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Torch Lake Michigan 2023 Ultimate Guide: the Sand Bar, Public Access, Boat Rental, Things to Do

by Jill Halpin and the My Michigan Beach Team

Visit Torch Lake Michigan

Much like Kid Rock’s popular song, summertime in Northern Michigan means a visit to world-famous Torch Lake, Michigan, also known as Michigan’s very own Caribbean.

This top Michigan summer vacation destination is a not-so-hidden paradise known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, stunning natural beauty and popular Sand Bar summer hang out.  

One of the largest inland lakes in the northern lower peninsula, Torch Lake boasts aqua-colored, crystal clear water, perfect for boating, swimming and many other outdoor activities.

If you’re looking for the perfect summer trip idea, it’s time to visit Torch Lake in Michigan.

Read on to explore the best ways to experience Torch Lake, including a visit to the famous Torch Lake Sand Bar. We’ve included essential planning tips, information about Torch Lake itself, and exciting activities and attractions in the surrounding areas.

Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor, this Ultimate Guide to Torch Lake will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your time.

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torch lake michigan

About Torch Lake MI

Surely you’ve seen pictures of Torch Lake Michigan, where the striking turquoise color of water and bright sand makes it clear that this is the Caribbean of the North.

This breathtaking inland lake located in Antrim County, Michigan has mesmerizing blue and green hues that have earned it international recognition. Regularly named as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, it has become a sought-after destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Torch Lake is part of a chain of lakes that flow into Lake Michigan’s East Grand Traverse Bay.

The Chain of Lake Water Trail includes Elk Lake, Clam Lake, Lake Skegemog, Lake Bellaire, Intermediate Lake,and is a popular spot for anglers, too.  The interconnecting rivers include Torch River, Clam River, Grass River, Shanty Creek and many others.

How Deep is Torch Lake?

Torch Lake has a maximum depth of about 300 feet, making it the deepest inland lake in Michigan The average depth is 111 feet. At 19 miles long, it’s also the longest inland lake in Michigan.  It’s Michigan second-largest inland lake, after Houghton Lake.

Does Torch Lake ever freeze?

Due to the heat stored in its massive surface area of 18473 acres, Torch Lake does not freeze over like many lakes in Michigan during winter.

Map of Torch Lake Michigan

Map of Torch Lake Michigan

Where is Torch Lake?

Torch Lake is located in Antrim County in northern Michigan, not far from Traverse City, Michigan.

How to Get to Torch Lake?

By Air: Cherry County Airport in Traverse City (TVC) is just 30 miles south of Torch Lake.

By Car: Grand Rapids – 2.5 hours; Detroit – 4 hours; Marquette- 4.5 hours

torch lake sand bar

The Torch Lake Sand Bar

Torch Lake is Michigan’s Carribbean, and not only for the gorgeous water. There’s a festive atmosphere here during the summer months,  espcially at the Torch Lake Sand Bar.  Chances are pretty good that you’ve seen a picture of two of the famous sandbar, a popular destination that attracts locals and tourists alike. This gathering spot comes alive in the warm summer months, especially on holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day. 

Located near the south end of the lake (see our Map), near the Torch River Bridge, the Torch Lake Sand bar is accessible by boat, paddleboard or kayak. Because the sandbar is located several hundred feet from the shoreline, swimming is not recommended.

torch lake kayaks

More About the Torch Lake Sand Bar

The Sand Bar is renowned for its lively social scene, attracting boaters, swimmers, and sun-seekers alike.

Visitors anchor their boats, creating a unique floating party atmosphere. It’s a place to relax, socialize, and make new friends. People often bring portable speakers to play music, creating a festive vibe. The sand bar is busiest during weekends and holidays, so if you prefer a more tranquil experience, consider visiting on weekdays or during off-peak hours.

