With over 11,000 inland lakes and the longest freshwater coastline in the entire world, Michigan is full to the brim with beautiful swimming holes and large expanses of water just waiting to be splashed in. While the four great lakes that border the state often get most of the attention when we talk about lakes in Michigan, there are plenty of smaller (and warmer) lakes in both the upper and lower peninsula.
The sizes, depths, and surroundings of Michigan’s lakes vary immensely, but no matter what type of water you like to swim in, your options are nearly endless. Whether you’re looking for a summer vacation destination, a place to cool off for an afternoon, or a secluded stretch of sand to lay your beach towel on, keep reading to discover the 30 best lakes in Michigan for swimming.
Table of Contents
- 1. Lake Michigan
- 2. Big Glen Lake
- 3. Little Glen Lake
- 4. Lake Huron
- 5. Lake Leelanau
- 6. Burt Lake
- 7. Lake Charlevoix
- 8. Lake Superior
- 9. Manistique Lakes
- 10. Lake Erie
- 11. Bass Lake
- 12. Crystal Lake
- 13. Torch Lake
- 14. Lake St. Clair
- 15. Elk Lake
- 16. Lake Michigamme
- 17. Crooked Lake
- 18. Lake Bellaire
- 19. Muskegon Lake
- 20. Higgins Lake
- 21. Black Lake
- 22. Portage Lake
- 23. Mullett Lake
- 24. Pontiac Lake
- 24. Silver Lake
- 26. Gull Lake
- 27. Long Lake
- 28. Paradise Lake
- 29. Perch Lake
- 30. Kalamazoo Lake
1. Lake Michigan
As one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state, it’s no secret that Lake Michigan is one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming.
Bordering the state’s entire western side, Lake Michigan offers up tons of beaches for those who are keen on diving into this beautiful expanse of water. Some of the best sand beaches can be found along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which boasts over 35 miles of coastline.
You can also hike along Lake Michigan at the various state parks that surround its shoreline, including Ludington State Park, Warren Dunes State Park, Petoskey State Park, and dozens more. Other popular pastimes on Lake Michigan include sailing, boating, and fishing.
2. Big Glen Lake
Though not nearly as big as Lake Michigan, Big Glen Lake is another large Michigan lake that is great for swimming. Located on the outskirts of Glen Arbor in the northeastern part of the state, Big Glen Lake is amongst the clearest and cleanest lakes in Michigan.
This is due to the fact that the lake was created and filled by glaciers millions of years ago. If you’re worried about water temperature, don’t be. This inland lake warms up nicely in the summer, making it popular for swimmers and water sports enthusiasts alike.
Anglers are also smitten with Big Glen Lake thanks to the diverse fish species that call the lake home, and if you drop a line here you’ll have a good chance of reeling in perch, bass, lake trout, and northern pike. If you don’t have any luck at Big Glen, you can head into the neighboring Little Glen Lake or even Lake Michigan, separated by a narrow channel.
Big Glen Lake is a popular vacation destination, and you’ll find lots of cozy cottages to rent out for a weekend or an extended stay.
3. Little Glen Lake
Big Glen Lake’s little sister, Little Glen Lake is another one of Michigan’s best swimming lakes, and it’s just as clean and clear as its counterpart. It also boasts the same gorgeous white sand beaches, albeit with a slightly shorter shoreline.
Surrounded by rolling sand dunes and verdant forests, Little Glen Lake is a scenic spot for taking a dip, and it’s also a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing, and water skiing. Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes on Little Glen Lake, and just like Big Glen Lake anglers can hope to reel in trout, bass, perch, and northern pike from these serene waters.
4. Lake Huron
Another one of the Great Lakes to border Michigan is Lake Huron, and this massive body of water covers most of the state’s eastern edge. There are tons of beaches along the coast, but arguably one of the best places to take a dip is on Mackinac Island. While there are no traditional beaches on the island, British Landing is a popular place to go for a swim, though water shoes are recommended as the bottom is quite rocky.
