Michigan beach towns are definitely, well “Michigany”. Some of them are a bit touristy with lots of bars, restaurants, and other activities. Then some are more down home and quiet. Whatever you are looking for, you can expect to eat and drink well. After all, Michigan is the Great Beer State with a focus on local sourcing, with from-scratch preparation. You’ll also find access to boating and golfing. Being anywhere near a lake in Michigan, means it’s a safe bet there is boating and golfing around.
We’ve included Grand Haven, Empire, Traverse City, South Haven and Holland. This is definitely not a complete list, but what we consider the top Michigan beach towns. But no matter what you’re looking for Michigan’s got a beach town for you.
Grand Haven is a great beach town, where summer time activities revolve around the water. In Grand Haven you are never more than a few minutes from the sugar-sand beach with beautiful sunsets. You can go to Grand Haven State Park to walk the pier, take pictures of the lighthouse, swim, people-watch and camp on the sand. Grand Haven City Beach allows dogs in some areas and has an ADA-compliant beach walkway. If you want something quieter, head to Grand Haven’s North Beach Park where there are some great hiking trails and an off-leash dog beach.
Best Grand Haven Restaurants
Enjoy lunch at the iconic Pronto Pups, serving addictive corn dogs from a tiny beach stand since 1947. Butch’s Beach Burritos is famous for their classic burritos, tacos and fresh-made salsa. Downtown, enjoy Kirby House, with 14 unique dining concepts; wood-fired pizza with cocktails on the rooftop patio of K2, casual dining at Kirby House for salads, burgers and sandwiches, or head to the Grill Room, a traditional chop house.
Best Grand Haven Hotel: Best Western Beacon Inn
Ever heard of the Sleeping Bear Dunes? Good Morning America once named it the most beautiful place in America. Empire is probably one of the best unspoiled American beach towns you can actually afford. Empire has soaring bluffs and breathtaking views like no other, and is the gateway to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There are plenty of helpful rangers to explain the formation of the dunes and point you in the right direction for hiking trails, beaches and scenic drives.
Empire Best Bets
Make sure to check out the iconic Art’s Tavern and Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Glen Arbor, and the Cherry Hut to the south of Empire in Beulah for cherry pie (which is a must). If you tire of trudging thru sand dunes, then the 9-mile Alligator Hill Trail through the forest has great views of Lake Michigan. There is also the Krumwiede Forest Reserve which is a beautiful preserved 110-acre wooded area.
Best Empire Hotel: Empire Lakeshore Inn
In Traverse City you can play along miles of sugar-sand beaches, visit the wonderful Sleeping Bear Dunes, sail on a Tall Ship, watch a parade, go on a wine or beer tour, or eat cherry pie from the Cherry Capital of the World.
Ride bikes on miles of breathtaking trails or play a round of golf. Summer time brings lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation in Traverse City. Whether you want to hike or bike, paddle thru the water or fish or walk for miles down a beach, you’ll find it in Traverse City.
Traverse City Best Bets
Visit the towering sand dunes that overlook the breathtaking expanse of water and islands at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Traverse City is known for it’s craft brewing, ans most breweries are located in or around downtown. Take a tasting tour on foot, by bicycle, by kayak along the Boardman River or pedaling on the TC Cycle Pub — a self-propelled bar on wheels.
Best Traverse City Hotel: Cambria Hotel
In South Haven you’ll find beautiful beaches, a broad range of eateries, award-winning wineries, quaint boutiques and scenic surroundings. South Haven offers much more than the typical beach town, but gives you a vacation experience you’ll never forget. South Haven offers fun for the entire family with a walk-able downtown, a variety of shops and restaurants, maritime history, arts, live music, and culture — plenty to keep you busy. You’ll find beautiful nature trails, gorgeous golf courses and gorgeous inland lakes. Experience South Haven!
Best South Haven Restaurants
In South Haven you’ll be able to satisfy your craving at any South Haven restaurant. Try the 50’s Drive Inn with classic drive-in meals reminiscent of yesteryear! Definitely stop at the South Haven landmark Clementine’s, known for their outstanding food, exceptional service and grand atmosphere. Good Italian food can be found at Maria’s Taste of Italy which has become a destination for real family friendly Italian dining. The South Haven Brew Pub offers unique hand crafted beer and cocktails in an experience like nowhere else. Of course there is Big Boy serving the food you’ve loved since you were a kid.
Best South Haven Hotel: Hampton Inn South Haven
On top of Holland’s award-winning downtown and white sandy beaches, Holland’s small town charm and big city amenities will have you coming back time and time again. Enjoy dining along the waterfront or at a local cafe, hiking to the top of a sand dune, or climbing to the top of a windmill. Holland has everything from local breweries, to the pristine shores of Lake Michigan. Make Holland your beach town destination!
Best Holland Restaurants
Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner, a cozy meal with friends, or a family feast, there’s a Holland restaurant to suit your tastes and your budget. One of the most appreciated breakfast-and-lunch restaurants is The Biscuit, serving biscuits with all sorts of sweet and savory flavors. The Salt & Pepper Savory Grill and Pub is worth the drive if you’re looking for an all-American restaurant with a friendly atmosphere. Voted ‘Best of West Michigan’ for 11 years, The Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon has classics like slow-roasted prime rib, barbecue ribs or sweet marinated chicken.
Butch’s Dry Dock is one of the best places if you want great food and a spectacular selection of wines or beers.