Look for coverage of Great Lakes recreation and adventure in this new monthly feature. The author, Ian Solomon, founded Amplify Outside, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access and representation by Black people in the outdoors, starting in the Great Lakes region. Find more about him HERE.
Things are finally heating up here in the Great Lakes Basin, so I’m taking the opportunity to brag a little about summertime in my home state of Michigan.
After living in Los Angeles, I’m often asked by Michiganders if I miss the beaches of Southern California. I won’t lie, I miss the weather dearly, but asking a Michigander if they miss the beach is like asking a Coloradan if they miss the mountains. I eagerly meet this question with one of my favorite fun facts: Michigan has more coastline than California! That’s right, with 3,288 miles of coastline, Michigan blows California’s 840 out the water.
If you’re surprised by this, you’re not alone. But this summer is your chance to get to know the longest freshwater coastline in the world. From dunes to cliffs, here’s four Michigan beaches you need to see.
Lakeport State Park
Lakeport State Park sits a few miles north of Port Huron, offering the beautiful waters of Lake Huron as well as expansive hikes through preserved forests. This makes for a perfect trip to dip a toe into Michigan’s beaches, especially if you hail from metro Detroit.
I will never oversell an adventure, this is perhaps the least impressive destination on the list, but what it lacks in dramatic landscape it makes up for in accessibility. At only 70 miles from downtown Detroit, you could get there and back in an afternoon with time to spare. There are multiple areas of the park— the campgrounds offer light hiking to the beach, but a roadside portion just south offers views of Huron without having to get out of the car. If I ever have a free morning and gas to spare I love to make it out to Lakeport for a quick reset.
Hoffmaster State Park
I was once a Michigander unaware of our beautiful beaches, but at 17 years old, a friend invited me to Hoffmaster State Park and changed my perspective forever. My first time experiencing a Michigan beach covered in high grassy dunes is a memory I hold close to my heart. Nearly 10 years later, this is still my favorite beach to bring friends for a great day.
Just 30 minutes northwest of Grand Rapids, Hoffmaster offers the beauty of Lake Michigan, towering dunes and a beautiful hike through the forest. You can get to the beach by taking the walk-a-mile trail from the parking lot through the forest, or simply take a short stroll down the wheelchair accessible walkway to the shore.
If you can, take the hike— the feeling of emerging from the forest onto the dunes of the beach is one that can’t be overstated. This is a great day (or date!) trip not just for the natural beauty, but its proximity to Grand Rapids. After a beautiful day working up an appetite at the water, take a pause in Grand Rapids at one of their many great restaurants and breweries. A fool proof recipe for a great day.
Warren Dunes State Park
I’d consider Warren Dunes a sister to Hoffmaster State Park. It offers a lot of the same, but on a different route. I often get frustrated when folks say they’re not willing to drive for outdoor recreation, but make the trip to Chicago from Detroit in the blink of an eye.
Warren Dunes State Park is my “gotcha” moment. If you’re on I-94 in west Michigan, there is no reason not to make a pit stop at Warren Dunes. In less than 15 minutes, you could be off the concrete freeway and on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan next to some of the largest dunes in the state. Like Lakeport State Park, you can enjoy the beauty without leaving your vehicle and get some road trip grub at the food truck stationed at the large parking lot off the beach.
There’s no right or wrong answer between Warren Dunes and Hoffmaster, but if convenience is the name of the game, then Warren Dunes is the Lake Michigan park for you.
Presque Isle State Park
Okay, we have officially left the realm of convenience for most folks reading this, but we have not abandoned civilization. There are too many Upper Peninsula beaches to name worth visiting, but Presque Isle Park is both dynamic and relatively accessible.
Just 10 minutes outside the downtown area of Marquette, you will find the 323-acre peninsula offering dramatic cliffs, dreamy coves, a sandy beach and wildlife filled woodland hikes. I have to reiterate: I will never oversell an adventure, this place is absolutely breathtaking! The park is easily navigable and you’d likely never be too far from someone who can help.
The Upper Peninsula is understandably intimidating to some, but here you can find comfort in proximity to a college town with great food, multiple hotel options and most resources you’d find in a metropolitan area. If you’re planning your summer weekend getaways, be sure to put Marquette on the list and spend some quality time at Presque Isle Park.
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Featured image: Courtesy of Ian Solomon.