Those looking for an adventurous swim could also try their hand at diving. This is another popular Lake Huron activity thanks to the hundreds of shipwrecks located on the bottom of the lake.
Lake Huron is also famous for its incredible sunrises, which is how this side of the state got its nickname as “the sunrise coast”. You can catch one of these famous sunrises as you drive along the 200-mile Huron Shores Heritage Route, or paddle your way along the coast via the Huron Shores Coastal Water Route.
5. Lake Leelanau
Lake Leelanau is one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming, and it’s also one of the most beautiful. There are two different sections of Lake Leelanau, each with its own depth, temperature, and fish species, but both are popular places for swimming, boating, and fishing.
Lake Leelanau is a popular vacation destination in the summer months, and the shoreline is dotted with cabins and other rental properties for out-of-towners. There are lots of fun things happening in the nearby vicinity too, like springtime walleye festivals, the vibrant town of Traverse City, a plethora of vineyards, and ferries to take you out to the nearby Manitou Islands.
6. Burt Lake
Located in the northern part of the lower peninsula, Burt Lake is one of the best in Michigan when it comes to swimming. This lovely inland lake has access to both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and is a popular tourist destination for both locals and those coming from out of state.
While the lake is a summer hot spot, there are plenty of quiet nature areas around the shoreline, including Seven Springs Nature Reserve, Colonial Point Memorial Forest, Burt Lake State Park, and more. Burt Lake State Park is a favorite for those looking to cool off in the water, and here you’ll find over 2,000 feet of sandy beaches in addition to a boat launch and picnic facilities.
While swimming and boating are both popular pastimes on Burt Lake, fishing is really king here. Anglers come from near and far for their chance to reel in trophy-sized walleye, and you’ll also find large populations of trout, bass, and sturgeon swimming beneath the water.
7. Lake Charlevoix
One of the state’s largest and the nation’s most beautiful inland lakes is Lake Charlevoix, located on the northwestern side of the lower peninsula. Lake Charlevoix has held a favorable reputation for generations, and the shoreline is dotted with resort towns, waterfront restaurants, and charming vacation homes.
The lake is one of the best in Michigan for swimming and boasts 56 miles of shoreline along with several white sand beaches. You could also spend your day on the lake kayaking, water skiing, or fishing, and the history buffs can satisfy themselves with a trip to the Ironton Ferry while the literary lovers in your group can head to Horton Bay for a tour of Ernest Hemingway’s childhood vacation home.
8. Lake Superior
While Lake Charlevoix is one of the state’s largest inland lakes, Lake Superior takes the crown for the largest freshwater lake in the entire world. Many believe that Michigan claims some of the most beautiful shoreline of this Great Lake, in part thanks to the wilderness that surrounds it.
Head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to discover intricate cave systems, waterfalls, and staggering cliffs, and whatever you do, do not miss your chance to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for some of the most astounding views of this massive lake.
Of course, Lake Superior is great for more than just admiring. It’s also a lovely spot to take a dip, though you may want to brace yourself for the cold water.
9. Manistique Lakes
Made up of a chain of six lakes, the Manistique Lakes are some of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming. These inland lakes can be found in the state’s Upper Peninsula and were carved by glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Unlike the Great Lakes, the Manistique Lakes boast mostly shallow and sandy shorelines, which makes it the perfect place for families to spend the day splashing in the water.
This large chain of lakes is also a great place for wildlife watching, so keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes, and common loons while you’re enjoying your beach day. There are also quite a few species living under the water that entice anglers to this chain of lakes, including perch, bluegill, walleye, sunfish, and many, many more.
Other popular pastimes on the Manistique Lakes include sailing, water skiing, windsurfing, and kayaking, and there are also tons of fun festivals held throughout the year in the town of Curtis, located on the shores of Big Manistique Lake.
10. Lake Erie
Although Michigan boasts just a short stretch of coastline along Lake Erie, this is one of the best lakes in the state when it comes to swimming. Not only is this the most shallow of all the Great Lakes, but it also has a ton of access points and some great swimming beaches.
