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.
9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630 US
207 W. River Street
Leland, MI 49654 US
Bell's Bay Road
Charlevoix, MI 49720 US
903 Wilderness Park Drive
Mackinaw City, MI 49718 US
Lake Michigan Road
Manistee, MI US
Big Knob Rd
Nawbinway, MI US
Region: Eastern Upper Peninsula
List of Trails