Beach camping

Best Beach Camping in Michigan

The Upper Great Lake’s vast coastlines and breathtaking natural landscapes make it an unmatched destination for beach camping in Michigan. With its unique position surrounded by the Great Lakes, Michigan offers a wealth of beach vacation spots, from the rustic sites along the Lake Superior shoreline to the modern campgrounds dotting Lake Michigan. Whether you’re seeking a quiet getaway or an action-packed adventure, the state’s diverse range of camping sites ensures there’s something for everyone.

Why Choose Michigan for Beach Camping?

Affectionately known as the Great Lakes State, Michigan is surrounded by miles of shoreline, offering scenic beach access from nearly any point. Campers can enjoy the soft sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, and clear waters ideal for a variety of water sports. From the tranquil shores of the Upper Peninsula to the vibrant scenes of West Michigan, each area presents an opportunity to watch a serene sunrise or a stunning sunset over the water, making it a great place for nature lovers and photographers alike.

Top Beach Camping Sites in Michigan

Beach camping in michigan

Lake Michigan Campsites

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Nestled along miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, this park boasts pristine sandy beaches, towering dunes, and clear blue waters. The D.H. Day Campground is a large campground offering rustic sites with fire rings and picnic tables, just a short walk from the beach. It’s an excellent spot for families, providing ample space and direct access to the dunes for a great trail experience.

Warren dunes state park
Warren Dunes State Park – Archived photos of Michigan State Parks.

Warren Dunes State Park This park features over three miles of shoreline and wooded dunes that stand nearly 260 feet above the lake. The modern campground here is well-equipped with a camp store, modern beach house, and a designated swim beach. It’s a perfect setting for both a relaxing weekend and engaging in activities like hiking or playing of taps during Memorial Day ceremonies.

Muskegon County – Pioneer County Park Pioneer County Park is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan and features over 2,000 feet of sandy beachfront. This park offers 235 modern campsites with facilities like electric hook-ups, modern restrooms, and hot showers. The beach area is equipped with picnic tables and fire pits, making it ideal for a beachside picnic or evening bonfires. It’s a great spot for families looking for a beach vacation with amenities like playgrounds and a designated swim area.

Grand Traverse County – Twin Lakes County Park – Twin Lakes County Park is another gem for beach campers, offering access to both North Twin Lake and South Twin Lake. This park features a sandy beach, picnic area, and camp store, along with rustic and modern campsites. It’s particularly popular among families and groups looking for recreational activities such as volleyball, fishing, and boating.

Mason County – Buttersville Park – Buttersville Park is located on the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan in the town of Ludington. This small, rustic campground provides a more secluded atmosphere, perfect for those looking to escape the busier sites. The beach is just a short walk from the campsites, and there are plenty of opportunities for beachcombing, sunset watching, and relaxing by the water.

Lake Huron Campsites

Tawas point state park
Tawas Point State Park & Light Keepers

Tawas Point State Park, Known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” this park offers a beautiful campground with easy access to a sandy beach and a nature trail. The park is a great place for bird-watching and also includes a historic lighthouse that’s open for tours. The modern campground features amenities such as vault toilets and picnic areas.

Hoeft State Park Just a short drive from the quaint town of Rogers City, Hoeft State Park offers a quieter, more secluded camping experience. The park’s rustic campground is just a short walk from a mile of pristine shoreline, providing campers with both privacy and beautiful beach access.

Alpena County – Long Lake County Park Located in northeastern Michigan, Long Lake County Park offers camping directly on Long Lake, which is a short drive from Lake Huron. This campground is more rustic and smaller, providing a quieter camping experience. It’s perfect for those who enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming, as the park provides boat launch facilities and a sandy beach area.

Benzie County – Veterans Memorial Park – Situated on the shores of Crystal Lake, one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes, Veterans Memorial Park offers a mix of rustic and modern camping experiences. This park is known for its clear, turquoise waters and sandy beach, making it an excellent choice for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. Facilities include picnic areas, a boat launch, and fire rings.

Lake Superior Campsites

Twelvemile Beach Campground Located within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this campground offers stunning views of Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline. Campers can enjoy the sandy beach or explore the rambling boardwalk through the wooded areas. Twelvemile Beach offers rustic sites equipped with vault toilets and fire pits, nestled among scenic vistas.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park For those seeking a blend of adventure and nature, this state park offers both rustic and modern campsites. It’s a great resort alternative with miles of hiking trails, scenic waterfalls, and direct beach access to Lake Superior. The park also features education programs and guided field trips, enhancing the camping experience with professional development opportunities.

Lake Erie Campsites

In Michigan, there are limited options for beach camping directly on Lake Erie, but there are a few places where you can enjoy the lake’s scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. Here are a couple of options:

Sterling state park fall festival
Sterling State Park Fall Festival

Sterling State Park – This is the only state park in Michigan on Lake Erie. Located near Monroe, Sterling State Park offers a variety of recreational activities, including camping, fishing, boating, and bird watching. The park has a large campground with modern facilities, including electric hookups and a sanitation station. It’s also equipped with a sandy beach and picnic areas, making it a great spot for beach camping. The campground is a good base for exploring the lake and enjoying water-related activities.

