With more than 1,600 miles of shoreline touching the states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, Lake Michigan is home to many beautiful sandy beaches. In fact, the region has been nicknamed “The Third Coast” of the United States after the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Several islands as well as inland lakes and rivers near its shores add to the beauty and accessibility of Lake Michigan
Water temperatures are chilly, especially in the northern area, and rarely top 70 degrees, even in summer. Lake Michigan's west coast and northernmost beaches are rocky, while southern and eastern beaches offer some of the largest lake dunes in the world due to prevailing winds from the west
Many Lake Michigan beaches are located in national, state, and county parks with excellent facilities for visitors. Beach towns, lakefront resorts, cabins, campgrounds, historic inns, and hotels provide a wide variety of places to stay. We've rounded up a few of the many Lake Michigan beaches, some of which welcome your furry companions.
Oval Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan
Set along the southeast coast of Lake Michigan near the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area and Kalamazoo River, Oval Beach offers clean white sand, rolling dunes, and natural beauty. Oval Beach is the main beach in the popular town of Saugatuck, where visitors can enjoy restaurants, theater, and shopping after a day at the shore. Restrooms, concession stands, parking, and a picnic area are available. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there's a fee for parking, and for the remainder of the year, entrance is free. There's a strict no dogs, no alcohol policy, and visitors should be aware that the parking lot fills early on summer weekends.
Ludington State Park, Ludington, Michigan
Located midway along Lake Michigan's east coast, Ludington State Park is home to several beaches along its 28 miles of sandy shoreline. The 5,300-acre park includes ponds, sand dunes, marshlands, and forests. Set between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan, the park offers beaches on both lakes as well as the historic Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Stearns Park is the city of Ludington's largest beach, with free parking and free Wi-Fi as well as wheelchair accessible walkways from the parking lot to the water. Buttersville Park is a nearby dog-friendly beach featuring campgrounds, a picnic area, playground, restrooms, and a pavilion.
Indiana Dunes National Park, Porter, Indiana
15 miles of beaches in Indiana Dunes National Park offer a variety of settings for swimming, birding, kite flying, hiking, and exploring. Located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the park includes nearly a dozen beaches, with parking lots featuring a new system of real-time information on space availability that visitors can access on smartphones, tablets, or computers. All beaches and parking lots are open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and offer restrooms and drinking water. At West Beach, there are showers and lifeguards from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Leashed pets are permitted year round except at West Beach during the summer season.
North Avenue Beach, Chicago, Illinois
Located near the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan, Chicago is home to North Avenue Beach, one of the city's most popular beaches for its sandy shore and stunning view of the skyline. Its unique white and blue beach house, resembling a sleek ocean liner, features a restaurant, ice cream cafe, restrooms, and rental facilities for bicycles, kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis, beach chairs, umbrellas, and more. Swimming is permitted only during the beach season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) when lifeguards are on duty from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. in designated areas. Dogs are not permitted, nor is alcohol or smoking. Nearby museums, a zoo, restaurants, tennis courts, volleyball, golf, and sports fields offer plenty to do after a day at the beach.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan
Located on the northeast shore of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a 71,187-acre park, including North and South Manitou Islands, featuring forests, dunes, bluffs, lakes, and beaches. The dunes are a prominent feature of the national lakeshore, and they are part of the largest freshwater dune system in the world. At least seven beaches are located in the park, including Platte Point Beach, where the Platte River flows into Lake Michigan and the waters merge. Beach fires are permitted only on mainland Lake Michigan beaches between the water's edge and the first dune. Leashed pets are permitted on certain beaches, but some are closed in spring and summer to protect the nesting areas of the lakeshore's Great Lake Piping Plovers, a protected endangered species.
Silver Lake State Park, Mears, Michigan
Located on Lake Michigan's east coast, 3,000-acre Silver Lake State Park features more than three miles of shoreline, nearly 2,000 acres of sand dunes, forests, hiking trails, and campgrounds, and a popular 500-acre off-road vehicle area, the only one of its kind east of the Mississippi River. Four-wheel ATV and other vehicle rentals are available from several local companies. Also, from mid-May through October, a 40-minute dune tour in a dedicated section of the park is offered by Mac Wood's Dune Rides. The pristine lakefront beach features soft sand for swimming, wading, and sunbathing. Boat launches and fishing are available at several of the park's beaches. The 1874 Little Sable Point Lighthouse is home to summer concerts, and visitors can climb the tower for stunning views of the forest, dunes, and lake.
