14 Best Beaches Near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Do you need help finding the best beaches near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?

Perhaps you are on a Michigan road trip and looking for a place to stop to enjoy beach time, or you've only got a day to explore the area before continuing your journey.

No worries; we've got you covered with lots of beach options!

The soft, sun-kissed sands of Northern Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes are like the beach version of a well-loved book – you can't get enough.

When it comes to Sleeping Bear Dunes, you're in for a treat. As a Michigander, I've had my fair share of adventures in the state, and the dunes hold a special place in my heart.

Whether you're lounging under the warm sun, catching a glimpse of Lake Michigan's crystal-clear waters, or building sandcastles that could rival a medieval fortress, there's something here for every beach enthusiast.

Stop at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center (9922 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630) to pick up a park map and pay your park fees before exploring.

Since this visitor center is at the southerly end of the park, I've listed the beaches along Sleeping Bear Dunes from South to North as you meander through the park.

Note: There are beaches both North and South of the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center.

These beachside havens promise soft sand beneath your feet, crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan to dip into, and panoramic views that will take your breath away. 

A couple of people sitting on on a sandy hill enjoy the sun setting over the calm lake waters.

Platte River Point Beach

The beach is where the gentle Platte River greets the vast expanse of Lake Michigan, blending freshwater currents with the cool, vast lake. 

For beach lovers, the sandy beach here provides a perfect backdrop for sunbathing or building sandcastles.

A boat launch is available for small boats. There is also a bathroom with drinking water. This area also serves as a take-out area for a canoe, kayak, and tubing livery.

Timing your visit to Platte River Point can enhance your experience. Arrive early to enjoy the tranquility of morning light shimmering on the water, or time your outing for late afternoon when the setting sun casts a warm glow over the landscape.

One of the major advantages of Platte River Point Beach is its proximity to the Platte River campground. This beach makes it incredibly convenient for visitors who want to combine their beach experience with camping.

Whether you prefer tent camping or RV camping, the nearby campground provides easy access to the beach, allowing you to spend your days lounging on the sandy shores or exploring crystal-clear waters.

It's important to note that due to its popularity, Platte River Point Beach can get crowded, especially during the peak season. If you prefer a more secluded experience, visit early in the morning or during the weekdays.

Tip: If you enjoy bird watching, it is one of the best in the park to watch shorebirds.

Directions: From M-22, turn onto Lake Michigan Road near Platte Lake; drive straight to Lake Michigan.

Note: The National Park Service (NPS) has two parking lots, and the township has another. The township lot has a daily fee vs. the NPS requiring a parking pass.

A simple sandcastle, adorned with small sticks as flags, stands on a sandy beach, with the blurred backdrop of a calm sea and overcast sky, capturing a moment of creativity and play by the water's edge.

Tiesma Road Beach

Tucked away off the beaten path, Tiesma Road Beach offers a serene and secluded spot near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This hidden gem allows visitors to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan in a peaceful setting. The lack of marked signs and an unmarked parking area add to the allure, giving it an exclusive and secretive feel.

It is important to note that Tiesma Beach has no restrooms or picnic areas. Come prepared with all the necessary supplies if you plan to spend a beach day at this location.

Directions: From Platte River Campground, head north on Lake Michigan Road, turn right onto Isle View Drive and drive till the road ends.

people walking on beach during daytime

Peterson Road Beach

Peterson Road Beach offers a secluded and picturesque beach experience near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This beach is a gem for nature lovers, with unmatched views of the sand dunes and cool blue water.

The remoteness of Peterson Road Beach ensures that you experience a sense of seclusion unique to Northern Michigan's sprawling coastline.

A gravel road takes you to a small parking area. It's important to note that parking at Peterson Road Beach can be limited, especially during peak times.

Consider arriving early or carpooling to secure a parking spot. Since the beach is more secluded, bring all necessary supplies, such as food, water, and sunscreen.

In terms of amenities, Peterson Road Beach offers a vault toilet. 

Directions: East of Platte River Campground, turn off M-22 onto Peterson Road and follow it to Lake Michigan.

Esch Road Beach

If you're chasing the quintessential sunset experience on Lake Michigan's shores, check out Esch Road Beach. The sky melts into an array of colors as the sun dips below the horizon.

The beach is sometimes called Otter Creek Beach since it is where the gentle flow of Otter Creek meets the vast expanse of Lake Michigan.

The creek's stream winds through lush greenery before it merges into the lake, providing a unique beach experience unlike any other on the shores of Northern Michigan.

On warm summer days, the creek's waters offer a delightful reprieve from the heat, distinctly warmer than the open lake, making it an ideal spot for a soothing swim.

