Beaches & Islands - 16 min read

20 Best Clear Water Beaches in Michigan (That Allow Camping & Pets)

Margaret Carter

Margaret Carter, Updated November 2, 2022

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Michigan is a wonderful place to explore if you’re looking for beautiful beaches along the Great Lakes. There are dozens of State Parks that have long stretches of sandy access to Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior.

Even better, many of these state parks are pet friendly and have lovely campsites, so you can easily turn your day trip to the beach into a week-long excursion full of sun and fun. 

Below, you’ll find the 20 best clear water beaches in Michigan, including which ones are pet friendly and which ones offer fantastic photography opportunities.

Don’t forget to check the water conditions before heading out and follow the beach flag warnings. If you plan to head to these places often, consider getting a Michigan Recreation Passport, found here, to save money on entry at most of the beaches. 

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes Beach

Credit: Moriah Bender / Unsplash

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park offers everything from sandy beaches to crystal clear water, with bluffs that tower hundreds of feet above the surface of Lake Michigan.

It’s a fantastic area to explore during the day, and many campsites are available if you’d like to stay for a few nights. Before you go, be sure to check the weather conditions and prepare for riptides.

You’ll also need permits for certain activities like fishing, boating, and backcountry hiking. While pets are welcome for most of the year, you’ll find that they are not permitted from April 15th through August 15th due to the need to protect breeding piping plovers. 

Address: 9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630
Phone Number: (232) 326-4700
Website: https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm
Things to Know: Entry fee – $25 per vehicle, $20 per motorcycle, $15 per pedestrian/bicyclist
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

2. P.J. Hoffmaster State Park Beach

Credit: Adam Bouse / Unsplash

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park is located along the east side of Lake Michigan and offers three entire miles of lakeside beachfront fun. There’s fishing, cross-country skiing, hiking, metal detecting, snowshoeing, and swimming allowed in the park.

It’s also very pet-friendly. On the beach, you’ll find two beach houses with showering facilities near the sand, an observation platform to view the dunes, several picnic shelters, and campsites. 

If you plan to get in the water, pay careful attention to the flags on display. The Great Lakes are well known for being incredibly powerful bodies of water, and even the best swimmers can struggle. If you see a red flag, have all the fun on the sand and stay out of the water. 

Address: 6585 Lake Harbor Rd, Norton Shores, MI 49441
Phone Number: (231) 798-3711
Website: https://www2.dnr.state.mi.us/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=457
Things to Know: Parking fee – $11
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

3. Twelvemile Beach

Credit: Tony L / Unsplash

Twelvemile Beach is a rocky shoreline in Northern Michigan on the southern stretch of Lake Superior. As part of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park, it’s well known for being a great place to hunt for rock specimens that have been worn down and polished over the years.

The water is so clear that you can see these stones glistening from the bottom in the shallows. One of the best things about Twelvemile is that it’s rarely crowded and is perfect for long walks on the beach with family or friends.

There’s also a campground that sits along a high bluff for amazing waterfront views. It’s pretty chilly year-round, so pack appropriately for the temperature!

Address: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Grand Marais, MI 49839
Phone Number: (877) 444-6777
Website: https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/camping.htm
Things to Know: Seven day pass – $10 per vehicle/motorcycle, $5 per pedestrian/bicyclist (increasing in 2023)
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Related Read: 20 Top Treehouse Rentals in Michigan

4. Warren Dunes State Park Beach

Credit: Pure Michigan

Warren Dunes State Park rests close to the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan. It’s a beautiful 1,952-acre park with miles of sandy beachfront trails and highly rated campgrounds.

Unlike other beaches and parks near Lake Michigan, pets are not welcome on the sand, though you can have them on a leash along the wood-lined trails. 

During the summer, you’ll find lots of food trucks to choose from between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as well as beach facilities and a gift shop. As for campsites, there are 222 to choose from, and they’re all within walking distance of the beach. 

Address: 12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer, MI 49125
Phone Number: (296) 426-4013
Website: http://www.shorelinevisitorsguide.com/select-michigan-state-park-maps-and-guides/warren-dunes-state-park/
Things to Know: Entry fee – $9 for non-residents
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

5. Tawas Point Beach

Credit: Tyler B / Unsplash

Tawas Point State Park is the perfect beach getaway on Lake Huron. Not only is the water crystal clear and beautiful, but it also has a dog-friendly park for the pups to play in the water.

