Port Crescent State Park
Port Austin, MI
Hidden behind small sand dunes, is the Port Crescent State beach located on the northern shore of Lake Huron in “The Thumb.” This is a rare freshwater sand dune beach; most are located along Lake Michigan on the westside of the state. This natural beach is very secluded and far from people’s homes. A lot of times, at a state beach, the beach is a decent size but is usually surrounded by houses that have fences and private property signs. This wasn’t the case here; I saw few houses but they were far off in the distance.
Update, May 2021; I recently stumbled upon an article that Port Crescent State Park was once the site of a thriving sawmill town in the second half of the 19th Century. For more information on this now ghost town, check out this article on another site:
Thumb Michigan, Lake Huron.
Port Huron: 90 miles (1 hour 49 minutes)
Detroit: 127 miles (2 hours 25 minutes)
Flint: 100 miles (1 hour 54 minutes)
Saginaw: 73 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)
Lansing: 156 miles (2 hours 37 minutes)
Ann Arbor: 154 miles (2 hours 35 minutes)
The beach is located in a large cove that protects it from the sometimes rough “seas” of Lake Huron. Also because of the cove, the beach has a gradual drop off, allowing most adults to still touch more than 100 feet from shore. I think the cove keeps the water warmer, because the water was absolutely refreshing. There were basically no waves the day I went. Perfect sheltered place to swim.
Sand and Land:
There’s lots of sand but not much sand space at Port Crescent. Sounds like a riddle. Most of the sand is in the dunes under the dune grass. Because of the dunes, the beach isn’t very deep, about 12 feet of so from water’s edge to the start of the grasses. Port Crescent makes up for the lack of depth by being very long. The beach also has beautiful fine grain white sand. To the swimmer’s delight, the beautiful sand extends all the way out into the lake at least 100 feet.
My wife said Port Crescent had a romantic feel to it. What more do you need? To the north is the ocean-like Lake Huron. Like I mentioned before, private houses are far away, allowing you to enjoy nature and the waves. The park is a designated dark sky preserve. This region of Michigan is a great place to look at the stars at night, especially on the beach!
A short walk from both the parking lot and the beach, is the bathroom at a park shelter building. On the day I went, the bathroom was a bit dirty and only one sink was available. The bathroom does have a half dozen changing stalls (no doors or curtains though). I would say this bathroom is a little below average for a state park.
Get into Port Crescent with the best deal in the state, the Recreation Passport! I went on a Friday and there was no one at the gate checking passes. I did see a park ranger in the parking lot, she might have been checking there, but I am not sure. There are 2 decent size parking lots near the beach. I think there is more than enough parking for the beach because it seems to be hidden off the beaten trail.
Beach size: 4/5
Swimming conditions: 5/5
Travel rating: Spending the weekend in the Thumb? Head to Port Crescent for swimming and sand all weekend. Also, a great day trip for people who live near Saginaw and Flint.