The crystal-clear water of the beach creates a captivating sight, complemented by the magnificent backdrop of Empire Bluff in the distance.

The beach's soft sand provides a gentle playground for bare feet, making it easy to traverse the beachfront or settle down to watch the sky's hues shift and change.

A vault toilet is available at the beach, and Otter Lake Loop Trail shares a parking lot.

Directions: Drive south on M-22 from Empire and turn right onto Esch Road.

A serene beach scene at Otter Creek featuring a clear blue sky, tranquil waters, and a sandy pathway leading to the shore, with a solitary bare tree standing as a silent observer to the peaceful surroundings.

North Bar Lake Beach

North Bar Lake Beach offers a unique beach experience along the shores of North Bar Lake.

The crystal clear and shallow water makes it an ideal spot for swimming, and the warm water invites visitors of all ages.

North Bar Lake Beach offers a quieter alternative to the more crowded park beaches. This secluded spot provides a serene setting for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of Michigan.

The beach is accessible with basic amenities, including parking and accessible vault restrooms, catering to day-trippers looking for a hassle-free outdoor experience.

Directions: North of Empire, turn onto Voice Road and N Bar Lake Road. Lastly, turn onto Larahr Road until you reach the parking area.

Glen Lake Picnic Area at Dune Climb

The Glen Lake Picnic Area at Dune Climb offers a quiet beach experience alongside the natural beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The area has basic amenities such as picnic tables, restrooms, and parking. The lake's waters are suitable for swimming, but there is not much of a sandy beach here. This lake is a better place for kayaking than swimming.

Across the road from the picnic area is the Dune Climb, which provides a unique physical challenge with the rewards of panoramic views.

This combination of a tranquil beach setting and the adventurous Dune Climb makes it a versatile destination.

Directions: From Empire, take M-22 North and turn onto M-109 North towards Pierce Stocking Drive. Continue past the Scenic Drive. The Picnic Area will be past the Dune Climb.

A tranquil view at Glen Lake Picnic Area, featuring the calm waters of the lake with a lush tree line, and gentle hills rising in the background under a clear blue sky, inviting a peaceful day out in nature.

Glen Haven Beach

Glen Haven Beach is nestled against the backdrop of a bygone era. Here, the azure waters of Lake Michigan lap against a shoreline framed not only by natural beauty but also by historical allure.

Take a stroll, and you'll discover the nearby historic village of Glen Haven, where time seems to have gently paused. The maritime museum is a silent guardian of the region's rich nautical legacy.

Explore Glen Haven's exhibits to gain insights into the life and times of those who once sailed the Great Lakes.

Just a short walk away, the old general store offers a charming glimpse into the commerce of yesteryears, providing a tangible connection to the community's history.

Glen Haven Historic Village also has a Blacksmith Shop open in the summer.

There is a modern, accessible restroom and drinkable water.

In the spring through fall seasons, a deck will link the handicapped parking lot to a large platform on the beach with benches.

Directions: From Glen Arbor, head west along M-109, past the D.H. Day Campground, and turn right on Glen Haven Road. Parking is available near the beach. 

A view from Glen Haven Beach, with an interpretive sign providing historical context, overlooks the calm waters of Lake Michigan. A bench facing the lake offers a perfect spot for contemplation and enjoying the expansive, serene view.

Sunset Shore Beach

Tucked away from the more frequented spots, Sunset Shores Beach stands as a testament to nature's unparalleled beauty, particularly as the day draws to a close.

The setting sun paints the sky in hues of orange and purple, offering a spectacle that attracts both the romantics and the avid photographers.

It's a perfect spot for those searching for tranquility and a stunning sunset view over Lake Michigan.

Accessible via Sunset Shores Drive off M-22, this hidden gem provides an intimate setting for evening picnics and reflective beach walks, making every visit memorable.

As you plan your visit, remember to bring along everything you might need, for the beauty of Sunset Shores Beach lies in its untouched natural splendor, promising an evening under the skies like no other.

Directions: From Glen Arbor, head north along M-22 for about 3 miles to S Thoreson Road. From Thoreson, turn right onto Sunset Drive, right onto Sunset Shores, and lastly, turn into the cul-de-sac to park.

Use the wooden staircase from the road level to reach the beach.

Port Oneida Beach

This shoreline sanctuary, also known as Lane Beach, offers you a chance to immerse yourself in nature, undisturbed by the bustle of crowded tourist spots.

With only the essentials in place, you gain an authentic beach experience, complete with the lulling sounds of Lake Michigan's waves gently embracing the shore.

The lack of commercial development preserves the panoramic vistas just as nature intended.