Located in the southeastern part of the state, Lake Erie sees a lot of traffic from the nearby city of Detroit. The Lake Erie Metropark is a great place to spend the day on Lake Erie, and here you can hike, bike, golf, or put your boat in the water. Other popular activities on Lake Erie include visiting the nearby islands, fishing, and water skiing, amongst others.
11. Bass Lake
Another inland lake that is great for swimming is the 344-acre Bass Lake, located in northwest Michigan. This glacial lake is located just outside of Traverse City and offers a peaceful respite for residents of the lively city.
Bass Lake boasts lots of sandy shoreline, along with a plethora of tall trees to provide shade against the hot summer sun. Besides swimming, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, and other water sports are popular pastimes on Bass Lake, but locals will tell you that the best way to spend the day here is with a pole in hand.
Rock bass, walleye, and northern pike all love the chilly waters of Bass Lake, and so do the anglers who come to try and reel them in.
12. Crystal Lake
Named for its clear and unpolluted water, Crystal Lake is one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming. The lake is home to just one small village, Beulah, which has allowed it to remain crystal clear and free from any toxins.
In the town of Beulah, you’ll find a nice sandy beach, along with a picnicking area, a park, a playground, and a boat launch. Like so many other Michigan lakes, Crystal Lake is also a great spot for fishing, and local anglers report reeling in bass, trout, and even Coho salmon.
Other popular lake activities include water skiing, kayaking, and canoeing, and if you somehow manage to get bored of Crystal Lake, the massive Lake Michigan is just a few miles away.
13. Torch Lake
Popular with boaters and swimmers alike, Torch Lake is one of the best lakes in Michigan to take a dip. Torch Lake is the longest and deepest inland lake in the state, but it is mostly known for its characteristic turquoise hue and the sandbars that populate it.
The two-mile sandbar on the southern end of the lake is one of the best places for swimming, and boaters often come here to park for the day to cool off and socialize with other lake goers. This sand bar is so popular that the local pizza place will even deliver right to your boat if you’re parked here.
14. Lake St. Clair
A favorite amongst Detroit locals, Lake St. Clair is one of the best lakes for swimming in Michigan. This crystal clear lake was once a major shipping route between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, but today it’s a popular place for swimming, boating, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
The best way to access this beautiful lake is via the Lake St. Clair Metropark, located near the town of Mount Clemens. Here you’ll find a 1,000-foot swimming beach, stand up paddle board rentals, bike rentals, and so much more.
This is also a popular boating lake, and there are tons of waterfront restaurants to relax at after a day on Lake St. Clair.
15. Elk Lake
If you’re looking for a quiet day on the water, Elk Lake may be one of your best bets. This beautiful blue lake is part of a larger chain of lakes, but it is usually less frequented since there are no large cities situated on its banks.
Apart from swimming, visitors to Elk Lake can enjoy kayaking, sailing, tubing, wake boarding, and other water sports. Fishing is also a popular pastime here, and even if there’s ice on the lake anglers come to try their luck for the tasty trout that Elk Lake is famous for.
16. Lake Michigamme
Perfectly encapsulating the wild beauty of the Upper Peninsula, Lake Michigamme is one of Michigan’s most beautiful bodies of water. It’s also one of the state’s largest inland lakes at over 4,000 acres.
The lake is home to 16 islands, all of which can be explored if you have a boat to get to them, and there are also three beaches on the shores of Lake Michigamme. One of the best places to start exploring this beautiful lake is Van Riper State Park, and here you can camp, fish, and enjoy all the other classic beach day activities.
17. Crooked Lake
With a maximum depth of just 20 feet, Crooked Lake is another one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming. The water here is warm and calm, and the shoreline is dotted with cozy summer cabins. Crooked Lake is located in northern Michigan, just outside the city of Petoskey.
