Michigan’s thousands of inland lakes are often overlooked in favor of the massive Great Lakes surrounding the state. And while the Lakes are fine and good in their own right, retreating to one of these lesser-known destinations is how you can escape the summer crowds at the busier beaches. If you're looking to spend a day on the sand or a lazy afternoon on a boat, these are some of the best places for the perfect, relaxing beach day in relative solitude.
Huron River chain of lakes
Hamburg & other locations
This eight-mile connection has nine lakes: Big Portage, Little Portage, Baseline, Zukey, Strawberry, Whitewood, Gallagher, Ore, and Tamarack. Running from Washtenaw County to Livingston County, the lakes are connected by canals; if you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a kayak and make your way through all of them in one day. Otherwise, post up on the banks of Strawberry Lake or dock your boat at Zukey Lake Tavern and enjoy lunch on the lakefront.
Spanning Washtenaw County and Livingston county, this 11,000-acre park has more than a few lakes to choose from on its preserve. For a secluded spot, visit Pickerel Lake. It was once considered an unofficial nude beach, though skinny dipping these days should be done at your own risk. Still, with no motors allowed on the lake and a sandy bottom in a natural setting free of buildings, this isolated spot could be your own personal Walden. If you want to take your boat out for a spin and skip the swimming, head out to Crooked Lake, a swimming-free zone.
The Irish Hills is a quaint getaway divided between Jackson County and Lenawee County. Nicknamed for the Irish immigrants who settled there, the area incorporates several towns including Brooklyn, Napoleon, and Onsted. With more than 50 lakes within a 15 mile radius, this is a prime swimming and boating destination. Check out the serene waters of Wampler’s Lake in Hayes State Park or head to Jackson to visit Vineyard Lake. If swimming and fishing aren’t your thing, there are bike lanes and camping grounds in the area so you can enjoy the lush scenery of the hills.
While it’s owned by the city of Dearborn, this camp is actually located in the city of Milford. The 626-acre park has several ponds and lakes, including a half-mile swimming beach. Spend the weekend camping, play a game of golf, rent a paddle boat, or do some fishing. This is a great place to host a weekend with friends or to throw that end-of-summer party.
OK, OK, we know we said no Great Lakes, but this Lake Huron enclave just an hour from Detroit isn't the overrun landmark you'd think it is. Lying along the southern end of Lake Huron, there are a couple of public spots, but with sandy beaches perfect for playing volleyball, Lakeside Beach is an idyllic spot for sunbathing and swimming. Lighthouse Beach nearby is for the swimmers looking to get in a workout. But be careful: the current is strong here and no lifeguard is on duty.
This isn’t technically a beach but it’s definitely worth your time. Tucked away in northern Michigan’s Presque Isle County, Ocqueoc Falls is the only publicly owned waterfall in the lower peninsula. This is a little bit of a hike from Detroit, so pack the cooler with a picnic lunch and load up your playlist with road trip tunes. The best part? You can step right into the rapids. Pick up a waterproof phone case so you can snap some selfies of you standing in the falls.
At the northern tip of the state is the 303-acre Petoskey State Park, named after the state stone. There is a mile-long sand beach along Little Traverse Bay. This is a fantastic place for a beach weekend; spend the day on the water and check out the nightlife in Harbor Springs or Petoskey.
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