25 BEST Lakes in Michigan (for Swimming) with MAP
Our Michigan lakes are some of our greatest tourist attractions.
From our expansive Great Lakes to smaller serene inland lakes, a day at the lake is a Michigan summer staple and finding the right lake for a swim can make or break a trip. With hundreds of lakes to choose from all around the state, the choice can be a tough one.
So we’ve made it easy by gathering a list of the best lakes in the state, including both inland and part of the Great Lakes waterways. At these lakes you can go swimming, water skiing, fishing, or boating with confidence, knowing that it’s one of the most beautiful and clean lakes in the state.
Read on for the 25 best lakes in Michigan for swimming and scroll to the bottom for our Michigan interactive inland lakes map!
The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are Michigan’s most iconic lakes and there’s plenty to do when visiting them. Four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan, and each offers something different.
Lake Michigan to the west is popular, lively, and lined with great breweries to grab a drink at the end of the day, while Lake Huron to the northeast is more relaxed with phenomenal sunrises. Lake Erie to the southeast has great fishing spots, for northern pike or lake trout, but Lake Superior in the north invites people in for a chilly swim, even in the warmest months.
Best Inland Lakes in Northern Michigan
Mullet Lake near Cheboygan is one of Michigan’s biggest inland lakes. It once played an important role in Native American trade routes, but today, people mostly use it for recreation. Aside from swimming in the lake, visitors love to explore the trails, beaches, and parks which surround it, often making a trip of it by staying at a campsite at nearby Aloha State Park. This popular Cheboygan County park is one Michigan’s best-kept secrets.
Spanning 344 acres, Bass Lake is a glacial lake that provides a serene place to take a dip and escape downtown Traverse City’s lively atmosphere. Sandy shores beckon barefoot beach goers to the water while tall trees supply shade from the hot summer sun. Like many lakes, visitors spend a lot of time here swimming or kayaking, but locals know that there’s no better way to spend a day at Bass Lake than with a rod and reel catching walleye, pike, and of course rock bass.
Located in Grand Traverse County, it’s sandwiched between two other popular lakes in the Traverse City area, Long Lake and Silver Lake.
Despite its large size, Crooked Lake, just outside of Petoskey only has a maximum depth of about 20 feet, which makes it perfect for swimming. Calm warm waters and cozy cabins draw summer visitors in to explore all that Crooked Lake has to offer. Jump into the water for a swim, glide on top of it in a kayak, or parasail over top of it, then explore one of the communities around the shore.
This popular Emmet County Lake is connected by the inland waterway to Pickerel Lake. Round Lake in Petoskey is nearby.
While many lakes in Michigan share this name, the 40-acre situated just outside of Traverse City in East Bay Township is the best one for swimming. Walk along sparsely populated sandy beaches and enjoy the serene atmosphere. This lake has a no motorboats rule which helps maintain its tranquil environment, making it the best place to escape for a swim or a cruise around the water on a paddleboat.
Big and Little Glen Lakes
Big Glen Lake and its little sister, Little Glen Lake are two fantastic spots to enjoy a day at the Lake. Situated in Leelanau County, just outside Glen Arbor near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this pair of lakes were formed by glaciers millions of years ago, making them some of the cleanest and clearest lakes in all of Michigan. Despite being glacial lakes, they warm up well in the summer and are perfectly comfortable for swimming.
The beautiful aqua blues of this lake are stunning. Be sure to take a ride along the 7.5 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and stop at the Glen Lake overlook for some picturesque views!
Aptly named for the dark waters caused by deep depths, Black Lake certainly has a mysterious aura. More mysterious, however, is the elusive sturgeon fish, the largest fish native to the Great Lakes, and Black Lake is the only place where you can spear hunt them.
Head up near Cheboygan to visit Black Lake and enjoy a gorgeous scene of a glittering lake surrounded by fine sand and towering trees. There’s no bad spot to take a dip, but the best spot is on the southern end of the lake at Onaway State Park, one of the oldest in Michigan.
