The 7 Best Michigan Beach Towns Along Lake Michigan

One of the five Great Lakes in North America, Lake Michigan is the second largest by volume, third largest by surface space, and offers more than three thousand miles of gorgeous coastline. This beautiful lake borders four states: Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and of course, Michigan.

Tourism and recreation are at the heart of most activities in beach towns along this Great Lake. With every state trying to outshine the other and every city doing the same, Lake Michigan is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world, several of which are in Michigan itself.

Thousands travel every year to Michigan’s beautiful little beach towns. In these towns, tourists will find dozens of bars and restaurants, breweries, wineries, hiking trails, biking routes, sand dunes, boating tours, picnic areas, and places to wind down and relax.

Here we have highlighted for you, in no particular order, the seven best beach towns along Lake Michigan.

Table of Contents

1. Traverse City

With a population of almost 16,000 people, this beautiful beach town is the county seat of the grand Traverse County, Michigan, and is the largest city in the northern Michigan region.

Traverse City has been recognized for its incredible beauty and the peace of its environment by Good Morning America, National Geographic, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and more.

Traverse City offers you both extraordinary recreation and rural flare, yet it has almost all the incredible amenities of a larger city. For instance, Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City is a commercial airport that flights to several major cities in the US, with flights departing around the country daily.

The city of Traverse City has been nominated and designated as an international “City of Peace.” This is an international organization of governments, organizations, and citizens who have proclaimed, resolved, and advocated, establishing their town or community as an official City of Peace.

In addition to its peaceful presence, this city has an abundance of fun activities to enjoy. Whether it’s taking a scenic drive and admiring the shores of Lake Michigan, participating in outdoor sports, taking a tour of the lighthouse, or visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes, you’re sure to find an activity that excites and enriches you.

To spark your imagination, Traverse City has many attractions that will leave you with incredible memories. For example, you can go on a cruise on an enormous ship along the West Grand Traverse Bay, take a carriage ride at the Fantail Farm, or enjoy excellent performances at one of the cities art venues. Lastly, if you’re into gaming, there is the Turtle Creek Casino.

If you love to hike, there is the Best Valley Trail, and if you’re looking for a thrill suitable for the entire family, then you most certainly want to visit the Edge Adventure Course and Zip Line at Crystal Mountain.

2. Holland

The next beautiful beach town to visit is the city of Holland. Holland is near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on Lake Macatawa. This gorgeous lakeside town has over 33,000 people but hosts one hundred times that amount every year during high tourist seasons.

This is the largest city in both Ottawa and Allegan counties and is part of the Grand Rapids-Kentwood Metropolitan Area.

Known for its Dutch heritage, the city of Holland has embraced that cultural identity. Thirty percent of Holland’s population identifies as being Dutch. In the spring, you can come to Holland, enjoy the Dutch-themed amenities, and even join in the Tulip Time Festival, which attracts thousands of people to the area every year.

Holland is a place that is rich in history but also hospitality and is a beautiful area to explore and a place to relax, eat, drink, and shop. Like Traverse City, Holland has its own selection of fine distilleries, breweries, and wineries that you must take time to check out.

Many visitors come to Holland year after year because of the unique attractions that are available here during any season. The Winter Market, usually held in the Holland Civic Center Place, where customers are greeted with an assortment of locally grown, fresh produce. There are also loaves of bread and other baked products, syrups, jams, juices, meats, and cheeses.

Holland has many other annual events and celebrations that are worth the visit. Visiting Holland will give you the opportunity to enjoy Girlfriends Weekend, the LAUP Festival, and even a cruise down Main Street and memory lane.

Holland has an annual “Remember When” cruise and car show where drivers cruise down Hollands prominent street in vintage cars. Every era of automobiles is represented during this unique festival.

In the fall, people have been known to flock to Holland Park for the annual “Labor Day Boardwalk.” Here, many walk cruise around on their bicycles, admiring the gorgeous scenery and backdrop of Lake Michigan. A few other fun events include a Labor Day Semi-Truck Parade, Civil War re-enactments, and a Fire Truck Parade.