Private Campgrounds – There are also several private campgrounds and RV parks around the Lake Erie area that offer beach access and camping facilities. These can vary significantly in terms of amenities and the type of camping experience they provide, from rustic to more developed settings.

While Michigan’s Lake Erie shoreline is relatively small compared to its other Great Lakes shorelines, Sterling State Park provides a substantial opportunity to enjoy beach camping along this lesser-known part of Michigan’s waterfront.

What to Bring for Beach Camping

Beach camping

What to Bring for Beach Camping in Michigan

When planning a beach camping trip in Michigan, selecting the right gear is crucial to ensure comfort, convenience, and safety. Below are the essential items you should consider packing for your adventure, including an insight into the rising popularity of camping hammocks as a must-have item for campers.

Essential Gear for Beach Camping

  • Tent: A sturdy tent with a weather-resistant feature is crucial. Look for tents with sand stakes and strong poles that can withstand winds coming off the lakes.
  • Sleeping Bag and Pad: Opt for a sleeping bag suitable for the season. A sleeping pad or an air mattress will provide extra insulation and comfort from the cold and damp sand.
  • Cooking Supplies: A portable stove, cooking utensils, and a lightweight pot or pan are essential for preparing meals. Remember to bring all necessary items for food storage to protect your food items from wildlife and elements.
  • Water Filtration and Containers: Always have more than enough water, and consider a portable water filter if you plan to source water from nearby streams or the lake.
  • Sun Protection: Sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-protective clothing will help protect against sunburn, especially during the sunny days on Michigan’s beaches.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Weather along the Great Lakes can change quickly, so pack layers that include moisture-wicking garments and a waterproof jacket.

The Rise of Camping Hammocks

Camping hammock

Recently, camping hammocks have gained significant popularity among outdoor enthusiasts, particularly beach campers. Here’s why they are becoming a favorite choice:

  • Comfort and Versatility: Camping Hammocks provide a comfortable sleep surface that conforms to your body, reducing pressure points compared to sleeping on the ground. They are perfect for napping and lounging during the day and can be a full-time sleep solution at night.
  • Ease of Setup: Many modern camping hammocks are designed for quick and easy setup, often requiring just a couple of sturdy points (like trees) for attachment. This makes them ideal for areas where traditional tents might be cumbersome to pitch, such as on sandy or rocky ground.
  • Environmental Impact: Hammocks minimize the impact on the ground, especially in sensitive ecosystems found along beaches and lake shores. By suspending above the ground, you avoid compressing soil or damaging undergrowth.
  • Compact and Lightweight: Hammocks are lightweight and pack down small, making them easy to carry for backpackers and beach trekkers alike. They’re perfect for minimalist campers who prefer to pack light without sacrificing comfort.
  • Protection and Shelter: Many hammocks come with mosquito nets and rain covers, providing protection from insects and the elements. This makes them a practical option for Michigan’s diverse weather and bug conditions.

When choosing a hammock, ensure it is made from durable, quick-drying materials and is equipped with a mosquito net and rainfly. For beach areas, where trees might not be abundant, look for hammocks that come with portable stands or invest in a freestanding model.

Adding a camping hammock to your beach camping gear list can enhance your experience by offering a unique way to enjoy Michigan’s natural beauty. Whether perched between two shady trees overlooking Lake Superior or nestled away in a secluded spot near Twelvemile Beach, a hammock can turn a great outdoor adventure into an extraordinary one.

Activities and Attractions Near Michigan’s Beach Campsites

A plethora of activities and attractions surrounds Michigan’s beach campgrounds:

  • Water Sports: Facilities such as boat launch areas, stand-up paddleboards, and designated swim beaches are available at many sites.
  • Hiking and Exploration: Explore local nature trails or visit landmarks like the Grand River or the lighthouses on North Manitou Island.
  • Cultural Events: Enjoy free concerts and local festivals, often held in nearby towns during peak seasons like Labor Day Weekend.

Tips for Beach Camping in Michigan

To make the most of your Michigan beach camping trip, consider these tips:

  • Seasonal Planning: The best times for beach camping are late spring through early fall. Facilities like the Hurricane River Campgrounds or Grand Haven State Park are particularly popular from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
  • Reservations and Fees: Many sites require reservations, especially during peak times. Check the detailed information for each site regarding entrance fees and campsite availability.

Final Thoughts About Beach Camping in Michigan

Beach camping in Michigan offers an incredible opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, with its vast array of scenic sites from Lake Linden to the shores of Lake Michigan. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first-time visitor, Michigan’s beaches provide a memorable backdrop for any camping adventure.

Michael Hardy

Michael is a travel writer and local historian. His work can be found on a number of websites and print publications.

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