Michigan boasts some of the most spectacular freshwater beaches in the country, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and soaking up the sun. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, get ready to explore charming downtown areas, savor local cuisine, and have a blast in the sun.

Lake Eerie Destinations

Lake Erie is the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes, known for its commercial and sport fishing, especially for yellow perch and walleye. Sandy beaches, hiking trails, lagoon and shore fishing, birdwatching, and historical sites are among the many things enjoyed here.

Best Lake Erie Beaches

Sterling State Park (the only state park on Lake Erie) provides one mile of beachfront for sunning, swimming, and boat launches. Its 1,300 acres also offer opportunities for shore and lagoon fishing, camping, hiking, and more. Only a few miles away is the beach in Luna Pier, which has a boardwalk and lighthouse.

While not technically on Lake Erie, Belle Isle Park is only a five-minute drive from downtown Detroit and has a half-mile-long beach and water slide beside the Detroit River, connecting Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. Belle Isle was designated as a Michigan State Park in early 2014 and has an aquarium, conservatory, maritime museum, athletic fields, tennis courts, and more.

Towns and Cities on Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the fourth largest lake in North America, and Michigan is home to some of its most beautiful beaches and towns. The shores of Lake Erie offer a variety of activities, from swimming and boating to fishing and hiking. Here are some of the best beach towns and cities located on Lake Erie in Michigan.

Lake Erie Attractions

The 1,607-acre Lake Erie Metropark in Brownstown Township near Gibraltar offers three miles of shoreline, plenty of wildlife and wildfowl in meadows, marshes, and lagoons, a child’s play area, an 18-hole public golf course, and a museum and nature center. People also come for Hawkfest, which corresponds with the annual raptor migration in the fall.

Just south of Metropark is the 4,000-acred Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, one of the world’s largest freshwater marsh restoration projects. Since 1947, it has hosted its annual Waterfowl Festival in the fall, making its shorebird viewing one of the oldest events of its kind in Michigan.

During the War of 1812, the Great Lakes saw a lot of battle action. One of the most important of these conflicts was designated as the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Of the approximately 1,000 Americans who fought in it, only 33 escaped death or capture. “Remember the Raisin” became a war cry rallying support to the U.S. cause.

Lake Michigan Destinations

A female hiker on a trail overlooking Lake Michigan.

As the only Great Lake contained entirely in the United States, Lake Michigan does its state proud and might be its main draw for tourist and resident fun. There are dozens of beaches, winery tours, urban adventures in nearby Detroit, hidden waterfalls, and meandering coastal trails — the list of places to visit and things to do is almost endless. The clear waters of Lake Michigan can also be seen in different shades of blue.

Towns and Cities on Lake Michigan

There are many beach towns and cities dotted around Lake Michigan for you to find the perfect Lake Michigan vacation rentals, including:

Lake Michigan Attractions

As noted, Lake Michigan has a lot to offer, ranging from sailing and swimming to small-town cultural festivals and wine tours. You can also take a long hike to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and enjoy the hills of sand that look as if they belong on another planet.

Other activities consist of a three- or four-day voyage on the 110-foot Keweenaw Star out of Charlevoix — seeing lighthouses, freighters, and natural scenery. If you like to fish, Lake Michigan is a great place to drop a line, with salmon weighing 15 to 25 pounds. Or you can play golf at a world-class course with stunning views over the lake. You can also travel down the Tunnel of Trees, a canopied section of Michigan Highway 119 that runs from Harbor Springs to Cross Village, offering lake views in breaks in the foliage. The drive is especially spectacular when fall colors turn!

Best Things to Do at Lake Superior

A picturesque blue sky afternoon along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Lake Superior comes with a lot of impressive statistics. At 32,000 square miles, it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It contains half the water of the Great Lakes, which in turn contains 20% of the world’s freshwater. At its deepest point, it would completely submerge the Empire State Building.

Besides that, it is a great lake to visit for its superior attractions. You can admire the view from towering white limestone cliffs or take a circle tour with 1,300 miles of continuous scenery and attractions. Fishing, hunting, and hiking are all spectacular activity options.