If you go to the Torch Lake Sandbar, you’ll want to be prepared to spend at least a few hours having sun in the sun. Be sure to bring:

Torch Lake Sand Bar Map

Torch Lake Beaches (Public Access Points)

It you’re planning to visit, please be aware that there are not very many public swimming beaches for its size. It’s important to note that most of the public beaches are not sandy, making them a perfect spot to do some Michigan rock hunting. However it’s definitely worth packing a cooler and spending the day at one of these pretty beaches.

Torch Lake Township Day Park
12201 Pub Dock Road, Kewadin, MI 4964

Also known as William Good Day Park, this small beach along the northwest end of the lake offers 75 feet of shoreline on three acres of park. There are only 52 parking spaces, so get here early on the weekends as it fills up fast. In addition to the beach, you’ll find two covered pavilions, a bathroom and picnic tables. 

 Parking is $10 a day for non-residents.

Forest Home Township Park
49615, Bellaire, MI 49615

Also known as Family Day Park, you’ll find picnic tables, grills, a parking area and stairs down to the lake. It has a walk-in boat launch for small boats such as kayaks and canoes. Please note that this is not a sandy beach, and you’ll need beach shoes as it is rocky.

Archie Valleau Landing in Alden MI

Alden, Michigan, located on the east shore of Torch Lake is home to a small sand beach perfect for a swimming and splashing.

map of torch lake swimming beaches

Boating on Torch Lake: Boat Launch Sites

It’s one thing to enjoy the lake from the shore, but it’s even better by boat. There are many ways to get on the water, including these five boat access points. Remember to check local regulations and fees associated with each boat launch before planning your trip. You’ll even find some acess points from Elk Rapids and surrounding bodies of water. 

Torch Lake Public Boat Launch

Located on the southeast side of the lake, this public boat launch offers convenient access to the lake’s pristine waters. It provides ample parking space and is a popular choice for boaters.

Clam River Boat Launch

Situated at the mouth of the Clam River, this boat launch provides easy accessl It’s a great option for those looking to explore the river and its scenic surroundings.

Torch River State Forest Campground Boat Launch

 Located near the Torch River State Forest Campground, this boat launch is a popular choice for campers and visitors alike. Launch your boat here and enjoy a day of boating on Torch Lake.

Brownwood Acres Boat Launch

Situated near the southern end of of the lake this boat launch is a convenient option for boaters looking to explore the lower part of the lake. It offers easy access and is often less crowded than other launch sites.

Torch Lake Marine Boat Launch

 Located near the Marine dealership, this boat launch provides convenient access to the lake. It’s a well-maintained launch site with parking available for boaters.

torch lake boat launches

Torch Lake Boat Rentals

If you don’t have your own boat, there are many power boat rentals available. You can also rent kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis and SeaDoo’s. You can even rent Fly Board’s and Hoverboards.

Here are 15 boat rentals, some of them, like Clear Water Kayaks, will deliver directly to a publicly accessible boat launch of your choice.

Clear Water Kayaks
6784 E Traverse Hwy, Traverse City, MI 49684
(231) 632-6583

Torch Lake Rentals
12906 Cherry Ave, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 322-4495

Torch Lake Tiki
Crystal Beach Rd NW, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 322-3070

Torch Lake Pontoon Boat Rentals
(231) 633-0149

Butch’s Tackle & Marine at Torch Lake
6235 Crystal Springs Rd, Bellaire, MI 49615
(231) 377-6787

M & K Marine
7381 Rapid City Rd NW, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 620-8783

Luhrs Landing Boat Rentals
13707 W Torch River Rd, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 322-2868

Vacation Water Sports/ Jet Ski and Pontoon Rentals
9170 Helena Rd, Bellaire, MI 49615
(231) 350-8745

Sunny Daze Jet Ski Rentals LLC
Torch Lake Sandbar, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 633-4090

Dockside Water Sports
6326 Old Torch Lake Dr, Bellaire, MI 49615
(231) 377-7777

Torch River Shack | Food & Pontoon Rentals
7711 Crystal Beach Rd NW, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 322-4000

Boat Torch, LLC
6132 Crystal Beach Rd NW, Rapid City, MI 49676
(231) 753-6139

Northaire Resort and Pontoon Rentals
204 W Cayuga St, Bellaire, MI 49615
(231) 377-7764

Grand Valley Marine
11988 SE Torch Lake Dr, Alden, MI 49612
(231) 331-6242

torch lake in michigan

Best Things to Do Near Torch Lake

This idyllic destination has more to offer beyond its pristine shores, and its prime location makes it close to many other top Michigan tourist attractions and travel destinations. Here are some of our favorite things to do when visiting Torch Lake!

