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Joy of Summer! A Beach to Camp On

Give me a beach with nothing but sand, surf and sunsets or sunrises. A beach with a campground where I’m just a two-minute stroll from that freshwater sea. A beach so close to my site, I can see it from my tent.

Thanks to 3,288 miles of shoreline along the Great Lakes, you can find more beach campgrounds in Michigan than anywhere else in the Midwest. They might require a little extra effort to reach them, or even a ferry trip, but at the end of the day the sand and sunset makes it all well worth it. Here’s our favorite beach campgrounds:

Lake Michigan Recreation Area: Just south of Manistee, the national forest campground is a short walk away from a beautiful and undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. Plus it borders the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness for miles more of beach combing and great hiking.

Bill Wagner Campground: Sure, you have to take the ferry to Beaver Island but this Peaine Township Campground is worth it. The rustic 23-site facility is located on a sandy beach south of St. James and overlooks mainland Michigan. 

Fishermans Island State Park: Just south of Charlevoix, the park has 81 sites but 16 of them overlook the Lake Michigan beach and are tucked among the trees for a bit of privacy.  You can camp on the beach in the heart of Petoskey stone country. 

D.H. Day Campground: In the summer staying at this Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore campground means getting here early in the day and hope somebody’s moving on. But no other campground has a better beach and you can stroll it for miles to the west, looking for shipwrecks. 

Bay Campground: Another classic in Sleeping Bear Dunes is this rustic campground on South Manitou Island. It’s no easy camp as you need to take a ferry from Leland and then hike a half mile to some of the best sites you’ll find anywhere along Lake Michigan. You’re just tucked into the trees but command a great view of the quiet bay you’re camped on. For all this effort, better stay a few nights.

Wilderness State Park: The newest beach campground overlooks the Mackinac Bridge and use to be the park’s the day-use area that includes a wide stretch of sandy shoreline. Part of it features full-hook-ups for RVers but there are also 10 walk-in sites for tent campers.

Big Knob Recreation Area: Beautiful beaches abound in the Upper Peninsula just west of the Mackinac Bridge but to find a true treasure depart US-2 and head south on Big Knob Road. It’s a teeth-chattering ride in which the first of many potholes is encountered within minutes and you could lose your muffler in any of them. Hang in there, within 6 miles you arrive at a Big Knob State Forest Campground bordering a stretch of sand and surf that extends as far as the eye can see. Pitch the tent and hit the beach.

 

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9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630 US

Phone: (231) 326-5134
Region: Northwest
Website

The 200 miles of sand dunes fronting Lake Michigans east shore is the largest collection of freshwater coastal dunes in the world and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the only National Park...
More Info

207 W. River Street
Leland, MI 49654 US

Phone: (231) 326-5134
Region: Northwest
Website

Click hereto order a detailed map and a guide toSouth Manitou Island.Part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, South Manitou Island is located 18 miles west of Leland and is the southernmost...
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Bell's Bay Road
Charlevoix, MI 49720 US

Phone: (231) 547-6641
Region: Northwest

Two things to know before visiting Fishermans Island State Park; Michigans state stone is not really a stone and Fishermans Island isnt really an island.Petoskey stones, Michigans state stone, are...
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903 Wilderness Park Drive
Mackinaw City, MI 49718 US

Phone: (231) 436-5381
Region: Northwest

Wilderness State Park in Emmet County may have cabins for rent, a boat launch, two campgrounds and a day-use area on Lake Michigan, but for most visitors the outstanding feature is its undeveloped...
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Lake Michigan Road
Manistee, MI US

Phone: (231) 723-2211
Region: Lake Michigan
Website

With the Michigan Wilderness Act of 1987, the federal government declared the Nordhouse Dunes area of the Manistee National Forest a wilderness, the only area designated as such in the Lower...
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Big Knob Rd
Nawbinway, MI US

Region: Eastern Upper Peninsula

A “Big Knob” to climb, an assortment of trails to hike, and one of the most beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan. What more could a kid want in a campground? As for the parents, the best part of...
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List of Trails

Trails found: 6
showing 1 through 6 of 6

Crow Lake & Big Knob Pathways

Distance:
0.5 miles to 2.5 miles
Type:
Foot path
Terrain:
Forest dunes, wetlands, Crow Lake
Difficulty:
Easy
Nearest City or Town:
Nawbinway

Fisherman's Island State Park

Distance:
3.2 miles or 6-mile loop
Type:
Foot path
Terrain:
Forested dunes, Lake Michigan
Difficulty:
Easy
Nearest City or Town:
Charlevoix

Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness - Manistee National Forest

Distance:
6.5 miles
Type:
Foot path
Terrain:
Open dunes, Lake Michigan
Difficulty:
Challenging
Nearest City or Town:
Manistee

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Distance:
0.9 miles to 22 miles
Type:
Foot paths, cross-country ski trails
Terrain:
Sand dunes, forests
Difficulty:
Easy to challenging
Nearest City or Town:
Empire

Sleeping Bear Dunes: South Manitou Island

Distance:
17 miles of trails
Type:
Foot path
Terrain:
Open dunes, beachs, forests
Difficulty:
Moderate to Challenging
Nearest City or Town:
Leland

Wilderness State Park

Distance:
38 miles of trails
Type:
Multi-use trails
Terrain:
Flat to rolling forests and wetlands
Difficulty:
Easy to moderate
Nearest City or Town:
Mackinaw City

showing 1 through 6 of 6
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