Lake Superior Beaches

Fine sand beaches, black sand beaches, or pebble beaches — you have many choices along this northern Great Lake. The deep lake tends to be chilly, so quick dips are recommended. Twelvemile Beach in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers a huge, white sand beach nestled between the spectacular cliffs of the 73,000-acre federal park.

Taking the remote Chapel Rock and Beach Trail in the upper peninsula, you’ll go through three miles of sandstone gorges to arrive at the picturesque Chapel Falls, the secluded Lake Superior Beach, and Chapel Rock, a sandstone pinnacle topped by a single fir tree.

Marquette County in the upper peninsula offers a few pebble beaches. These include Black Rocks Beach, nestled between two cliffs, and Pebble Beach, where golden sand changes to smooth pebbles where the beach meets the water.

Towns and Cities on Lake Superior

When it comes to beach towns, Michigan is home to some of the most picturesque ones in the country. While the majority of the popular destinations are located on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, there are also plenty of gems to be found on Lake Superior. Here are some of the best towns and cities on Lake Superior that you won’t want to miss:

Lake Superior Attractions

Around Munising, you’ll find the Pictured Rocks and limestone cliffs lining nearly 40 miles of the national lakeshore. The name comes from the colorful swooshes and whorls painted on the rocks by mineral-laden water. Waterfalls, sandy beaches, and lighthouses are all close at hand. The Log Slide Overlook is a 300-foot-high sand dune that provides stunning views over the Grand Sable Banks and Dunes.

Between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, in the middle of Palm Book State Park, you’ll find Kitch-iti-kipi (the “Big Spring”) — the state’s largest spring — 200 feet across and 40 feet deep. The royal blue water continually refreshed by underwater fissures is amazingly clear, so you can see fish and ancient felled trees far below the surface.

As a huge lake with wild storms, Lake Superior has had its share of maritime tragedies, including the SS Edmund Fitzgerald’s sinking. Learn more about them at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise. At the shipwreck museum, you can see the original ship bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald, as well as Whitefish Point Light Tower. This light tower is the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior, which has been standing guard for more than 150 years.

Best Things to Do at Lake Huron

Turnip Rock on Lake Huron in Port Austin, Michigan.

The beautiful waters of Lake Huron provide an irresistible siren song to visitors, with great beaches, historic sites, campgrounds, vacation rentals, watersports, lakeside parks, and much more. Lake Huron is the second-largest Great Lake, with a surface area of 23,000 square miles.

The Lake Huron shoreline of the lower peninsula is known as the “Sunrise Side” because of the spectacular sunrises that visitors can admire over the water. The clear waters of Lake Huron invite fishing, canoeing, and other forms of boating and recreation. However, boating in calm weather is advised since storms over the lake have sunk more than 1,000 ships over the years, many of which can be viewed while snorkeling, scuba diving, or taking a boat tour.

Lake Huron Beaches

Soft sands, sweeping water views, and activities for restless families are among the reasons to visit Lake Huron beaches. Oscoda Beach Park, located only two blocks from downtown Oscoda, offers several hundred feet of white-sugar sand, playground equipment, a boardwalk, a bandshell, bathhouses, and picnic tables. Nearby Greenbush and Harrisville also have some of the cleanest sandy beaches in the area.

In the beach town of Caseville, you’ll find a large beach and county park with a lot of chances to go boating and fishing. Lakeport State Park is also a family-friendly destination that offers sugar-sand beaches, only an hour’s drive from metro Detroit and a short walk to the quaint village of Lexington. Hiking, biking, a Maltese castle, and views of one of the most picturesque harbors on the lake are some of the attractions here.

