Best Michigan Beach Towns
We ALL agree that Michigan beaches are amazing…but have you heard about our Michigan beach towns?
We’re talking about those spots just beyond the sparkling water and sandy beaches where you’ll find food, fun and memories…and if you’re lucky perhaps a glass of wine or craft beer and something fun to take home with you.
The very best beachtowns combine a little bit of everything: proximity to sparkling sand and surf; a walkable downtown area with plenty of fun shops and boutiques to browse and pick up a trinket or two; comfortable benches and/or a park to rest a bit; and some good restaurants or cafes to sample the local food.
Find Michigan’s Best Beach Towns
Whether you think of them as Michigan “beach towns” or Michigan “beachtowns,” these unique spots along the Michigan shoreline make perfect vacation spots, day trips or road trips for some pure Michigan fun.
It’s not just seasonal travel, either: these beach towns are fun travel destinations that rock all year long with fairs, festivals, music events and other family fun activities.
It’s true: some of the best beach towns in America are located in Michigan.
Who needs theme parks when you have these fun towns dotting the sparkling shores of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior? in addition to the water, you’ll also find enough craft breweries, food and drink, art and culture, live music to fill your beach days all year long.
Michigan Beach Vacations
From the Upper Peninsula to all corners of the Lower Peninsula Mitten (and we’re including you, Mackinac Island), Michigan’s beach towns are alive all year long.
Whether they’re tucked in Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, set alongside beautiful beaches of Lake Huron or somewhere just off the West Michigan Pike (think St. Joseph, South Haven, Grand Haven, Holland and Silver Lake Sand Dunes) or on the wild and wonderful shores of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, our Michigan beachtowns will help you create a family vacation to remember forever.
Remember, beach vacations are not complete until you’ve discovered your perfect beachtown. Read on to start exploring some of our favorites.
St. Joseph, MI (also known as the Riviera of the Midwest) is a Lake Michigan beach town you’ll want to put on your Michigan beachtown list. Silver Beach, the sprawling downtown beach, is pure Lake Michigan fun.
You’ll find an active beach complete with concessions, paddleboard and bike rentals, and comfortable picnic pavilions. You’ll also find small dunes of soft silver sand and paths to explore.
As travel destinations go, St. Joseph has just about everything: a quaint downtown shopping area with wide wide paved sidewalks that make it easy for pedestrians and these using wheelchairs an accessibility devices. There’s books shops, boutiques, gift stores to explore – and great dining options, too.
If you’re looking for trip ideas, add South Haven to your travel itinerary. South Haven, Michigan is a fantastic Michigan beachtown, on the Lake Michigan shore just about 30 miles west of Grand Rapids.
Have you ever seen a tall ship? The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven is a harborfront museum and research library right in heart of downtown that offers on-water experiences aboard a real tall ship! Here, you can take a ride down the Black River into the waves of Lake Michigan aboard the Friends Good Will, a replica 1810 top sail sloop from the war of 1812.
That’s only a small part of the charm of this nautical beach town. Wander the streets (you can bring your pup, too- South Haven is very dog-friendly) and duck in to a restaurant or bakery for some treats.
South Haven is the blueberry capital of Michigan, so chances are you’ll want to take home some blueberry jam, salsa, syrup or salad dressing from one of the gift shops or boutiques. It’s close to many Michigan breweries, too, so you can try a craft beer or hard cider after a day of exploration.
PRO-TIP: Use our Guide to the Best Places to Stay in South Haven MI to find a great hotel or B and B.
Sure, you’ve heard of Oval Beach in Saugatuck (voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Conde Nast). It’s not just this gorgeous beach in Michigan that draws visitors to Saugatuck all year long, or the opportunity for endless outdoor adventure.
This western Michigan town is brimming with art and culture: the Ox Bow School of Art is an artist’s retreat founded by artist’s from the School of the Art institute of Chicago. In addition, Saugatuck it’s sister city of Douglas, are filled with art galleries, and the Saugatuck Center for the Arts brings plays, films and lectures to the community all year long.
You might want to plan more than a day to stroll Saugatuck’s streets. They’re lined with endless shops, boutiques and restaurants worth taking your time to explore. Saugatuck Dunes State Park, filled with stunning natural beauty, is nearby too.
If you’re planning to stay overnight (and we think you’ll want to), we’ve put together a list of some of my favorite places to stay in Saugatuck.
Grand Haven on Michigan’s west coast is also known as Coast Guard City. The two beaches – Grand Haven City Beach and Grand Haven State Park – are within easy walking distance of this quintessential Michigan beachtown. You’ll even find a boardwalk to stroll and cute trolley to help you explore the town’s shops and restaurants.
We love walking the streets of Grand Haven; there a lovely shady park near the town center perfect for a picnic. Grand Haven is also close to Holland (a fun visit during tulip time), where you can try on a wooden shoe to celebrate the town’s Dutch heritage. Don’t miss Holland State Park, one of Michigan’s most-visited parks and known for their excellent ADA and Wheelchair accessibility.
