Relax on the Beach, Ride the Sand Dunes, and Explore More in Michigan

For your next family vacation, you can’t go wrong with the beautiful state of Michigan. Find out what’s waiting for you to explore!

With 100 parks and recreation areas and 13,500 campsites, Michigan has everything you need for a nature-centered vacation this summer. Escape the heat and head north to this stunning state that has so many activities to offer. 

The parks are only the beginning. Sail away in a pirate ship or hunt for Petoskey rocks on the beach. Stay overnight in a lighthouse or head to Detroit and learn about the city’s unique heritage.

If you like being outside, you’ll find something to love in Michigan!

Grand Haven State Park

Pier and lighthouse at Grand Haven State Park

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven State Park has 48 acres for families to explore. Sunbathe on the beach, swim in the lake, or enjoy the pier and the lighthouse. 

Grand Haven State Park is also a great place for people-watching and beach volleyball. If you want to stay the night, you’re in luck – there are over 100 beachside campsites!

What sets Grand Haven State Park apart from the rest of Michigan’s parks is its Musical Fountain. The fountain lights up and plays music for 20 minutes, and each show has a different theme. You can sit in your car and tune into the music at 88.7 FM!

Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Person riding dune buggy through sand dune

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes were formed almost 2,000,000 years ago, and now, because of the wind, the dunes still change and move every day. Visit them and go off-road-vehicle (ORV) or all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) riding. 

You can also drive a dune buggy, or you can simply explore on foot. The dunes span 2,000 acres of rolling sand hills, so you could spend days riding (or walking!).

Silver Lake State Park is open to the public from the beginning of April through October. There are several separate areas to explore: an ORV area where pedestrians aren’t allowed, a pedestrian area for those who want to walk, Silver Lake, Mac Woods Dune Rides, and the Little Sable Lighthouse. 

Tawas Point Lighthouse

Tawas Point Lighthouse and gift shop

Speaking of lighthouses, another fantastic site to visit in Michigan is the Tawas Point Lighthouse, located in East Tawas, located on the western shore of Lake Huron. This lighthouse was in operation from 1876 to 2016, and it offers beautiful views of the sunrises over Lake Huron and sunsets over Tawas Bay. 

If you visit Tawas Point Lighthouse, you can expect to see a variety of beautiful birds. You’ll also be near Tawas Point Sandy Hook Nature Trail, which you can explore on foot or by bike. 

It’s important to know that you will need a Recreation Passport to enter the park. For non-Michigan residents, the Recreation Passport costs $36 a year or $10 a day.

Read More: Most Underrated US Attractions

Petoskey State Park

There’s a lot to do at Petoskey State Park, including searching for Petoskey, which is Michigan’s state stone and more specifically, a type of coral. According to, “The fossilized, ancient coral appears a dull gray when dry, but its intricate hexagonal pattern pops into view when the stone is wet.”

After you’ve found a Petoskey stone, discover what else Petoskey State Park has to offer. With 303 scenic acres in the park, there’s plenty! There are two separate campgrounds, and there’s an area for metal detecting as well.

Sail on a Pirate Ship

Appledore Ship in harbor

Did you think pirate ships were only a thing of the past? Not in Michigan! Head to beautiful Bay City and seek out all its many activities, like coffee adventures, wine walks, craft shows, and sailing on a pirate ship!

The Appledore Tall Ships company provides public excursions, group tours, and more. There are two ships – the Appledore IV and the Appledore V. Check with the BaySails company before you plan your trip because the ships’ expeditions are limited!

Presque Isle Park

Head to Presque Isle Park to explore Marquette’s Black Rocks Beach. Here you’ll be able to search for smooth stones from Lake Superior after you spend time relaxing in the sand.

You’ll find McCarty’s Cove with its sandy beach within the park. You can see Marquette Harbor Lighthouse from anywhere in the cove! The Marquette Maritime Museum offers tours of the lighthouse, which is the only way to see it. On the tour, you can walk down the front catwalk and take a photo of the front of the lighthouse and Marquette’s historic shoreline.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Sand dunes, state parks, beautiful sandy beaches… by now, you know that Michigan’s landscape is worth traveling for. So you can probably imagine that the night sky in this beautiful state is something you can marvel at for hours.

In fact, there’s one place that’s dedicated to just that. According to, “In May 2011, Emmet County’s Headlands property became the sixth International Dark Sky Park in the United States and only the ninth in the world.” 

At the park, you’ll find dark skies undiluted by light pollution. You can participate in monthly free Dark Sky Park programs and special events that celebrate special celestial phenomena.

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