So there are a number of beaches to choose from along one of America’s most amazing lake shorelines!
The Lake Michigan shoreline touches a number of states: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
And if you’re looking for Lake Michigan beaches in Michigan, then there are a number of beaches to visit in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore!
This is located in Northern Michigan, in the lower peninsula of Michigan, and more specifically in the southern area of the Leelanau Peninsula.
Explore the map.
It’s about a 30 minute drive from Traverse City to Sleeping Bear Dunes. So you could consider these beaches near Traverse City too.
So in Sleeping Bear Dunes, there are some beaches that you can pretty much drive straight to, with a short beach path to get to Lake Michigan.
And there are some beaches that you can get to with a little bit of effort! Some may be a few minutes across sand dunes… and some may be more than a few minutes of walking across sand dunes! (More effort generally means less people in Sleeping Bear Dunes!)
Hiking across sand dunes to get to a beach?! Consider it a “very Sleeping Bear Dunes” type experience!
And while Sleeping Bear Dunes does have sandy Lake Michigan beaches…
There are also some rocky Lake Michigan shorelines too.
So you may want to pack along water shoes in your beach bag just in case.
And although Lake Michigan isn’t particularly known for searching for colorful rocks (that would be Lake Superior – colorful rocks and red rocks), there are some beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes where you may give a little go at looking for rocks!
Only look, but don’t take, though! As a national lakeshore, nothing that’s a part of the park is meant for taking home with you! Except for pictures and memories, as they say. 😜
Yes, swimming in Lake Michigan is a thing!
The Lake Michigan water temperature may be cold to some people, but in the summer you will find plenty of people swimming in Lake Michigan off the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can generally expect the water temperature to be in the high 60s in the summer.
Also, while Lake Michigan is a lake, in many ways because of how large it is, it can act like an ocean. Rip currents in Lake Michigan are also a thing. So it can be good to know before you go!
There are no lifeguards at any beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Lake Michigan water level
The water level can make a difference in how much beach space the shoreline has. In 2020, the Lake Michigan water levels were said to be high.
Take care not to step on dune grass!
Many of the beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes are along small sand dunes. And with these sand dunes comes dune grass.
Dune grass is said to be fragile and an important part of the coastal ecosystem, so try to watch your step!
Cost to visit the Lake Michigan beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
So the beaches on this list are officially part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And there is an entry fee for Sleeping Bear Dunes, so the beaches are a “fee area.” The entry fee this will get you a 7-day park pass.
Although there isn’t really an “entry checkpoint” of sorts, unless you go to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive or the Dune Climb.
Instead, you can get your Sleeping Bear Dunes park pass at the visitor center. The 7-day park pass is $25 per car. See current fees here.
There are also pay stations at a number of locations throughout the national lakeshore park, including at many of the popular beaches.
You can also get an annual pass right now online for $45.
If you plan to visit many national parks within a year that have an entry fee, then you may also consider getting the America the Beautiful national park pass for $80. It will work at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore too. See current fees.
Not all national park sites have an entry fee. Pictured Rocks (MI), Cuyahoga Valley (OH), and the Great Smoky Mountains (TN NC) have had free entry for example, so you’ll want to check the national parks you plan to visit for current fees to see if a pass will be worth it. Although, it’s always a good thing to support your national parks. 😉
Here are some ideas for an Upper Peninsula road trip!
The most important places in the UP to know about are Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and the bubbling Big Spring of Kitch-iti-kipi.
Make it a Michigan camping trip to remember by going camping near Lake Superior.
Lighthouses are also a thing, so stop by one of the Lake Superior lighthouses (or many more!), like Whitefish Point and/or Crisp Point. You can also go to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to explore why Lake Superior has a reputation for being Shipwreck Coast and the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.
Many people don't make it over to the western part of the Upper Peninsula. But if you want to, you will want to know about Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Then, on your way back down south, you can make a detour to go to Mackinac Island (ferry required) or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. (Or, you can do these things on your way up north!)
Read the details: Best places to visit in the Upper Peninsula
Save the Upper Peninsula Michigan video playlist to watch on youtube later!
10+ beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to know about
This list of beaches will generally be in order of how you will come across them as you are driving up from the south.
1. Old Indian Trail beach
This is a Lake Michigan beach that requires a hike to get to! Hiking to a Lake Michigan beach usually means a less crowded beach. It will start off as a hike through a forest, and then you’ll end up hiking across sand dunes for the final part to get to the Lake Michigan shoreline where you’ll find a beach area.
2. Platte River Point
It’s popular to go tubing or kayaking down the Platte River, and the “destination” is Platte Point where the river meets Lake Michigan.
There’s also a beach area here, and the popularity of the river activities tends to make Platte Point Beach a busy place too.
This is also the beach that’s down the road a few minutes from Platte River Campground.
Platte River Point beach: See more about this Lake Michigan beach.
3. RR Grade Trail beach aka Platte River Campground beach
This isn’t a beach at the campground, but it’s a beach you can get to FROM the campground. This is another beach that requires a hike to get to, and it also likely means less people! It’s about a 1 mile hike from the Platte River Campground to reach Lake Michigan. There’s a beach area here. This is a part of the Platte Plains hiking trails area. Also a part of these trails is the White Pine backcountry campground, and it’s about a half mile hike from the backcountry campground to Lake Michigan.