Visit Bellaire MI

Located just a stone’s throw away from Torch Lake, Bellaire is a charming village known for its vibrant downtown and breathtaking scenery. Here are a few highlights:

Short’s Brewing Company, 121 N Bridge St, Bellaire, MI 49615

No visit to Bellaire is complete without experiencing the award-winning craft brews of Short’s Brewing Company. Sample their diverse selection of handcrafted beers like the Bellaire Brown or the Irish Red, and enjoy the lively atmosphere of this fun local pub. There’s good food here, too: fresh-baked pretzels, amazing mac and cheese, pizza and some amazing sandwiches. Don’t miss it.  

Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area, 1688-1892 E Cairn Hwy, Bellaire, MI 49615

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll be delighted by the Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area. Spanning over 30 miles, this network of trails offers stunning views of the rolling hills, forests, and sparkling lakes. You can hike or bike these beautiful trails. Don’t have your bike handy? That’s okay, Paddles and Peddles in Bellaire rents mountain bikes and more.

Explore Elk Rapids

Situated along the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay, Elk Rapids is a charming waterfront town offering a lot of small-town charm. Here are a couple of must-see attractions:

Elk Rapids Beach, 305 US-31, Elk Rapids, MI 49629

Unwind and soak up the sun at the beautiful Elk Rapids Beach. With its sandy shoreline and pristine waters, it’s the perfect spot for swimming, picnicking, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll. The Elk Rapids Beach also has a beach mat for wheelchairs and provides great ADA accessibility to the water.

Historic Elk Rapids Town Hall, 315 Bridge St, Elk Rapids, MI 49629

Listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Sites, this iconic landmark also serves as a community gathering space. Admire the unique architecture of this historic gem built in 1883 and learn about the town’s rich history.

Shop Downtown Elk Rapids

This charming downtown area is much fun, and the kids will like it too. It’s very walkable and you’ll find cute boutiques, toy shops, cafes and much more. Don’t miss the Flower Pot Bakery and Coffee shop for a cookie and a tasty cup of Joe.

Tour Twisted Fish, 10443 S Bay Shore Dr, Elk Rapids, MI 49629

The Twisted Fish Art Gallery, voted “Best Fine Art Gallery,” is a unique gallery and sculpture garden you’ll want to visit. They offer a wide range of art and gifts for the casual shopper to the serious collector.  

Check Out Central Lake MI

Nestled on the shores of Intermediate Lake, Central Lake is a peaceful village offering a serene escape that takes you back in time. Here are a couple of attractions worth exploring:

Intermediate Lake, 8280 S Main St, Central Lake, MI 49622

Spend a day on the water at Intermediate Lake. Rent a kayak, go fishing, or simply relax on the sandy beach. The lake is an ideal spot for outdoor enthusiasts seeking tranquility.

Mammoth Distilling, 2407 Main St, Central Lake, MI 49622

This is one of northern Michigan’s top distilleries

Fudgees, 2420 Main St, Central Lake, MI 49622

This is the place to go for some homemade fudge and Moomer’s Ice Cream.

Torch Lake Cellars, 10997 E Torch Lake Dr, Central Lake, MI 49622,

You’ll want to d osome wine tastings so you can discover the flavors of northern Michigan here. Sample their handcrafted wines and enjoy the panoramic views of Torch Lake, too.

Hit the Links at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort, 627 Ag A Ming Dr, Kewadin, MI 49648

Situated on the scenic shores of Torch Lake, A-Ga-Ming is a golfer’s paradise with stunning views of Torch lake.

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