3. South Haven

South Haven is another gorgeous beach town in the state of Michigan and is positioned at the mouth of the Black River. Surprisingly, this magnificent town in Van Buren County only has a population of 4,500 people.

However, thousands of tourists escape to this town each year to take advantage of its eclectic boutiques, award-winning wineries, nature trails, inland lakes, stunning golf courses, and overall lakeside charm.

Additionally, South Haven is host to many music festivals, art shows, and cultural events. If you enjoy shopping, downtown South Haven offers several locally owned and operated shops, perfect for finding excellent gifts for family and friends. You may even want to shop for yourself, adding to your wardrobe, home decor, or antique collection.

Around Christmas, South Haven has a host of holiday festivals to enjoy. Bring your family and friends together at the Dyckman Park downtown for the “Holiday in the Park” celebration, or enjoy ice skating at South Haven’s colorful, outdoor skating rink.

If you are a food connoisseur, this quaint town on Lake Michigan has many tasty options to suit your palate. Enjoy some of the best onion rings in the world, delicious burgers, decadent desserts, and specialty mixed drinks to wash it all down with.

Whether your visit to South Haven is for holiday festivities, local cuisine, shopping experiences, outdoor events, or historic theaters, this town will undoubtedly exceed your expectations.

4. Grand Haven

Known for its sandy beaches, Grand Haven, Michigan, is found on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. On its south pier, Grand Haven State Park Beach is home to the Grand Haven lighthouse, built in 1839.

Another well-visited attraction in Grand Haven, Michigan, is the Grand Haven Musical Fountain, which displays a phenomenal, synchronized light and water show.

If you enjoy sticking your toes in the sand, then Grand Haven Area is the perfect place for you to take a vacation. This beach is widely recognized around the globe as an award-winning location because of its beauty and fresh water.

Enjoy the outdoors? The Grand Haven Area offers some amazing views, and you can stroll for miles on the beach, climb the dunes, or set up a picnic with friends to enjoy them. Coming in the winter? Try your hand at ice skating, ice fishing, or even take a peaceful sleigh ride.

When it comes to food, you’ll find everything from the most amazing breakfasts to cafés, coffee houses, steakhouses, and even catch-and-cook seafood establishments. In addition, this town provides many microbreweries, local bars, wine tasting, and other specialty drinks companies to suit your taste buds.

And don’t forget the festivals! You can join the city of Grand Haven as they celebrate their Kite Festival in the spring and Sand Sculpture Contest in the summer. In addition, there are Salmon Festivals in autumn, Winterfest, and more during the colder parts of the year.

5. Ludington, Michigan

With a population of over eight thousand, Ludington is the largest city in Mason County, Michigan. It is also a harbor town at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River and located on Lake Michigan. Several people have asked, “Is Ludington worth visiting?” The answer is, yes! According to, Ludington, with nearly thirty miles of sandy beaches, is viewed as one of the Top 50 All American Beaches in the United States. It is also home to some of the cleanest beaches, with white sugar-like sand and warm, shallow waters.

Aside from its beaches, Ludington offers excellent walking opportunities along its Waterfront Park Loop, Sculpture Trail, Waterfront Walkway Loop, and LASD School Forest. In addition, this beautiful beach town offers the Lud Public Run Club Loop, Lakestride Routes, 5K Runs on the Beach, and more. You can paddle down PM Lake, Lincoln Lake, and Stearns to Buttersville routes if you prefer to live your lake life out on the water. Ludington also offers biking routes down The Dragon, Memorial Tree Park, School Forest trail, and more.

Downtown Ludington offers visitors the opportunity to shop, dine, and explore. Whether you are shopping for a souvenir for a loved one or something cute to wear for yourself, this beautiful town has a shop with your name on it. You can visit many of the area’s boutiques, they even have some just for children. Let yourself get carried away shopping for home décor, jewelry, fine arts for your home or office, and accessories for your pets.

