Top 5 Michigan Beaches of 2020

            I am thankful that this summer I was able to get out and go to various beaches to relax and unwind after all the craziness of 2020. This is my second annual ranking of beaches I have been to; I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to go to the beach this past summer. I was able to explore five new beaches, and revisit some of my favorite beaches within an hour of my house (Metro Detroit).

At the beginning of the season, there were government restrictions on bathrooms and parking, but they were eventually relaxed later in the season. From what I saw, it seemed like many beaches had many more people than other years past because there weren’t many other options available this summer. Many Port Huron beaches broke attendance records.

 Flashback to warmer breezes, soak up the sun and plan your trips for next year.

                                    #5 Sleeper State Park: Caseville

                                    3.5/5 Lake Huron

2019 Ranking: #5

            Could this beach be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet? The locals think so. Caseville is home to the annual Cheeseburgers in Paradise Festival, although officially it didn’t happen this year (2020), but a lot of the same vendors from previous years set up tents in town to sell cheeseburgers and novelties. Just out of town, is Sleeper State Park with it’s over 1,000 feet of Lake Huron frontage. It’s just through the trees and down the sand dunes, where you can relax with the sun and sand. Swim out from shore in Lake Huron and chill on a sand bar.  The water stays shallow about 100 feet out from shore. Sleeper State Park is memorable for me also because it has some of the nicest bathrooms, I have seen at a state park. Plan your weekend or day trip to Sleeper State Park.

#4 Port Crescent State Park: Port Austin

                                    4/5 Lake Huron

                                    2019 ranking: #3

            Two of my top five beaches are found in the thumb of the lower peninsula along Lake Huron. Port Crescent State Park is seven miles down the road from my #5 beach, Sleeper State Park. Spend a weekend in the thumb and soak up the sun at these beaches. I bet both beaches would be a good place to see the sun set over Lake Huron, as both beaches face north with water out to the west.  Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and slow down on this natural beach. You can’t see the beach from the road, or even once you get to the parking lot. Hike over the small dunes and through the dune grass -the horizon opens up to a small bay on Lake Huron. Another bonus is that there aren’t any houses nearby, only Michigan’s natural beauty. Port Crescent’s drop in the rankings is not because of any fault of its own, but because the new #3 beach this year is excellent. However last year’s #4 beach, Lakeport State Park, dropped out of the rankings because the beach disappeared. The rising Great Lakes water levels turned Lakeport State Park’s beach into a sand bar. It shouldn’t surprise me given how 2020 has gone.

                                    #3 Lakeside Beach: Port Huron

                                    4.5/5 Lake Huron

                                    2019 Ranking: N/A

            New to the list for 2020, Lakeside Beach is a city park located at the southern end of Lake Huron. If you live near Detroit, it makes for a great day trip beach, because it is only about an hour away. Enjoy the refreshing cool water of Lake Huron while freighters go by. Lakeside Beach is very popular and can be very crowded on the weekend, so make sure to go early to claim a spot on the beach. Because it is so popular, the city charges $20 per car for non-residents. Lakeside Beach is a great place to have a family picnic, with its large shaded grassy area with picnic tables, grills and a playground for the kids. If you want to see Canada without leaving the U.S., set up a chair and wave to our neighbors to the north (or east in this case).

                                    #2 Oval Beach: Saugatuck   

                                    4.5/5 Lake Michigan

                                    2019 Ranking: #2

            Want the ocean experience here in Michigan? Head to Oval Beach in Saugatuck. I found this gem of a beach by accident. Oval Beach is off the beaten path, you have to drive through a neighborhood through the woods to get to this natural beauty. A number of travel magazines have rated Oval Beach one of the best freshwater beaches in the world, and I would have to agree. Technically, Oval Beach has a slightly higher overall score than my #1 beach, but both are very close and it was a hard call. When making your summer plans for 2021, definitely put Oval Beach at the top of your list. Only three hours’ drive from Detroit and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chicago. Oval Beach makes for a great Midwest weekend getaway.

                                    #1 North Beach, South Haven

                                                4.5/ 5 Lake Michigan

                                                2019 Ranking: #1

            North Beach is one of my favorite beaches anywhere. You can get the ocean experience here, with a large white sand beach, warmer water and sometimes ocean-like waves, just without the salt and sharks. North Beach is an excellent place to take in a sunset, the sun goes below the horizon but there is still some light. I have many great memories here, from Labor days while I was in college, to my proposal to my wife. These memories are why I give the edge to North Beach over Oval Beach. You can’t go wrong with either beach. You can also check out the South Haven Light from the north causeway. Only two hours from Chicago and a little less than three hours from Detroit, North Beach makes for an excellent Midwest weekend getaway.

New Beaches for 2020: Total score/stars out of 5/ Lake

Bay City State Park    15 /3.5 / Lake Huron

Christmas Cove Beach   14.5 /3.5 / Lake Michigan

Haserot Beach   12.5 / 3 / Grand Traverse Bay

Lakeside Beach    17 / 4.5 / Lake Huron

William Sterling State Park    11 / 2  /  Lake Erie

See you next year!

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