“A normal lake is knowable. A Great Lake can hold all the mysteries of an ocean, and then some.”
– Dan Egan –
Want to know one of the best-kept secrets in Southwest Michigan?
Look no further! The plentiful pristine beaches along Lake Michigan’s freshwater coastline are some of the most beautiful in the country. And it’s not just my opinion… because according to Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Oval Beach in Saugatuck is one of the 25 best in the world, while MTV rates it one of the top 5 in the entire U.S.!)
Yep, in the Southwest Michigan region, there are miles and miles and miles of wide, sandy, stunning beaches—virtually all with a Cape Cod feel— offering you, your family and friends virtually endless opportunities for summertime vacation joy. With clear, aqua blue water, windswept sand dunes and many having well-maintained beaches, services and parking (not to mention the numerous artsy, family friendly beach towns all along the shoreline), you’ve got everything you need for a relaxing, fun-filled day at the beach!
Here’s a small sample of the many great beaches you can find in Southwest Michigan. Go online for more details and directions to those listed here or to research more options in other areas of the region. I also included a list of dog-friendly area beaches that can be found at the end of this article.
Beaches in and around New Buffalo
Swimming*, kayaking, walkway, concessions, grills, restrooms and a children’s playground are all available. *Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Wooden stairs lead you to this 200-yards stretch of beach, with swimming, an observation platform and a nice picnic area. Note: Parking is free, but limited.
This gorgeous beach requires a bit of a hike to get to, but there’s more than a mile’s worth of majestic Lake Michigan beauty to enjoy here. Picnic tables, a covered shelter and vault toilets are provided.
This quiet beach can be accessed by parking along the road and taking the steps down to it. Great for swimming and it, too, is often frequented.
This is an excellent swimming or kayaking beach with plenty of magnificent dunes, a boardwalk, concessions and SUP/Stand-up paddleboard rentals.
Another wonderful swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding beach with a picnic area, grills, a nicely maintained campground, restrooms and a children’s playground.
Beaches in and around Saugatuck, Douglas & St. Joseph
Recognized as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 25 Beaches in the World, National Geographic Traveler’s Top Freshwater Beaches in the USA, and MTV’s Top 5 Beaches in the U.S., this exquisite crescent-shaped Lake Michigan beach is a popular must-see. Besides a fantastic beach, it has towering sand dunes, concessions stands, a number of picnic areas and plenty of restrooms.
Looking for something a little quieter? This cozy neighborhood “park” includes a picnic area, restroom and a peaceful beach lined with trees by the waterline. Consider staying for the enjoyable sunsets.
In addition to a glorious beach, here you can find an extraordinary “super- dunes” experience awaiting you. That is, if you’re up for a hike through the sandy woods to fantastic overlooks atop the 200-foot tall dunes. In the summer, you can walk (in winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski) for miles on the wooded trails or along the majestic shoreline. Note regarding Parking: State park permit or day use fee is required.
If you want to really leave the hustle and bustle behind you, this quiet beach on the north side of town may be your “slice of heaven.” However, you’re going to be up for burning a few calories, given there’s a long wooden stairway to get to the beach. But then it’s virtually all yours! Please note: No services, but parking is free.
Perfect for family gatherings or just fun for the kids, this beach has pavilions, picnic areas, playgrounds, boardwalks along the beach and restrooms. Note: Parking is limited, but free
Located in St. Joseph, Michigan at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, this beach features clean, wide sandy expanses and views of the pier, and a public swimming area in the summer months. Great for kayaking and paddleboarding, too!
Dog-Friendly Area Beaches
Michigan has many dog-friendly beaches—New Buffalo has three dog- friendly beaches and Saugatuck has one—but it’s important to remember none of these are off-leash beach areas; that is, dogs must remain on leashes. It’s also important to remember pet-owner etiquette: remember to clean up after your dog to keep the beaches clean, healthy and fun for everyone.