The Ludington Pub, Ludington Bay Brewing Co., Babe’s Candyland, the Tiki Lounge, and Q Smokehouse are a few fine dining and drinking establishments found in this unique place. Come and explore the gorgeous beach town of Ludington, Michigan.

6. Petoskey, Michigan

This little beach town, located on Lake Michigan, is an incredible place to visit. This town offers fun in the sun and sand in the warmer months and sledding and skiing in winter. Perfect for any weather and all occasions, this coastal resort community of nearly 6,000 residents is the ideal getaway spot for you.

Petoskey is an incredibly charming town rich in history, Victorian architecture, and postcard-perfect views. Aside from its historical sites, this town is the ideal place to come to unwind and enjoy the scenery. In addition, Petoskey offers many places to enjoy the outdoors, one of which is the Boyne Mountains which provides a terrific ski experience.

Then there is Nub’s Knob in Harbor Springs, where cross-country skiers can enjoy skiing around its gorgeous loop. There is also the Good Heart Farms Nature Preserve, where the hayfields and beautiful wooded trails give its residents and visitors a pleasant outdoor experience.

While exploring the area, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the best restaurants Petoskey has to offer. This little beach town offers everything from Mediterranean & Greek food to All American foods like burgers, chicken, and shrimp. We recommend Stigg’s Brewery & Kitchen, a local favorite.

Stigg’s Brewery & Kitchen not only offers incredible beer made on-site, but a menu of tasty foods made from scratch to satisfy meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. You’ll even find seafood restaurants that create their dishes from locally caught fish.

Other fun activities in the Petoskey area include ziplining, ax throwing, river rafting, biking, gambling, water parks, and more.

7. Saugatuck, Michigan

Rounding out this list of gorgeous beach towns in Michigan is the breathtaking yet tiny town of Saugatuck. When asked about this tiny city (of only 1,000 residents!), several stated that the beauty of the place is matched only by the kindness of its people. In addition to its neighbor, Douglas, Saugatuck Township features twelve miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan and is one of the most beautiful places that you will ever see.

Featured in this tiny beach town is Oval Beach. This gorgeous, freshwater beach has received tons of national attention. MTV named this beach one of the Top Five Beaches in the United States of America. In addition, National Geographic Travelers listed this beach as one of its Top Freshwater Beaches in the country. It has even been considered as one of the top twenty-five beaches in the world.

Saugatuck tourists should definitely check out Saugatuck Dunes State Park, the Westside County Park, Douglas Beach, Lake Town Beach, and Pier Cove Beach. Many of these places are perfect for relaxing and having a picnic.

Saugatuck is known for its “Art Coast,” where annually, thousands come together to paint and collaborate on various art pieces. In addition, this town features numerous art galleries, art shows, and art festivals.

Saugatuck also offers the opportunity to enjoy outdoor yoga, day spas, and early-morning hikes to help refresh your min. If you love to ride bikes, this area is bicycle-friendly, and offers several trails, including Blue Star Trail, Shore Acres, and Beeline Trail.

We can’t talk about Saugatuck, Michigan, without discussing the tremendous homestyle meals, breweries, and wineries that this special place has to offer. Some of the local favorites here in Saugatuck are the Uncommon Coffee Roasters, Ida Red’s Cottage, and The Southerner, just to name a few. These places offer food with unique flavors to suit every palate.

And what good is a beach town without food and drinks on the waterfront? Mermaid Waterfront Bar and Grill, The Butler, The Barge, Red Dock Café, and The Coral Gables are among many excellent waterfront restaurants to choose from. So whether you like barbecue, fried chicken, pizza, burgers, steak, or seafood, the Saugatuck and Douglas area combines to give you a tasteful and memorable culinary tour along Lake Michigan.

If you need a sweet treat to round out the perfect day, The Boardwalk Deli and Ice Cream, Blue Star Café, and Ice Cream Treats, await you in Saugatuck, one of the seven best beach towns along Lake Michigan.