The beachtown of Ludington is located along a wildly wonderful stretch of Lake Michigan. With sand dunes to the north and sand dunes to the south, there is plenty of opportunity for outdoor recreation in Ludington. Ludington State Park, also known for excellent ADA and wheelchair accessible features, is breathtakingly beautiful, and has all of the amenities necessary for a perfect beach day.
The town of Ludington embraces its beachy culture: the shops and restaurants are casual and welcoming. It’s not a beach town without the perfect ice cream store, and Ludington has one of the best in the state. The House of Flavors on the town’s main drag is named in the Guiness Book of World Records for its “longest ice cream dessert.” Don’t miss it…we love the plain ol’ Strawberry.
Traverse City is more than a city: it’s a pure Michigan beachtown on Grand Traverse Bay. It’s hard not to smile in this town (the Cherry Captial of the World!) because it’s simply delightful to explore. The mix of Michigan history, outdoorsy fun and boutiques both upscale and mainstream make for some pleasant beachtown days.
Set again the backdrop of not one but two Traverse bays (West Bay and East Bay), sprawling Traverse City has somethings for everyone: head up the Old Mission Peninsula for the wineries and scenic beauty of the vineyards.
Frolic in one of the lakeside parks or shop along historic Front Street, where you can comfortably duck into an art gallery or fudge shop within feet of each other. You might want to plan for at least two days to fully experience this northern Michigan beach town.
Cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and you’ll find yourself in St. Ignace. Yes, you can simply park your car and grab a ferry to Mackinac Island, but we suggest you spend some time exploring this interesting area.
Steeped in the history of native Americans, this area is extremely clean and visitor-friendly. You’ll find lakefront parks where you can simply relax on park bench or take a dip in the water father exploring the town. There’s lots of little shops and galleries celebrating the areas native American heritage here. You’ll find restaurants serving a must-try Upper Peninsula treat: the pasty. These tasty “hand pies” always taste the best when they’re authentic – so keep your eye out for them when you visit.
It may be a big city, but this spots on Lake Superior definitely qualifies as a beachtown, with a fun beach town vibe going on all year long. Marquette is the largest city in the U.P. and everything in this town is centered on the beautiful lake.
Marquette Harbor and the beach at McCarty’s Cove are musts, but also find time to check out some the hiking and biking trails that wind through this outdoors paradise.
Of course, explore the hip and historic downtown, with a mix of eclectic shops, eateries and brewery or two…or three…
Just south of Mackinaw City is Cheboygan. You may have seen pictures of the picturesque Cheboygan Crib Light, but this town is so underrated with much to explore both in Cheboygan and the surrounding area.
If you’re looking for a spot that mixes quaint beach town vibes with pristine sandy beaches, this is the spot for you. Cheboygan has some of the most crystal-clear water, surprisingly warm in the shallow bays in Michigan, and it’s sometimes overlooked as a beach town.
Spend some time in Cheboygan and you’ll find cute parks, little shops and restaurants in an easy walking distance of Lake Huron. Venture beyond the town to two popular vacation spots: Mullet Lake and Black Lake. These big inland lakes are sandy-bottomed and the clear water is warmed than Lake Huron, a draw for visitors looking for a spot to splash around.
With one of the prettiest lakefront parks in the state, Oscoda is a beachtown that has “beach town” all right.
You’ll find a few brick-lined streets with ice cream shops, little stores and and cafes all within steps of Oscoda Beach Park, a beautiful ADA accessible park on the shores of Lake Huron. The proximity of these stores to the beachfront makes it convenient to hop back and forth all day…a little splashing in the water; a little walk to the cream shop; a little lying on the beach; a little walk to the sandwich shop. You get the picture.
Go beyond the town and you’ll find so much to do. The AuSable River which meanders its way through national forest as it makes it way to Lake Huron providing endless trails to explore both on land and off. The Au Sable River is home to dams and ponds, too, which are fun to see and quite picturesque.
Maybe you’ve heard East Tawas called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest?” That’s the name some call East Tawas, MI, and it certainly could be. Both the beautiful Tawas Bay waters and large harbor are jam-packed during the summer, when visitors flock to this lakeshore beachtown.
Stroll along Newman Street, where you’ll get into the old-fashioned yet up-to-date charm of the town. Bookstores, Fudge and Ice-Cream shops, gift shops and boutiques line the street for a few blocks. You’ll even find a homemade candy store and a real five-and-dime.
After you’ve explored a bit, meander back up a bit and walk along the long pier that extends into beautiful Tawas Bay.
As far as Michigan beach towns go, pretty little Lexington checks all the boxes:
Large, picturesque harbor? Check.
Shady park with neat benches and well-tended gardens? Check.
Sandy beach with a long pier and play structures for the kids? Check.
A cure downtown with fun shops and restaurants? Check.
It’s a neat thing to find a beachtown so close to Metro Detroit. Just a short drive from the Detroit suburbs has you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time when you visit Lexington. Lexington is small, and it’s a refreshing kind of spot that will make you come back again and again.
More Michigan Beach Towns
If you;re looking for more michigan beach towns to explore, be sure and use our interactive Michigan Travel and Beach map.