Beyond the beach, the nearby Port Oneida Rural Historic District provides a cultural backdrop to your visit. Wander through this area, and you will witness a bygone era preserved in time.

Historical farms and buildings evoke stories of the past, complementing the simplicity and tranquility you find at the beach.

The unspoiled beauty of Port Oneida Beach awaits those who crave minimalism and the untouched charm of Michigan's stunning coastline.

Directions: From Glen Arbor, head North along M-22 and turn left onto S. Port Oneida Road. Vier off onto S Lane Road to reach the beach area.

NOTE: Access to this beach is currently closed due to storm damage. Consider nearby No-Name Road Beach or Sunset Shores Beach.

No-Name Road Beach

Nestled quietly along the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, No-Name Road Beach is a secret paradise waiting to be discovered by those willing to venture off the beaten path.

This secluded beach, accessible only via an unmarked road, offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of popular tourist destinations.

Once there, you will be greeted with pristine sands and the soothing sounds of waves gently crashing against the shore.

It's a place where simplicity reigns. Go unwind and soak in the panoramic views without the distraction of crowded facilities.

Pack your essentials and prepare for a day of peaceful relaxation at No-Name Road Beach.

Directions: From Glen Arbor, head north on M-22 for about 4 miles. Turn left on Port Oneida Road and continue about a mile, and then turn left on the third gravel road, which has no name. Drive about 100 yards to the end of the road for parking.

A solitary figure walks along the shoreline of Good Harbor Beach, contemplating the stillness of Lake Michigan's clear waters that meet the sandy beach, under the expanse of a clear blue sky.

Good Harbor Bay Beach

Good Harbor Bay Beach is your ideal spot if you're searching for a peaceful beach day with the little ones in tow. Parents cherish this beach for its shallow waters and gentle waves for young swimmers to splash and play. 

Located along the shore of Lake Michigan, Good Harbor Bay Beach offers a picturesque sandy beach with stunning views of the Manitou Islands.

The beach is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and is an excellent spot for building sandcastles or simply relaxing under the sun.

The expansive shoreline offers plenty of room for families to spread their beach blankets and set up a day-long encampment.

Nearby hiking trails provide additional recreational opportunities for those exploring the area.

Good Harbor Bay Beach also offers an accessible vault toilet and a parking area close by, so you and your family can enjoy a stress-free day connecting with the tranquil beauty of Northern Michigan's shores.

Drinking water is available at this beach.

Directions: From Glen Arbor, head Nortn along M-22, turn left onto Good Harbor Trail, and take it to the end for parking.

A calm and inviting day at Good Harbor Beach, with visitors enjoying the expansive view of Lake Michigan's tranquil waters and distant bluffs under a clear blue sky, epitomizing a perfect beach day.

Nearby Municipal Beaches

Beyond the natural allure of Sleeping Bear Dunes' secluded shores, the surrounding area boasts a collection of municipal beaches that offer their own unique blend of convenience, scenic beauty, and community charm.

Each beach showcases stunning views of Lake Michigan, coupled with the distinct personality of its neighboring town.

Empire Village Beach

Empire Village Beach in Empire, Michigan, combines scenic beauty with convenience, making it a favorite for families and beach enthusiasts.

With amenities like public restrooms, parking, and a playground, it caters to a comfortable day out by Lake Michigan.

The beach's soft sand is ideal for sunbathing and picnics, while the lake's clarity is inviting for swimmers. There is also a lighthouse at the beach!

Note: There is a parking fee charged at the parking lot.

The beach is not just about relaxation; its views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and South Manitou Island offer a stunning natural panorama.

Its location within the village ensures easy access to shops and restaurants, adding to the day's enjoyment.

Empire Village Beach is a perfect spot for those seeking leisure and a glimpse of local charm.

Directions: From M-22, turn left onto Niagara Street to the end.

A serene beach setting at a Lake Michigan Beach Park in Empire, with a paddleboarders ready to explore the calm blue waters and a sign indicating the end of the public park, all against a clear sky, offering a peaceful retreat into nature.

Frankfort Public Beach

Frankfort Public Beach, nestled along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a favorite for its pristine sandy beaches and clear waters.

This beach boasts a range of amenities, including parking, clean restrooms, and benches, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable visit.

It's perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beach sports. The beach is renowned for its stunning sunsets and the iconic Frankfort Lighthouse, adding to the picturesque setting.

Visitors enjoy the walkable pier and proximity to Frankfort's charming downtown, offering dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

Directions: From Frankfort, take Main Street and head towards the lake. 

A family moment captured on Frankfort Beach, with a child holding hands with adults, carrying beach gear, ready to enjoy a sunny day by the tranquil waters of Lake Michigan. The beach's soft sand and inviting horizon create a perfect setting for a family outing.

