It’s not too often you find a tropical paradise in the middle of the U.S. But that’s what endears so many visitors to Torch Lake in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, near Traverse City. If you’re planning on visiting and expecting the frothy tempest of Lake Michigan or the silty bottoms of your average waterhole, you’re in for a happy surprise. Instead, you’ll find turquoise blue water, picture-perfect sandbars, and plenty of ways to relax beside waters reminiscent of the Caribbean, making it one of the best lakes in Michigan. Yes, it’s that nice!

Most visitors book one of the many Torch Lake rentals to unwind on the water. At around 285 feet depth at its deepest, people come here to find some watery real estate to drop a line — or let loose on jet skis, motorboats, innertubes, or paddleboards. Luckily, there are so many ways to enjoy this lakeside retreat, including by booking one of the campgrounds by Torch Lake.

Top Campgrounds Near Torch Lake

Inviting campfire on the beach during the summer.

Are you planning a camping trip to Torch Lake, Michigan? Or maybe you’re interested in one of the many lakefront Torch Lake cabin rentals nestled between evergreen trees. In either case, look no further than these top suggestions:

Torch Lake State Forest Campground

Looking for a rustic camping experience surrounded by nature? Torch Lake State Forest Campground is the perfect choice for you. Located on the eastern shore, the Torch Lake campgrounds offer basic amenities and stunning lake views. Pitch your tent, roast marshmallows by the campfire, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of the forest. The campground is first-come, first-served, so make sure to arrive early to secure your spot.

Bellaire Campground

If you prefer a more developed camping experience, Bellaire Campground is an excellent option. Situated near the charming town of Bellaire, this campground provides modern amenities such as showers, electricity, and RV hookups. Bellaire Campground is just a short drive away from Torch Lake, allowing you to access the beautiful beaches and explore the surrounding area with ease.

Barnes Park Campground

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Barnes Park Campground offers a unique camping experience with stunning beach views. This campground features both rustic and modern campsites, accommodating tents, RVs, and trailers. Enjoy a day at the beach, soak up the sun, and take a refreshing swim in the clear waters of Lake Michigan. Don’t forget to catch a breathtaking sunset over the lake!

Top 10 Things to Do in Torch Lake, Michigan

Torch Lake camping is just one way to enjoy this expansive area, which provides untold things to do and see. Here’s everything you need to know about the stunning beaches and the exciting activities available in this beautiful destination.

1. Watersports at Torch Lake

Woman wakeboarding on Torch Lake.

Torch Lake is a haven for water-sports enthusiasts. With its crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches, it’s the perfect playground for swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from one of the local outfitters and explore the tranquil waters of Torch Lake. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at wakeboarding or waterskiing. The possibilities are endless!

2. Fishing on Torch Lake

Kayaker on Torch Lake during sunset.

Anglers will be delighted by the excellent fishing opportunities on Torch Lake. The lake is known for its abundance of smallmouth bass, lake trout, and perch. Cast your line from the shore or rent a boat and venture out into the deeper waters. Fishing on Torch Lake is not only a thrilling activity but also a chance to enjoy the serene beauty of the lake and its surroundings.

Pro Traveler’s Tip: Left your own bait and tackle at home? There are plenty of local places to rent some gear, such as Butch’s and the Riverside Marina. They have everything an itinerant fisherman would need.

3. Hiking and Biking Trails

Kids hiking along the scenic Empire Bluffs.

Explore the natural wonders of Torch Lake by hitting the scenic hiking and biking trails. The Torch Lake Area Trails offer a variety of options for all skill levels. Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline or challenge yourself with a more rugged trail that winds through the forest. As you hike or bike, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls this area home, including deer, birds, and even the occasional fox.

4. Torch Lake Sandbar

Hundreds of boats congregating around a sandbar as seen from an aerial perspective.

No visit to Torch Lake is complete without a visit to the famous Torch Lake Sandbar, located along the south end of the lake. This shallow area in the middle of the lake attracts boaters and beachgoers alike thanks to a two-mile sandbar that looks right out of a tropical postcard. Drop anchor and join the lively atmosphere as people gather to swim, socialize, and bask in the sun. The sandbar is known for its crystal-clear waters and soft sandy bottom, creating a tropical-like paradise in the heart of Michigan.

