Sand Dunes Beach
12 miles to the west of the Mackinac Bridge on the northern end of Lake Michigan in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you will find Sand Dunes Beach, an amazing roadside beach. On the day I went, it was windy and wavey, so Lake Michigan looked especially like the ocean. If you are driving from the lower peninsula to one of the many attractions in the upper peninsula, you will likely drive past this beach, so pull over and take a dip. Sand Dunes Beach looks like what I think a beach along Pacific Coast Highway in California looks like (I have never been there). I found this beach by accident while I was planning my trip to the upper peninsula. I stumbled upon it by looking at online satellite images along my route. Wheather you are on your way to the Soo Locks, Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks or the Mystery Spot, Sand Dunes Beach is worth the stop.
Eastern Lake Michigan shoreline, Upper Peninsula
St. Ignace: 12 miles (13 minutes)
Sault St. Marie: 58 miles (57 minutes)
Traverse City: 135 miles (2 hours 25 minutes)
Green Bay, Wisconsin: 237 miles (3 hours 55 minutes)
Grand Rapids: 255 miles (3 hours 40 minutes)
Detroit: 308 miles (4 hours 21 minutes)
The Great Lakes are like great inland seas and Sand Dunes Beach is the perfect example. This is the first beach I have been to in the upper peninsula, and I had heard that the water can be pretty cold. I was pleasantly surprised with the refreshing water temperature of about 70 degrees or so perfect for swimming. A few days earlier I went to beaches in Ludington and Muskegon (also on Lake Michigan) over 100 miles to the south and the water there was significantly colder (low 60’s). Not only was the temperature of the water refreshing, but the water was beautiful and crystal clear. Even in deeper water, I could see all the way down to my feet. On the day I visited the beach, the waves were small, fun for body surfing. On my return trip home, the wind and water were calm, so there weren’t any waves that day. The beach has beautiful white sand, so there is no need for lake shoes.
Sand and Land:
Sand Dunes Beach runs for almost 4 miles along Lake Michigan and US-2. The beach is located about 15 to 20 feet below the road. At a few points along the road there are sets of stairs to get to the beach. There are also foot paths through the dune grass to reach the beach. The beach varies from about 15 feet to 30 feet wide between, the sand dunes and the water’s edge, with plenty of room to pick a spot to relax. The beach has fine, beautiful white sand, which reminds me even more of ocean beaches.
Like most Great Lakes beaches, Sand Dunes Beach features views of the endless horizon out over Lake Michigan. While it is near the Mackinac Bridge, you can’t see it, but you can see the lower peninsula off to the south. Being near the straits of Mackinac, it can be a good place to look for freighters traveling between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Unfortunately, there are no facilities here. There are some woods across the street though.
Parking is available along most of the beach on the large shoulder on the eastbound lane side of the road. There is no cost to visit.
Beach size: 5/5
Bathrooms: 1/5 (woods or lake?)
Swimming Conditions: 5/5