Petoskey State Park, Petoskey, Michigan
Located on the northeastern coast of Lake Michigan in the Little Traverse Bay area, Petoskey State Park offers a mile-long sandy beach, hiking trails, picnic facilities, volleyball courts, and a playground. Kayaks, paddle boards, and bikes are available to rent, and during summer, concessions sell ice cream, camping items, and souvenirs. A favorite activity at the beach is searching for Petoskey stones, the state stone of Michigan. Never heard of Petoskey stones? They are actually fossils of an ancient form of coral, and the stones are prized for their beauty and unique markings that show best after the stone is hand polished. Leashed pets are welcome in the park, but are not permitted along the lakeshore in an effort to protect the habitat of the endangered Piping Plovers. Two historic Inns, The Terrace Inn and Stafford's Bay View Inn, are reminders of the area's history, and there's the Petoskey Brewing Company dating back to 1898, located in one of Michigan's oldest buildings.
North Beach, Racine, Wisconsin
On Lake Michigan's west coast just north of downtown Racine, North Beach features 50 acres of soft sandy shoreline with a playground, volleyball courts, and snack bar. From mid-June through Labor Day, there's live music, lifeguards, and free parking. A wheelchair mat extends to the shoreline so everyone can enjoy the beach. North Beach is open year-round from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., and during the season (June through August), lifeguards are on duty from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Pets are not permitted on the beach. Wind Point Lighthouse is open for tours, and there's lots to do and see in Racine.
Warren Dunes State Park, Sawyer, Michigan
This beautiful state park features three miles of Lake Michigan shoreline on the southeastern coast. In addition, the park's nearly 2,000 acres include forests, hiking trails, campsites, cabins, and massive sand dunes. Visitors enjoy climbing the dunes, gliding down the dunes on sand boards, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Equipment rentals and food concessions are available during the season from mid-May through Labor Day. Leashed dogs are welcome in the park's campgrounds, trails, boardwalk, and beach. Hang gliding from the dunes, with approved permits, is a popular activity. Three walkways between the sidewalk and the shore provide wheelchair access, and beach wheelchairs are available from the ranger station. Paved roads and boardwalks in the campground also offer wheelchair access. The park is open year round, and each season boasts natural beauty, wildlife, and things to do.
Holland State Park, Holland, Michigan
This state park, located on Lake Michigan's eastern shore, features two white-sand beaches, campgrounds, a playground, concessions, and equipment rentals. At Tunnel Park, a concrete tunnel cuts through a sand dune to provide access to Lake Michigan for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking. The park offers beach volleyball, barbecue grills, restrooms, and a children's playground with a dune climb and stairway. Dogs are permitted in some areas in keeping with the park's guidelines. At Kirk Park, there's a sandy beach along Lake Michigan with high bluffs, dunes, hiking trails, restrooms, horseshoe pit, deck, picnic tables, and grills. There's an off-leash dog beach accessible year round using the south beach stairs. Michigan's most photographed lighthouse, Big Red Lighthouse, dates back to an original structure built on the site in 1870. The wheelchair-accessible boardwalk in Holland State Park offers one of the best views.
Silver Beach County Park, St. Joseph, Michigan
This county park is located at the mouth of the St. Joseph River on Lake Michigan's southeast coast. It features a clean, wide, sandy beach, modern restrooms, outdoor showers, playground, picnic tables, volleyball, and seasonal concessions. Lifeguards are on duty from early June to mid-August, and the swimming season is generally from July to September. The park is open year round from dawn to dusk, and there's a daily parking fee. Leashed pets are permitted on sidewalks, but they're not allowed on the beach. During summer, beach wheelchairs are available at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis, and kayaks and paddle boards may be rented at the south end of the park. At South Pier, there's fishing as well as beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the North Pier Lighthouse. Nearby, visitors can enjoy St. Joseph's restaurants, boutiques, and wineries.
Rosewood Beach, Highland Park, Illinois
The only swimmable beach in Highland Park, Rosewood Beach is a neighborhood gem. A major renovation project completed in 2015 restored the shoreline and created educational opportunities, a boardwalk, park, nature trail, restrooms, concession stand, and a stunning glass interpretive center. Volleyball courts and equipment rentals are available, and public swimming begins Memorial Day Weekend, from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily. Dogs are not permitted on Rosewood Beach, but nearby Moraine Park is dog-friendly and includes picnic areas, a sculpture garden, and walking trails to the beach. Swimming is not permitted at Moraine Park.