with more courts than you can count, scenic walking, playgrounds, pier and lighthouse, etc. Bonus: You can camp here, and soak in the beach atmosphere 24/7.
Also see: Silver Beach at St. Joseph, with 16 excellent courts, but even further south.