Best Lake Michigan Destinations #TTOT

lake michigan

Lake Michigan creates coastline among four different states, including Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. Even though all four states share a part of the same lake, their coastlines are completely different as a result of natural and manmade influences. Indiana and Michigan are known for their wide and high dunes, while Illinois has forever changed the view of most of the lakeshore. Wisconsin’s coastline is largely untouched and protected, and open to the public to enjoy.

While each section of Lake Michigan’s coastline is different, there are incredible destinations in each area of the Lake. Learn about the best Lake Michigan destinations to help you plan your next getaway.

Empire, Michigan

Empire Michigan is prime dunes property along Lake Michigan and in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Empire includes over 30 miles of pristine lake shore and the highest rated beaches on the Lake. Getaway to Empire to lay out on the sand, hike and climb the dunes, bike the miles of scenic trail and then head back to the quaint town for some rest and relaxation. Dining options in town appeal to all tastes, but try some of the original Empire locales and head where the locals head for the best farm to table dishes.

Illinois Beach State Park, Zion, Illinois

The best beach getaways in Illinois lay north of the city of Chicago where you can really get away from it all. The state of Illinois turned the northernmost six and a half miles of Illinois lake shore into a state park, reserved for public recreation. The large park includes and protects a unique ecosystem that closely resembles what the coastline originally looked like before urban sprawl and industry changed much of Illinois coastline. Hotels, resorts and private rentals can be found in the surrounding town of Zion or Waukegan, but to really explore the Lake, try staying at the parks resort or even camping out close to the lake. Head out to the Lake for relatively empty beaches or explore the dunes, marshes and beautiful oak tree forests.

Chesterton, Indiana

Chesterton, Indiana prides itself as being the entryway into the beautiful Indiana Dunes State Park, but there is a lot more in town to see than non-locals know about. The eclectic town is the perfect place to set up for a weekend at the Lake Michigan beaches that are within the park, home to several hotels, bed and breakfasts and restaurants. Weekly markets and a bustling art scene are just the beginning, but the beaches in the Indiana Dunes State Park are the real draw. Crowds do flock here during the summer months, but the very family friendly beaches are still less populated than other public beaches around the lake. Clean bathhouses and casual dining options make this a great place to head for the day when you are staying at accommodations that are not within the park.

Washington Island, Wisconsin

Washington Island is part of the famed Door County region of Wisconsin, providing guests with pristine beaches and the ability to getaway from the world for a couple days. It really is very easy to get lost in the beauty of this part of Lake Michigan, an area so large you might end up feeling like you are the only person around in some areas. To get to Washington Island you need to take a ferry and then you can begin exploring this 35 acre island and mixing with the locals in town. Enjoy the public beaches, public parks, do a little boating and pop into a number of local museums to learn more about the history of Washington Island. This tiny island community is so inviting more and more people return and end up calling the island home.

Have you been to any of these places? Do you have one to add? 


  1. We would love to travel across Canada one day. This would definitely be one place we would want to stop.

  2. katieedwardsis says

    I would love to do this as a road trip. The scenery must be beautiful!

  3. Have never been down that way but would love to take a road trip some time!

  4. Ohhh, I would love to explore all of the go to places one day! On my bucket list! Thanks for sharing all of the go to spots!
    My recent post Play-date part 3: Bring nature into your home

  5. Good to know. Sometimes there are all these amazing places close enough to home, but we have no idea. They sound worth the trip.

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