Travel and Leisure

10 Outstanding Great Lakes Beaches to Get Sand in Your Pants

Play on one of these Great Lakes beaches


This summer, the sun is shining and the beaches are calling. Why not head inland and check out some of America’s best freshwater beaches? Only one Great Lake can claim to be home to the world’s most beautiful beach—which one? Well, that’s for you to decide! Here are our picks for the top 10 beaches around all five Great Lakes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Located in Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a coastal national park that’s home to the highest sand dune on the Great Lakes. The park covers over 31 miles of shoreline and encompasses 20 inland lakes, 15 miles of Lake Michigan coast, 4 rivers, and several islands.

While you could spend days exploring this beautiful area with its stunning views and plentiful wildlife, there are some things you should know before heading out:

  • If you’re planning on camping at one of their campgrounds, don’t forget your permit! You can get them from any ranger station or visitor center in advance (or purchase them after hours). Permits are limited to two per night so plan ahead!
  • Pets aren’t allowed on any trails except those designated as pet-friendly by signs at each trailhead. They may be friendly with other hikers but they aren’t allowed inside buildings or parking lots—so if you want all four paws on deck come prepared!

Cliffs of Black Rocks County Park, Marquette

  • Cliffs of Black Rocks County Park, Marquette

One of the best things about the Great Lakes is that they’re full of surprises. You might think you know what to expect from a beach on Lake Michigan—a little sand, some water, and maybe some rocks were thrown in for good measure. But if that’s what you want, go ahead and head to South Haven or Holland instead. If you want something truly unique? Head to Cliffs of Black Rocks County Park in Marquette, where the cliffs above Lake Superior offer an unparalleled view of the lake while providing plenty of opportunities for swimming and sunbathing.

  • When to visit: May through October; open daily 9 am-9 pm; admission fee (optional)

Grand Marais Beach, Grand Marais

Grand Marais Beach is a beautiful and serene beach located in Grand Marais, Minnesota. The Lake Superior shoreline is composed of rocky cliffs that have been smoothed by the waves, creating an ideal habitat for many species of birds. The lake itself provides excellent fishing opportunities as well, with walleye being the most popular species to catch here.

The sand at this beach is very soft and fine-grained. It’s perfect for sunbathing or relaxing on while you watch the waves crash ashore! It’s also great for swimming; if you’re feeling adventurous, there are some small caves to explore along the waterline that can provide some thrills (if you aren’t too scared).

Fishing off the shore or from a boat makes up another activity option here—check out our guide on how to fish in freshwater lakes before heading out onto Lake Superior!

Albert E. Sleeper State Park

Albert E. Sleeper State Park, in northwest Wisconsin, is a great place to enjoy the lake. The park has 1,200 acres of sand dunes and sandy beaches on Lake Superior and is known for its excellent fishing. Visitors can enjoy biking and hiking trails that lead to beautiful vistas on both land and water. There are also campgrounds with electrical hookups as well as yurts available for rent during the summer months at Albert E. Sleeper State Park. Located south of Bayfield County Road G (Lake Superior Shore), this beach is easily accessible by car or bike from Duluth via Minnesota Highway 61; just look for signs marking “beach access” along the road! Once you arrive at Albert E. Sleeper State Park, here’s what you’ll find:

  • A large horseshoe-shaped sand beach perfect for swimming! Hike down some stairs into waist-deep water where you can wade around in search of seashells or float lazily on your back while looking up at cloudless blue skies above (depending on weather conditions).
  • Picnic tables under shade trees beside an off-leash dog exercise area (dogs must remain leashed elsewhere within park boundaries). As with all beaches listed here today, there are no lifeguards present so it’s important that everyone stays safe by staying within their own designated area (and no glass containers allowed!).

Bay City State Park

Bay City State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Michigan, located on the shore of Lake Huron. It is located on the south side of the city of Bay City, Michigan.

The park features beach access, hiking trails, and picnic areas as well as opportunities for wildlife viewing including eagles and herons. The park also has a nature center with exhibits about local wildlife.

People Sturgeon Bay Beach – Carp Lake

Carp Lake is a small lake located in the town of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The lake is located within the city limits of Sturgeon Bay. Carp Lake has become a popular destination for boaters and anglers alike. The beach on this body of water is easy to find and offers great swimming, fishing, sailing, and canoeing opportunities.

People will enjoy swimming here as its waters are clear, clean, and shallow making it perfect for children or those who just want to cool off on a hot summer day!

Great Sand Bay – Eagle River

Great Sand Bay is a great place to go camping in the summer, but also in the winter.

During the summer, Great Sand Bay hosts a beach where you can swim and sunbathe. It’s also a great place for campfires and cookouts! There are paths that lead through pine forests to sandy beaches with rocky outcroppings. The water is usually calm enough for swimming here, but keep an eye on your kids as currents can be dangerous near rocks or sand bars.

For those who want something more adventurous than swimming or sunbathing onshore, kayak tours are available from nearby Eagle River at Paul Bunyan Canoe Outfitters (715-479-1817). Tours include transportation from town by bus or van depending on group size; paddling across Great Sand Bay with stops along the way if desired; lunch at Lakefront Restaurant & Bar (which offers delicious views of Lake Superior); hiking up Mount Anderson before returning to town via bus or van depending on group size

Hoffmaster State Park Beach

Hoffmaster State Park is a Michigan state park located in the Manistee National Forest on Lake Michigan, between the cities of Traverse City and Ludington. The park offers camping, fishing, swimming, and hiking.

Hoffmaster State Park is known for its sandy beaches which are popular with sun worshipers. Visitors come from all around to enjoy a day at the beach or an afternoon of swimming with their family members or friends.

Oscoda Beach Park — Oscoda

Oscoda is a small town in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, which are frequented by visitors from all over the country. One such beach is Oscoda Beach Park, located just south of town on Lake Huron.

This little stretch of sand isn’t technically a public beach—you have to pay for access—but it’s still relatively cheap at $5 per person per day (or free with an annual pass). The park has picnic tables and grills, but no lifeguards or restrooms—so bring sunscreen and bug spray! You might find yourself taking selfies with deer who wander through during your visit; if you don’t have your own wildlife camera handy, there are plenty available for rent at the gatehouse.

Silver Beach County Park – St. Joseph

Located in St. Joseph, this beach is a great place for all sorts of fun in the sun. The sand is soft and natural, making it a fantastic spot for families with children. If you’re looking to get some sand between your toes, but don’t want to travel far from home, then Silver Beach County Park may be just what you’re looking for!

  • Location: St. Joseph, MI
  • Description: Sand and more sand! With very little rocks or debris on the beach itself (the lake seems to naturally move things away), it’s easy to walk around barefoot here without worrying about stubbing your toes on something sharp or unsafe.
  • Amenities: Restrooms and showers are available at several points along the shoreline as well as picnic tables where families can sit down after swimming in Lake Michigan or biking along with one of several trails within Silver Beach County Park.
  • Dog friendly?: Yes; dogs must be leashed at all times when outside designated off-leash areas (check park map).


We hope you’ll enjoy exploring these beaches and finding a few new favorite spots for your next Great Lakes getaway! If you are flying Delta Airlines into Detroit, you are only minutes away from a beach.

Paul Austin

This Michigan author has posted about the Great Lakes and Michigan for over ten years. He has been published in magazines and online print. When he is not writing, he can be found on the beach looking for Petoskey stones. You can find him at

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