There are a few communities nestled alongside the lake, including Conway, Oden, and Ponshewaing. Those who vacation at Crooked Lake often find themselves coming back again and again, and it’s no wonder why this serene body of water gets so much praise.
You can spend your days on Crooked Lake swimming, fishing, parasailing, or kayaking, and once you’ve seen all there is to see, you can explore the surrounding area or head out into the nearby Lake Michigan.
18. Lake Bellaire
Lake Bellaire is a natural inland lake in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and it’s one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state. The lake is surrounded by opulent resorts, charming bed & breakfasts, cozy campgrounds, and other types of accommodations for travelers coming from near and far.
Lake Bellaire is situated in the northwestern part of the state and is part of the Elk River Watershed Chain of Lakes. This means that once you’ve had enough fun on Lake Bellaire, you can check out some of the other nearby lakes via a series of connecting rivers and channels.
Of course, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy for quite a while on Lake Bellaire, and some of the most popular outdoor activities here include swimming, boating, fishing, and windsurfing.
19. Muskegon Lake
Muskegon Lake is a top contender for the best lake in Michigan for swimming, and it’s also one of the most popular boating lakes in the state. Located on the southwestern side of the Lower Peninsula on the edge of Lake Michigan, Muskegon Lake has everything you’ll need for a fun day out on the water.
There are plenty of sandy beaches for those who are interested in swimming, along with a plethora of marinas, boat launching sites, and picnicking facilities. During the summer months, it’s not uncommon to witness sailboat races on Muskegon Lake, and other popular activities here including fishing, kayaking, and pontooning.
20. Higgins Lake
More reminiscent of ocean waters than that of a lake, Higgins Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Michigan. The azure blue hue and golden sandy shores attract swimmers from all around to this north-central lake, and the glacial water is surprisingly warm.
Water sports enthusiasts also enjoy Higgins Lake, as do anglers looking to reel in pike, bass, and trout. There are two state parks along the edge of the lake: North Higgins State Park and South Higgins State Park, both of which are aptly named for their location. The southern park is a bit larger, but both parks boast scenic hiking trails, beaches, campsites, and boat launching ramps.
21. Black Lake
Named for the dark color of the water, Black Lake is one of Michigan’s best swimming holes. Black Lake is an inland lake located in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, and it’s surrounded by beautiful sand beaches and towering trees.
There are plenty of places to dip your toes in the water, but one of the best swimming beaches can be found on the southern end of the lake at Onaway State Park, one of the oldest in the state. You can also camp out at Onaway State Park, or try your luck at spearing one of the rarest fish in the state – the ancient lake sturgeon.
22. Portage Lake
Portage Lake has a long history, and the iconic lift bridge that the lake is known for was an instrumental part of that history. Back when the lake was first being settled by workers at the local saw mill, the lift bridge allowed them to transport lumber through to Lake Michigan. Business was booming, and Portage Lake was a popular place for lumber barons and other well-to-do locals to lay down roots.
Many upscale resorts were built during this time period, and some of them still exist to this day. Portage Lake has also seen its fair share of shipwrecks, and divers come from near and far to check out the sunken ships at the bottom of the lake.
Swimming is also popular on Portage Lake, as is boating, fishing, and any and all types of water sports.
23. Mullett Lake
Mullet Lake is another one of Michigan’s best swimming lakes, and just like Portage Lake, it has a long and interesting history. Mullet Lake is one of the biggest in the state, and it was once an important trading route for Native Americans.
Today its 28 miles of shoreline is sprinkled with trails, state parks, and beaches, making it a popular place in both the summer and winter months. Those looking to dip their toes in the water will have the best luck at Aloha State Park, located on the eastern shore of Mullett Lake. Here you’ll find two sandy swimming beaches, along with horseshoe pits, several boat ramps, and nearly 300 campsites for those who want to stay the night.