Pro Traveler’s Tip: During the hottest summer months, boats raft up here numbering in the hundreds, and it can turn into quite the party. If you can get your hands on a boat rental, and one of the coveted Torch Lake rentals with a dock, this festive atmosphere is definitely worth experiencing. Are big crowds not your thing? Then make sure to head to the north end for an all-around quieter experience.

5. The Floating Burger Barge

A woman's hand holding up a cheeseburger with the beach in the background.

Wherever crowds gather, you can make sure clever entrepreneurs will follow. It just so happens that at Torch Lake, the crowds are mostly on the water. That’s why on busy days at the sandbar, you’ll find Dave’s Burger Barge serving fast food to revelers. Stop by for a mouthwatering burger while enjoying a day out on the water.

Pro Traveler’s Tip: Don’t be fooled by thinking this is just another tacky tourist attraction. These burgers are absolutely to die for and are reasonably priced — so it’s sure to keep both your belly and your wallet happy and full.

6. Picnicking at Torch Lake

Happy mother, father, and young son having picnic on summer beach and eating sandwiches.

Enjoy a relaxing picnic with family and friends at one of the designated picnic areas around Torch Lake, such as the William K. Good Day Park. Spread out a blanket, unpack your delicious snacks, and soak in the scenic beauty around you, or utilize one of the many pavilions and picnic tables. Whether you choose a spot near the water or nestled among the trees, picnicking at Torch Lake is a wonderful way to savor the natural splendor of the area.

7. Exploring Nearby Towns

Ferris wheel at an outdoor carnival in Traverse City, Michigan.

While Torch Lake itself offers plenty of natural beauty, there are also several charming towns worth exploring in the surrounding area. Visit the town of Bellaire, home to unique shops, delicious eateries, and the renowned Short’s Brewing Company. Traverse City, known for its vibrant downtown and stunning wineries, is also within driving distance. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do near Torch Lake. Take a day trip and discover the hidden gems of northern Michigan.

8. Horseback Riding at Torch Lake

Two people on horseback riding through lush golden foliage.

The northwest part of the state is rich with lush forests, rolling hills, and meadows full of colorful wildflowers. So why not take it all in on a meandering horseback ride? Michigan has more than 1,000 miles of state-designated trails open to equestrian riders, and there are plenty of farms in the area that offer lessons and guides within driving distance such as Maple Ridge Stables and Outrider Horseback Riding.

9. Torch Lake Sunsets

Torch Lake sunset silhouettes during a Michigan summer.

Witnessing a Torch Lake sunset is a magical experience you won’t want to miss. As the sun descends below the horizon, the sky becomes a canvas of vibrant hues, painting a breathtaking panorama over the lake. Capture the moment with your camera or simply sit back, relax, and let the beauty of the sunset envelop you.

10. Glamping at Torch Lake

A motor home is parked near Lake Michigan and the dunes with seagulls.

Making s’mores around the campfire is a fun adventure, but if you want a few more creature comforts, consider glamping instead. Choose from cozy RV rentals, cabins with waterfront views, and campsites with a few more upscale amenities. Glamping can be the perfect option for those traveling as a family, as you’ll still be able to experience Mother Nature in all her glory.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got questions about camping at Torch Lake, Michigan? We’ve got you covered! Here are some frequently asked questions to help you plan your trip and make the most of your time at this stunning destination.

Are there any public beaches on Torch Lake?

While Torch Lake doesn’t have designated public beaches, there are several access points along the shore where you can enjoy the sandy shoreline and swim in the lake. Torch Lake Township Day Park is one of them.

Can I bring my pet to Torch Lake?

Pets are welcome at some of the Torch Lake campgrounds; however, it’s important to check the specific rules and regulations of each campground before bringing your furry friend.

Are there grocery stores near Torch Lake?

Yes, there are grocery stores and convenience stores in the nearby towns of Bellaire and Alden, where you can stock up on supplies for your camping trip.

Get Ready to Make Some Lakeside Memories

Torch Lake is the kind of place that offers a multitude of unmatched sights and attractions found nowhere else in Michigan. Whether it’s spending a day out on the water or grilling up dockside, there is an exciting experience to be had for every visitor. Catch some sun during the day and gaze up at the stars at night in this exciting little piece of the Great Lakes State.