You’ll even find a beautiful lighthouse, ample campgrounds, and tons of hiking trails. The shoreline is less sand-like and more grassland, which makes for gorgeous photographs and wildlife. 

Locals like to call this the Midwest Cape Cod, as it has that picturesque feel to it. It’s only 183 acres, but it’s very well planned out with easy access to bird watching and easy hiking trails.

The lighthouse is open for tours during the summer and early fall five days a week, but be sure to call ahead and check the schedule! 

Address: 686 Tawas Beach Rd, East Tawas, MI 48730
Phone Number: (989) 362-5041
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/tawas-point-state-park
Things to Know: Entry fee – $6 per vehicle
Google Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

6. Saugatuck Dunes Beach

Credit: Cam Brennan / Unsplash

With 2.5 miles of sandy shoreline, 850 acres of land, 13 miles of trails, and some of the most impressive dunes on Lake Michigan, Saugatuck Dunes is the perfect place to see crystalline water while having some beachy fun.

The Outer Loop Beach Trail is a 2.2-mile moderate trek that will take you right through the heart of the park and along the water’s edge. Keep in mind that it can be somewhat strenuous climbing over the dunes, but that’s half the fun! 

While camping isn’t available, this is a great place to spend the day. Just be sure to keep your bearings going to and from the beach. Many of the trail signs have worn down over time. 

Address: 6575 138th Ave, Holland, MI 49423
Phone Number: (269) 673-2788
Website: https://www2.dnr.state.mi.us/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=491
Things to Know: Entry fee – $11 for MI residents, $31 for non-residents
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

7. Cheboygan State Park Beach

Credit: Jason Brower / Unsplash

Cheboygan State Park is a massive 1200+ acre preserve with beautiful rocky beaches on the shores of Lake Huron. You’ll find ample hiking trails along the water’s edge and over 77 campsites near the lake to choose from if you’d like to stay the night.

Even better, they offer cabin rentals with beachside firepits near the Lighthouse for a picturesque getaway. Please keep in mind that pets are not allowed on the beaches and must remain on a six-foot leash throughout the park.

That said, there is plenty of space to romp through the woods with your furry friend. You’ll also find boat ramps and boardwalks in the park. 

Address: 4490 Beach Rd, Cheboygan, MI 49721
Phone Number: (231) 627-2811
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/cheboygan-state-park
Things to Know: Michigan Recreation Passport required for admission
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Related Read: 20 Best Romantic Getaways in Michigan

8. Grand Haven Beach

Credit: Visit Grand Haven

Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven is one of the top beach parks in the state. You’ll find sandy beaches, beautiful water, a fishing pier, and a dog-friendly beach area in this 48-acre park.

Keep in mind that dogs are only allowed before 11 am and after 5 pm during the summer months, per signage along the beach. While this is frustrating for some, it allows the beach to remain both dog and human-friendly during peak usage times. 

The Lighthouse at the end of the pier was first lit in 1905 and is still active to this day. It’s the perfect place for a long stroll along the water with Instagram-worthy backdrops, any time of year. 

Address: 1149 S Harbor Dr, Grand Haven, MI 49417
Phone Number: (616) 842-3210
Website: https://visitgrandhaven.com/listing/grand-haven-city-beach/
Things to Know: Entry fee – $9
Yelp Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

9. Pere Marquette State Park Beach

Credit: John Bridgewater / Unsplash

With 2.5 miles of beachfront, Pere Marquette State Park is an excellent choice for those who want to get out in the sun and play in the waters of Lake Michigan.

It’s located on the east side near Muskegon Lake, and the white sandy beaches are a huge draw. During the summer, the beaches are pretty crowded, but there are rocky outcrops with boardwalks that are perfect for sitting along the water’s edge without the crowds. 

Nearby, you’ll find two beautiful lighthouses that have been perfectly weathered over the years, and if you time it just right, you can catch phenomenal photographs of the sun setting behind them. There are also volleyball courts and beach houses accessible by the public. 

Address: 3510 Channel Dr, Muskegon, MI 49441
Phone Number: (231) 724-4100
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/pere-marquette-park
Things to Know: Free entry
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

10. Belle Isle Beach

Credit: Walter Martin / Unsplash

Belle Isle is a beautiful beach in Detroit near the Canadian border on Lake St. Clair. It’s part of Belle Isle Park, a 982-acre island oasis within the major city.