Platte River Campground beach: See more about getting to this Lake Michigan beach.
4. Peterson Road Beach
You’ll take a mostly gravel road down Peterson Road to get to this beach. Then you’ll walk across sand dunes for a couple of minutes to get to Lake Michigan. Out of the 3 beach areas you can drive to in Platte Bay, this will likely be the least crowded.
Peterson Road Beach: See more about this Lake Michigan beach.
5. Esch Road Beach
This is an easy drive down Esch Road to get to the beach.
Esch Road Beach: See more about this Lake Michigan beach.
/end Platte Bay
Side note: Driving further north, the Empire Bluff Trail is along the way! Then you will leave the national lakeshore, passing through the town of Empire MI. There is the Empire Beach and the Robert Manning Memorial Lighthouse. You will then re-enter the national lakeshore, and you will pass by North Bar Lake. This is an inland lake that is basically right next to Lake Michigan, and the water temperature is usually warmer here. So if you find Lake Michigan is too cold, you might try North Bar Lake! Heading further north, you’ll pass by the starting point for the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which is how you will see THE famous Lake Michigan overlook. Okay, back to Lake Michigan beaches!
6. Dunes Trail beach
The Dune Climb is considered by many to be a must-do when in Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can go above and beyond by doing more than just the Dune Climb! There is the Dunes Trail that’s a full sand trail across sand dunes that will take you to the Lake Michigan shoreline. And, you will find a beach area here! This is not a part of any bay so it’s a more exposed Lake Michigan shoreline.
Although this is a hike to Lake Michigan, because the Dune Climb is one of the most popular spots in Sleeping Bear Dunes, it’s possible that there may be a few extra people here.
Dunes Trail beach: See more about getting to this Lake Michigan beach.
Sleeping Bear Bay
Now we will cover Sleeping Bear Bay. Continuing the driving up north will take you straight to Sleeping Bear Bay. From here, the list of beaches will continue on in the order that you would come across it as you are driving.
7. Glen Haven Beach
So as you keep driving north, you will end up driving through Glen Haven Historic Village. This is a preserved historic site and you can walk around the street to the old buildings and read about how people in the area used to live. You will then basically continue driving and you will end up at the Cannery Boathouse Museum (historic site) and Glen Haven Beach. There’s a small picnic area here.
Glen Haven Beach: See more about this Lake Michigan beach.
8. Maritime Museum beach (Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station beach)
From Glen Haven Beach, if you continue the road to the left towards Sleeping Bear Point (the only way you can go), you will end up passing by the Maritime Museum. This was formerly the Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station, which was the equivalent of the US Coast Guard. There is a beach path that runs through the grounds of the life saving station that will take you to the Lake Michigan shoreline where there’s a beach area.
9. Sleeping Bear Point beach
And then you continue driving and the road will end at the Sleeping Bear Point trailhead. The Sleeping Bear Point beach requires a little effort to get to. It’s a hike across sand dunes for maybe 10-15 minutes to get to the Lake Michigan shoreline where there’s a beach area.
While you’re here, you’ll also want to consider doing at least part of the Sleeping Bear Point dune loop trail to get some grand views of sand dunes and Lake Michigan! Take the long scenic route to get to Lake Michigan!
Sleeping Bear Point beach: See more about this Lake Michigan beach.
10. DH Day Campground beach
At the DH Day campground, there’s a beach trail that will take you to Lake Michigan! This will be a walk of a couple of minutes.
DH Day Campground beach: See more about getting to this Lake Michigan beach.
/end Sleeping Bear Bay
11. Good Harbor Bay beach(es)
And this brings us to the far northern part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There are 2 access roads to get to a Good Harbor Bay beach. You’ll find the turn-off for both along M-22, the main road that runs through the park. One is County Road 669 (also called Bohemian Road) and the other is County Road 651 (also called Good Harbor Trail).
Good Harbor Bay beach: See more about this Lake Michigan beach.
And that’s a bit about most of the beaches in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore!
The quick list of Northern Michigan beaches that are in Sleeping Bear Dunes:
- Old Indian Trail (hike to beach)
- Platte River Point Beach
- RR Grade Trail (hike to beach from Platte River Campground)
- Peterson Road Beach
- Esch Road Beach
- Dunes Trail (hike to beach from Dune Climb)
- Glen Haven Beach
- Maritime Museum beach
- Sleeping Bear Point beach (hike to beach alongside dune loop trail)
- DH Day Campground beach
- Good Harbor Bay beach
Also see the best of Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Explore more of Lake Michigan:
Driving up from south to north.
Explore more Michigan beaches in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:
- Lake Superior beaches in Michigan’s other national lakeshore park
- Camping near Michigan’s other national lakeshore beaches
- Camping near Great Lakes beaches
Plus, the best of Michigan’s national lakeshore parks.
HAPPY LAKE MICHIGAN BEACH VISIT IN SLEEPING BEAR DUNES!