Elberta Public Beach

Elberta Public Beach, also known as E-Beach, offers a quieter, more secluded beach experience on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Though smaller, it is convenient for a peaceful day by the water. The beach is ideal for those seeking to escape the crowds, offering opportunities for swimming and enjoying serene views.

Elberta's quaint atmosphere and local amenities are just a short drive away, rounding out the beach experience.

Plans are underway for additional parking, a pavilion, better ADA accessibility, and flush toilets.

Directions: From Elberta, take Frankfort Avenue to Furnace Avenue to Bye Road, where you will find parking.

Beyond the Beaches: Kayaking and Canoeing

Sleeping Bear Dunes offers two scenic rivers perfect for paddling: the Platte River and the Crystal River.

Platte River

The Platte River, located on the southern end of Sleeping Bear, is ideal for kayaking or canoeing. It flows from Big Platte Lake to Loon Lake before joining Lake Michigan.

While the river is mostly shallow, it is easily navigable with a kayak or canoe. You can also float down the river using tubes, although the current may be slow.

It's worth noting that crossing Loon Lake can be challenging if there are westward winds.

Don't have equipment? Kayak and tube rentals are available at Riverside Canoes, just off M-22. Additionally, you can rent kayaks from Honor Trading Post or launch their gear at the Platte River Picnic Area.

This picnic area offers kayak launch spots, modern restrooms, picnic tables, and several pavilions for resting and relaxing.

A serene riverside scene on the Platte River with kayaks lined up along the shore, while a couple enjoys a quiet moment in the shade of lush green trees, reflecting a perfect summer day for outdoor activities and relaxation.

Crystal River

The crystal-clear Crystal River lies on the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes in Glen Arbor. This picturesque river winds through dense forests for a distance of four miles.

With its maximum depth of around three to four feet, the Crystal River is best explored by kayak.

You can launch kayaks at the drop-off location on Fisher Road to embark on a kayaking adventure along the Crystal River.

There are three portages along the Crystal River, two of which involve crossing a road.

Crystal River Outfitters is a great option for those needing kayak rentals.

If you have your own kayak, you can pay a fee of $10 to have your equipment and yourself transported to the starting point, allowing for a relaxing paddle back to your vehicle.

Overall, the Platte River and the Crystal River offer incredible opportunities for paddling in Sleeping Bear Dunes. Whether you rent equipment or bring their own, convenient options are available for all.

A leisurely beach day near Point Betsie Lighthouse, with visitors sunbathing, walking, and enjoying the sandy shore that meets the clear blue waters of Lake Michigan, framed by young green trees and a bright sky.

FAQs: Best Beaches Near Sleeping Bear Dunes

What makes Esch Road Beach (Otter Creek Beach) ideal for families and adventurers?

Esch Road Beach, or Otter Creek Beach, is a paradise for families and adventurers. Situated near the mouth of Otter Creek, it boasts splash-friendly waters suitable for little swimmers and plenty of beach space to explore.

It's where family fun meets adventure!

Are there any secluded beaches near Sleeping Bear Dunes?

Absolutely! Peterson Road Beach and Tiesma Beach offer an ideal atmosphere with beach grass, soft sand, and seclusion for those seeking peace and tranquility.

What amenities are available at Empire Beach?

Empire Beach is tailor-made for families, and it is easily accessible. The beach features picnic tables and playground equipment, making it a fun-filled hub for kids and adults. A perfect spot for a family day out!

A tranquil beach volleyball court awaits players at a Lake Michigan Beach Park in Empire, framed by rocks and sparse vegetation, with the vast expanse of the lake's calm blue waters stretching to the horizon under a clear sky.

Final Thoughts: Best Beaches near Sleeping Bear Dunes

You're in luck when it comes to finding the best beaches near Sleeping Bear Dunes! The area offers many options for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation.

Whether you prefer a beach with convenient amenities or a secluded spot away from the crowds, there's something for everyone.

By considering factors such as personal preferences, accessibility, amenities, and available activities, you can make an informed choice when selecting the best beach near Sleeping Bear Dunes that suits your needs.

So, grab your sunscreen and beach gear and explore these beautiful beaches firsthand!

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The image is a promotional piece highlighting the "Best Beaches near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI," featuring a tranquil beach at dusk with soft hues of pink and blue in the sky reflecting on the shoreline's wet sand, suggesting an idyllic and serene lakeside setting.
The image is a vibrant promotional guide titled "Best Beaches Michigan" for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, featuring a collage of beach scenes with crystal clear waters, golden sands, and a sunset, inviting visitors to explore the natural beauty of Michigan's lakeshore.
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