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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
Web site: http://www.nps.gov/slbe
Region: Northwest

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 unit in the Lower Peninsula, is the crowning jewel. Theres nothing like it anywhere else in the country.Established in 1970, the 72,000-acre park stretches between Frankfort and Leland and includes 35 miles of shoreline on the mainland, two remote islands in Lake Michigan and the largest dunes in Michigan. It is one Michigans best known destinations, an area that attracts almost 1.2 million visitors a year who come to play in the dunes; to hike, ski, camp, run wildly down the Dune Climb or simp ...

207 W. River Street
Leland, MI 49654
US

Phone: (231) 326-5134
Web site: http://www.nps.gov/slbe
Region: Northwest

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 island of a Lake Michigan archipelago that stretches northeast to the Straits of Mackinac and includes North Manitou Island and Beaver Island.South Manitous most impressive features are the perched dunes along its west side that rise more than 400 feet above Lake Michigan and the lighthouse, boathouses and other historic buildings of a former U.S. Lifesaving Station. Scattered inland are old farmhouses, barns, a schoolhouse and other remains of the islands agricultural past while just offshore ...

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 actually petrified coral, leftover fragments of the many coral reefs that existed in the warm-water seas from Charlevoix to Alpena some 300 million years ago. Today beachcombing for the fossil with its honeycomb-like pattern is one of the favorite summer activities in Michigan and few places are popular among Petoskey hunters as Fishermans Island State Park. The 2,678-acre park just southwest of Charlevoix features five miles of unspoiled Lake Michigan shoreline and a park road that provides ea ...

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 nature. The 10,500-acre unit, the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula, contains more than 26 miles of shoreline, a dedicated natural area and a vast network of trails that attract those who want to photograph wild flowers, identify birds or spend a day hiking or mountain biking through its forested terrain of pines and hardwoods.Michigan began acquiring the park in the early 1900s and in 1922 named it Emmet State Game Area before dedicating it Wilderness State Park in the mid-1930s. Altho ...

Lake Michigan Road
Manistee, MI
US

Phone: (231) 723-2211
Web site: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/hmnf
Region: Lake Michigan

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 Peninsula.Nordhouse Dunes is not a large tractonly 3,450 acresnor is it a pristine setting. The area is crisscrossed in places by old logging tracks and Forest Service roads.True wilderness or not, though, there is no question that this niche of windblown dunes, wetlands, and rolling hills of hardwoods and conifers is a unique spot for southern Michigan and even for the western side of the state, which is famous for having the worlds most extensive set of freshwater dunes. The most striking feature o ...

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 Big Knob recreation area in Lake Superior State Forest is the lack of crowds. There are three trails accessible from the state forest campground with the shortest trail being the 0.25-mile climb (0.5-mile round trip) to Big Knob, a high point on a forested sand dune. The posted trailhead is 2.5 miles north of the campground, right across the parking area from Crow Lake Pathway, the longest trail at 2.5 miles.
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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