Neighboring Mullet Lake, Burt Lake sits directly south of Mackinaw City, providing access to both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Because of its location and proximity to Mackinac Island, tourists love to stop here for a swim or to explore some of the nature areas that surround the shore. Pack a picnic and have lunch at Colonial Point Memorial Forest or Burt Lake State Park, then cool off in the water for a refreshing afternoon.
Elk Lake is part of a larger chain of lakes, but because of its location away from larger cities, it’s usually a less popular destination. Thanks to this, Antrim County’s Elk Lake is the perfect place for all occasions, whether you want a tranquil evening or an afternoon of fun with the lake to yourself. Many visitors love to fish here as well; they try their luck at catching trout to serve up for dinner.
Michigan’s third largest inland lake and one of the most beautiful, Lake Charlevoix is a treasure of northern Michigan and a favorite for tourists and locals alike. The shores of this Charlevoix County lake are lined with resort towns with waterfront restaurants and charming vacation homes. Nearby, history buffs have to visit Ironton Ferry to satisfy their curiosity and Ernest Hemingway’s childhood vacation home in Horton Bay will delight any literary lover.
Portage Lake is located in Houghton County, in the upper peninsula’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Tis pretty lake has a storied history, in which its iconic lift bridge plays an important role. Initially sawmill workers settled along the lake and used that lift bridge to provide a path for lumber to be transported to Lake Michigan, allowing business to boom.
This boom brought a higher population and resorts for vacationing, many of which still stand today. Aside from swimming and other typical water sports, divers especially love to explore the shipwrecks which lay at the bottom of the lake.
In Roscommon, Higgins Lake sits in central northern Michigan and is one of the most beautiful lakes in the state. With crystal clear water and soft sandy shores, Higgins Lake is much more like a sea than a lake and despite its glacial origins, the water manages to get quite warm in the summer.
Hop in for a swim or take a boat out onto the water and fish for pike, bass, or trout. When you’re done in the water, hike the trails at North or South Higgins State Park and find a shady spot for a snack.
Torch Lake in northwestern Michigan is one of the state’s most popular lakes, and for good reason. It’s Michigan’s longest and deepest inland lake, yet maintains a glimmering turquoise color throughout. Boaters love to drop anchor at sandbars to socialize, swim, and eat – a local pizza restaurant is even known for delivering directly to the boats!
As the name suggests, Crystal Lake is crystal clear, which makes it a great spot for swimming and other water sports. This massive lake houses only the small village of Beulah, which helps maintain the water’s clarity and keeps it free from toxins. Visit Beulah for access to a beautiful sand beach along Crystal Lake’s shore and have some lunch at the picnicking area, then launch the boat out onto the water for a cruise and a swim.
Be sure and check out Frankfort, MI one of the best Michigan beachtowns!
Gorgeous Paradise Lake is a favorite destination for Michiganders for a reason – it is simply beautiful. In the 20th century, Paradise Lake was a popular resort area until family homes and cottages began taking over the shores.
Outside of this populated area, however, the area remains largely untouched, leaving behind the wild beauty for which northern Michigan has become so famous. While serene, the lake is still immensely fun with plenty to do, including swimming, boating, jet skiing, and renting kayaks or canoes to explore the water.
Sitting snugly between Suttons Bay and the Lake Michigan coast, Lake Leelanau is named for the peninsula on which it sits. It can sometimes be overlooked, but make no mistake, Lake Leelanau is one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming.
The lake itself is split into two sections, each with their own depth, temperature, and biodiversity that appeals to different interests. Boating on the lake is immensely popular, as is swimming and fishing, but there’s still plenty to do ashore, from visiting vineyards, exploring nearby Traverse City, and venturing out to the Manitou Islands via ferry.
Best Lakes in West Michigan
As the name suggests, you can find Muskegon Lake in Muskegon County, on Michigan’s west coast. One of the most popular inland lakes in Michigan, visitors to Muskegon Lake love to swim here, but boating is also massively popular. Sandy beaches offer plenty of space to relax or swim along the shore and marinas dotting the coast provide homes for sailboats when they aren’t racing along the surface.