It’s dog friendly, has tons of activities for the kids, and is open from dawn until dusk seven days a week. This is the perfect place to take your kayak, inner tube, or beach chair and relax the day away.

You’ll be able to see the Detroit skyline, too, which is pretty neat! Even better, you’ll find an aquarium, conservatory, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain on the island.

Address: 2 Inselruhe Ave, Detroit, MI 48207
Phone Number: (313) 821-9844
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/belle-isle-park
Things to Know: Day pass fee – $6
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

11. Platte River Point Beach

Credit: John Schaidler / Unsplash

One of the most stunning beaches in Michigan, Platte River Point, is serene and peaceful. The water is shallow enough along several points that you can easily walk from the beach to the sandbar without getting soaking wet.

This makes it perfect for young kids, dogs, and even adults who want the glorious feeling of sand between their toes without waves crashing overhead. 

If you don’t mind crowds, this is a great place to spend the day, but it truly shines in the early morning during sunrise and in the evening during sunset. You’ll also find it’s a great place to kayak! 

Address: Lake Michigan Rd, Honor, MI 49640
Phone Number: (231) 326-4700
Website: https://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/plattept.htm
Things to Know: Entry fee – $25 per vehicle, $20 per motorcycle, $15 per pedestrian/bicyclist
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

12. Silver Lake Beach

Credit: Amber Kipp / Unsplash

Unlike most of the beaches on this list, Silver Lake Beach has two sides, one on Lake Michigan and the other on Silver Lake. The vast beach between the two is stunning, and the waters on either side are as beautiful as they are different.

While this isn’t the best place to bring a pup, it’s great for kids and families. Since it’s such a great place, it can be pretty crowded midday. It’s best to go in the morning or evening if you prefer your beaches to be sparsely populated.

That said, even when there are many people, there is plenty of room for everyone to hang out. Near the beach, you’ll find sand dunes, an off-road vehicle park, a campground, and a playground. 

Address: 8448 W Hazel Rd, Mears, MI 49436
Phone Number: (231) 873-3083
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/silver-lake-state-park
Things to Know: Entry fee – $4 per adult, $2 per child 6-11, free under 6
Google Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Related Read: 20 Best Waterfalls in Michigan

13. Elberta & Frankfort Beach

Credit: David Solce / Unsplash

Nestled between Betsie Lake and Lake Michigan, Elberta & Frankfort Beach are just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes. It’s quite a bit more secluded than the other beaches on our list, making it less crowded.

The sand and water are gorgeous, and it’s an excellent choice if you want a beach off the beaten path. The parking lot rests at the top of a bluff. 

From there, you have a perfect view to watch the sunset over the water with a lighthouse in the vista. This beach is undeveloped but does have two access points for boats. 

Address: Bye Rd, Elberta, MI 49628
Phone Number: (231) 352-7201
Website: http://villageofelberta.com/parks-and-recreation-plank-fundraiser/
Things to Know: Free entry
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

14. Stearns Park Beach

Credit: Bobby Taylor / Facebook

Stearns Park Beach is part of Ludington, a family-friendly town with a lot to offer for a fun day of sand-play in the sun. You’ll find a lovely beach on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan, along with several picnic areas, food vendors, a lighthouse, a skate park, and a playground. 

During the summer, you can tour the North Breakwater Light, ranked the number one lighthouse in Michigan and the top ten in the United States. If it’s closed due to the season, it’s still a lovely mile-long walk along the break and is excellent for fishing. 

Address: 420 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
Phone Number: (231) 845-6237
Website: http://www.visitludington.com/stories/stearns_park_beach_on_lake_michigan_in_ludington
Things to Know: Free entry
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

15. Lakeside Beach and Park

Credit: City of Port Huron

Located near Port Huron, Lakeside Beach and Park is a beautiful area with pristine sands on the southernmost tip of Lake Huron. While pets are not allowed on the beach, they are allowed in the rest of the park so long as they’re on a leash. 

There are bathrooms, pavilions, picnic tables, a volleyball court, several grills, and a splash pad open daily from 11 am to 7 pm. You’ll also find eats and treats at Kate’s Kabana Thursday through Sunday. 