24. Pontiac Lake
Those living in and around Detroit would argue that Pontiac Lake is one of the best places to cool off in the summer months, and the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area is one of the best areas to go when you’re looking to escape the stresses of the big city. The recreation area boasts the longest beach in southeast Michigan (just over a half-mile), in addition to scenic trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Pontiac Lake is man made but never fails to enchant visitors thanks to the unperturbed wilderness that surrounds it. The eclectic surroundings include marshes, heavy forests, ponds, and old farm fields.
If you want to get out on the lake you’ll find several public boat launches, two of which are in the Pontiac Lake Recreation Area. Fishing is also popular on this lake, with perch, crappie, sunfish, and bass all being some of the most common catches. If you’d like to spend more than just an afternoon on Pontiac Lake, there are tons of vacation cottages available for rent along the lake.
24. Silver Lake
Golden sand beaches, warm water, and an ample supply of cozy summer cottages available for rent all make Silver Lake one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming. This 600-acre lake is located on the state’s western coast and is surrounded by towering sand dunes and dense forests.
Not surprisingly, this lovely lake is a popular summertime hangout, and besides swimming, visitors can also enjoy kayaking the jagged inlets around the lake, cast out for perch, walleye, and bluegill, or spend the afternoon hiking the dunes at Silver Lake State Park.
26. Gull Lake
Back in the 1800s, Gull Lake was a summer getaway exclusively for the well-to-do, but today the lake’s pristine water quality has enticed families to move to the lakeshore full-time. The crystal clear water makes Gull Lake one of the best lakes in Michigan for swimming, and even those that aren’t full-time residents of the surrounding towns often make the trek in the summer to visit this lovely lake.
There are plenty of vacation rentals available around the lake, and visitors and residents alike love taking to the water to swim, fish, and sail. You could also spend your time at the lake canoeing, scuba diving, or practicing any number of fun water sports, and once you’ve had enough water time, you can hit up one of the golf clubs, go bird watching at the Kellogg Biological Station, or simply soak up some sun from onshore.
27. Long Lake
Another one of Michigan’s most pristine lakes can be found just 15 minutes outside of Traverse City, and Long Lake is becoming more and more popular with those looking for luxurious lakefront real estate. It’s also a favorite amongst swimmers, and the sandy bottom and shallow depths make it the perfect spot for family beach days.
There are also four small islands inside of Long Lake that you can kayak around, and two of them are open to the public to explore by foot. Fishing is another popular pastime on Long Lake, and this body of water is full to the brim with sunfish, bass, catfish, perch, and many more tasty species.
28. Paradise Lake
Paradise Lake is aptly named, and this small northwestern lake is one of the most idyllic in the state. Paradise Lake was a popular resort area in the early 20th century, and today it is surrounded by family homes and vacation cottages with the odd resort camp thrown in here and there.
The area around the lake that isn’t populated remains fairly wild, with dense woods full of turkeys, deer, eagles, and loons. Paradise Lake is extremely serene, but it’s also a fun place to spend the summer. Visitors enjoy swimming, boating, and jet skiing, and there are multiple shops around the perimeter where you can rent kayaks, canoes, and rowboats.
29. Perch Lake
Another idyllic lake that is great for swimming is the quaint 40-acre Perch Lake, located about 20 miles east of Traverse City. There are quite a few lakes with the same name in Michigan alone, but the one in East Bay Township is one of the best in the state for swimming.
The shore is littered with small, sandy beaches, none of which ever become overly crowded, even during the hot summer months. There are no motorboats allowed in Perch Lake, which helps keep the atmosphere quiet and serene, but you can paddle around the water with a kayak or canoe if you get bored of swimming.
30. Kalamazoo Lake
Saddled by the cities of Douglas and Saugatuck on Michigan’s southwestern coast, Kalamazoo Lake is one of the best lakes in the state for swimming. It’s also a great spot for kayaking and canoeing, and the natural surroundings of the lake make it a beautiful place to spend the day no matter what you’re doing.
Some would argue that the best way to spend your time at Kalamazoo Lake is by visiting one of the art galleries that are not uncommon along the shoreline, and spending some time in both of the sister cities is never a bad idea either.