Between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Gull Lake draws crowds for summertime with its beautiful blue-green waters. Fishing for rainbow trout, bass, and perch is a favorite summer pastime on the lake, but sailing, swimming, or simply relaxing in the shade all make for a great time here. Birding is also a popular activity near Gull Lake, especially at the Kellogg Biological Station on the eastern shore.
Hugged by the Lake Michigan beach towns of Douglas and Saugatuck on either side, Kalamazoo Lake is a smaller alternative to Lake Michigan for those in the area. Locals and tourists both love to swim in the lake, but it’s also a great spot for kayaking, canoeing, and general lakeside relaxation. While here be sure to visit Douglas and Saugatuck and maybe take a drive along US-31, stopping to to spend some time at one of the many art galleries in the area.
Best Lakes in Southeast Michigan
Lake St. Clair
Sometimes called the forgotten sixth Great Lake, Lake St. Clair is a metro Detroit favorite. Lake St. Clair connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie and has historically been used for shipping routes, but today its use is far more recreational.
Access the lake through Lake St. Clair Metropark near Mount Clemens and hop in the water for a swim or onto a boat for a cruise, otherwise enjoy some great fishing and water sport opportunities. Then, when you’re done on the lake, you can grab dinner at one of the many lakeside restaurants and enjoy the view with a meal.
Those in the metro-Detroit area love Pontiac Lake and it’s easy to understand why. The Pontiac Lake Recreation Area is a haven where you can escape from the sprawling cityscapes of southeast Michigan and get back to nature. Here you can find the longest beach in southeast Michigan which stretches for over a half-mile, leaving plenty of space to set up towels and run to the water for a swim.
If swimming isn’t your thing, scenic trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding can be found all around the area as well. Despite being man-made Pontiac Lake has proven itself to be quite the phenomenal getaway in the city.
Best Lakes in the Upper Peninsula
Nothing quite captures the wild spirit of the upper peninsula like Lake Michigamme. This massive inland lake is over 4,000 acres in its area and boasts 16 islands that can be explored, but you’ll need a boat to get to them. If you don’t have a boat, though, there’s still plenty to do along one of Lake Michigamme’s three beaches.
Start your rugged getaway at Van Riper State Park and set up camp, fish for your next meal, and go for a swim or lounge out on the beach. This massive lake sprawls over two counties: Baraga County and Marquette County. Don’t miss an opportunity to check out Marquette, MI, a beautiful, hip city filled with endless outdoors activities.
The Manistique Lakes are a system of several lakes located in the upper peninsula. With the help of Seney National Wildlife Refuge and the fresh water that flows steadily, birdwatchers come often to catch glimpses of bald eagles, sandhill cranes, osprey, and loons. Over 10,000 acres of surface area means plenty of space for activities and exploration. Hop on a boat and traverse the waters, take a swim near the shallow sandy shores, or fish up some walleye, perch, or bluegill.
Big Manistique Lake, located in Luce County and Mackinac County, is especially picturesque in the autumn. It’s a perfect spot for a Michigan fall color tour.
On Michigan’s west coast, Silver Lake has a unique location against towering sand dunes which separate it from Lake Michigan. Visitors to Silver Lake State Park come for golden sandy beaches, warm waters, and plenty of cottages for rent on vacation.
Of course, the lake is most popular during the summertime when the water is warm enough to swim in, but that’s not all visitors do here. Plenty of people enjoy kayaking and fishing on the lake, or hiking the nearby dunes to Lake Michigan.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes are one of the top tourist destinations in Michigan, and a true west Michigan gem!
The largest lake in Kent County is found in none other than Grand Rapids. Just a short drive from downtown, this urban lake is clear and beautiful with plenty of activities available to visitors. Hoist the sails, cast a line, or just jump right in to swim on a hot summer day. Take your boat onto the lake through John Collins Park, situated on the western shore.
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About the Author-
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland. She later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.