The splash pad is nice and has ample shade for parents while the kids play. The park itself also has many grassy areas with tree coverage to get out of the sun for a bit and take a break. 

Address: 3870 Gratiot Ave, Port Huron, MI 48060
Phone Number: (810) 984-9760
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/lakeside-beach-and-park
Things to Know: Entry fee – $5 per car for residents, $20 for non-residents
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

16. Mackinac Island Beach

Credit: Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is a state park at the uppermost point of Lake Huron near the border of Lake Michigan. It has beautiful beaches and rocky outcrops reminiscent of the late 1800s.

In fact, most vehicles are not allowed on the island, so be prepared to traverse by foot, horse, or bicycle once you’ve taken the ferry over. 

You’ll find many resort-like accommodations that must be booked well in advance since this is such a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, with many festivals held yearly. That said, they do a phenomenal job of keeping it less crowded than the average beach. 

Address: 7274 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Phone Number: (906) 847-3783
Website: https://www.mackinacisland.org
Things to Know: Accessible by ferry only
Google Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

17. Oval Beach

Credit: kopper / Flickr


Oval Beach is part of the Saugatuck Harbor National Area and is an incredibly popular beach destination for the locals.
Unseen by the masses, there is a private beach at the northernmost part where the owners charge $5 for entry and allow clothing optional sunbathing, so long as it takes place along the dunes. 

That said, there’s no need to worry your children might see something they shouldn’t while playing on Oval Beach! Keep in mind that neither dogs nor alcohol are allowed on the sand. This is a very family-friendly area. You’ll find beach chairs and umbrella rentals on-site. 

Address: 690 Perryman St, Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone Number: (296) 857-2603
Website: https://saugatuck.com/business-listings/oval-beach/
Things to Know: Parking fee – $10
Google Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Related Read: 26 BEST Restaurants in Grand Rapids

18. Tiscornia Beach

Credit: Pure Michigan

If you’re looking for a calm and serene lakeside beach, Tiscornia offers that and more. It’s located in St. Joseph and has a gorgeous lighthouse and picnic pavilion with sandy dunes and crystalline waters.

There are over 16 acres of land to explore, and the water is shallow enough to provide fun for kids pretty far out. It’s also an excellent place to go kayaking or boating, as the launch pad has ample room for getting in and out of the water.

Remember that the waters can be very turbulent at certain times of the year, especially if there is a storm on the way. Keep an eye on the weather if you plan to play on the beach or get in the water.

Address: 80 Ridgeway St, St. Joseph, MI 49085
Phone Number: (269) 983-5541
Website: https://www.michigan.org/property/tiscornia-park-st-joseph
Things to Know: Parking fee – $5
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

19. Haserot Beach

Credit: National Parks Foundation

Located on a peninsula along the northeast corner of Lake Michigan, Haserot Beach is part of Peninsula Township. While there aren’t many beach amenities, its eastern-facing sand reduces riptides and offers a haven for playing in the sand and sun.

The water is also gorgeous any time of year. It’s a local favorite for day trips, with ample shade and plenty of shoreline. 

With its proximity to Traverse Beach, it’s often not crowded due to the lack of facilities. While this may dissuade some, it might be exactly what you’re looking for if you’re tired of the overcrowded areas nearby! 

Address: Old Mission Road/Swaney Road, Traverse City, MI 49686
Phone Number: (231) 223-7322
Website: https://www.traversecity.com/listings/haserot-beach-park/1757/amp/
Things to Know: Free entry – No restroom facilities on site
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

20. Laketown Beach

Credit: Kirsten / Flickr

Located in Holland State Park, Laketown Beach is a small stretch of sandy water with amazing views. It’s sparsely populated and rarely traversed, making it the perfect little getaway for a secluded beach trip.

Unlike many other beaches, this one is a bit of a walk from the car but entirely worth it. During the spring and summer, it’s surrounded by greenery.

The dunes are covered in grass, and there is a well-maintained pathway that will take you straight to the sand, though please be aware there are about 180 steps after a steep incline. 

Address: 6710 142nd Ave, Holland, MI 49423
Phone Number: (616) 335-3050
Website: https://www.holland.org/outdoor-recreation/beaches/laketown-beach
Things to Know: Free entry
TripAdvisor Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

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