Towns and Cities on Lake Huron

If you’re looking for a beach adventure in Michigan, don’t miss out on the towns and cities located on the shores of Lake Huron. This Great Lake offers a unique experience with its crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches. So, let’s take a look at some of the best beach towns and cities on Lake Huron:

Lake Huron Attractions

Located where the waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, Mackinac Island is an automobile-free destination that remains a big tourist draw, with its pastel-colored Victorians, beaches, good dining, and shopping. Visitors can also enjoy hiking and biking trails, horse-drawn carriages, a lilac festival, a golf course, and much more.

Mackinac Island is connected by ferry to Mackinaw City. It also has an old British fort, Colonial Michilimackinac.

Michigan boasts more lighthouses than any other state, and many are found along Lake Huron’s shores, including:

  • 40 Mile Point (Rogers City)
  • Old Presque Isle and New Presque Isle
  • Tawas Point
  • Pointe aux Barques (Port Hope)
  • Fort Gratiot (Port Huron)

Lake Huron also features many shipwrecks that can be seen through crystal clear waters while snorkeling, scuba diving, or joining a charter boat tour from Alpena in Thunder Bay — home to about 200 sunken boats.

You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard to make the seven-mile round trip to see one of the state’s unique attractions, Turnip Rock, hailed as “one of Michigan’s greatest natural wonders.”

Amazing Inland Michigan Lakes

Michigan not only has four Great Lakes, but it also has an abundance of inland lakes. The state has more than 11,000 of these inland lakes, providing opportunities for ice fishing in winter, and boating, swimming, fishing, and much more in warmer weather. Some of the best inland bodies of water to visit include:

Torch Lake

Hundreds of boats congregating around a sandbar at Torch Lake.

Famous for its tropical blue waters, Torch Lake is a very popular boating destination for socializing during the summer. Apparently, you can even get a pizza delivery by boat! A two-mile sandbar at its south end makes Torch Lake great for swimming.

Through the Chain of Lakes water trail system, you can also travel by boat to lakes that include Elk, Skegamog, Intermediate, and Bellaire. Look for Torch Lake rentals with docks so you can bring your own boat, or rent from one of the many boat rental outfits in the area.

Houghton Lake

The sun setting over Houghton Lake, MI.

Houghton is Michigan’s largest inland lake, covering 22,000 acres. This big, shallow lake in the center of the state is known for fishing and motorized watersports. Hunting, golfing, and driving all-terrain vehicles are also on the menu.

Houghton Lake also has a weekend jamboree for ATV enthusiasts, a Fireman’s Memorial Festival, winding trail walks, and a 450-seat log cabin theater originally opened in 1941. Parents can take their kids to an amusement park, water slide, and other child-friendly attractions.

Higgins Lake

The beautiful lakeshore of Higgins Lake State Park in northern Michigan.

A few minutes north of Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake in Lyon Township offers a more serene experience than its large neighbor. This clear, deep lake in Roscommon is renowned for its natural beauty and crystal-clear water. Visitors can relax at the beach in South Higgins Lake State Park, with a swimming area that stretches half a mile.

Fishing and boating are also popular activities here, as are wildlife viewing and taking in sunsets.

Lake Cadillac

A leaning tree on Lake Cadillac in Cadillac, Michigan.

The Cadillac Area Business Bureau boasts that the lake features “over 400 acres of prime fish-holding weed cover making it an ideal lake fishing destination.” By pier fishing, shore/wade angling on almost 1.5 miles of shoreline, or fishing on a boat, visitors can hope to catch walleye, perch, bluegill, panfish, bass, and northern pike.

Families might want to spend time swimming and sunning at Kenwood Park and Beach, with a bathhouse, a lakeside pavilion, and pavilions in a heritage park across the street. The Cadillac area also includes several hiking and biking trails and historical attractions.

Walloon Lake

Local park at Walloon Lake, Michigan, with access to the lake.

One of the northernmost inland lakes, Walloon — in Melrose Township — also boasts clear, blue waters enjoyed by Ernest Hemingway. It’s no surprise that there is good fishing to be had here, as well as golfing, boating, and watersports.

The small, seasonal village of Walloon Lake has a number of artists and craftspeople selling their wares and a dining spot that overlooks the lake.

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