The perfect weekend camping Michigan’s west coast. Lake Michigan touches four US states- Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Around 12 million people reside on this magnificent great lake. It’s crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with 275,000 acres of sand dunes, making it the largest freshwater dune system in the world! Lake Michigan has so many beaches it’s often referred to as “The Third Coast” of the United States. In my completely unbiased opinion, it’s the best of the coasts. The fresh water lake comes shark and salt free!
Logan and I had the perfect weekend camping along Michigan’s west coast as we explored a new part of the state with family, complete with fur babies and adorable nephews. We headed to the west coast over to Warren Dunes State Park where we camped for the weekend. The west side of the state is so beautiful, and just a short drive from Detroit or Chicago.
Here are some of the highlights and must see spots for the Perfect Weekend Camping Along Michigan’s West Coast
Best Time to Visit Michigan’s West
Michigan experiences all 4 seasons, with a long brutal winter. My favorite time to visit Lake Michigan is in the summer months where you’ll have lots of sunshine. However, the summer months have high humidity which will contribute to temperatures that feel higher than they are. For example, an 83 F day might feel like 90 F because of high humidity that day. The temperatures along Lake Michigan are relatively cooler than the inland, with a nice breeze coming off the lake.
How to get to Lake Michigan
There are several different routes you can take to reach Lake Michigan’s west coast.
Fly into the Chicago O’Hare (ORD) International Airport & drive a rental car 2 hours south to Gary Indiana than north to Warren Dunes State Park. *BONUS* if you have time, you can stop at the Indiana Dunes National Park on your way there.
As if setting up in the dark isn’t bad enough, it started to monsoon like rain as soon as we pulled into our campsite (and every weekend we camp, ever). Once again Logan and I questioned if tent camping was still our best option. We’ve been debating all summer if we should bite the bullet and buy a used camper to keep us dry on the rainy weekends (all in favor, say “I”). There are state campgrounds all up the coastline, here’s some of my favorites I’ve camped at along Lake Michigan.
Warren Dunes State Park:Three miles of rare PET FRIENDLY shoreline along gorgeous Lake Michigan. The park also includes around six miles of hiking trails through forest and sand dunes. Modern & rustic sites available.
Ludington State Park:My favorite Michigan state park has everything- a lighthouse, hiking trails, lakes, sand dunes, dense forest, adventure activities and so much more. This is a must visit park! Check out my post on 5 Reasons to Love Ludington. Modern & rustic sites.
Leelanau State Park: Another park home to a magnificent lighthouse. The drive up the peninsula to Leelanau State Park takes you through Michigan’s wine country with water views on both sides. Rustic campground.
Wilderness State Park:This park is a night photographers dream spot, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive from Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Modern & rustic sites.
Take a road trip along the west coast and explore the waterfront towns while hunting for lighthouses. The western coast of Michigan has around 35 lighthouses. Two of those reside side by side in the town of St. Joseph. It was about a 30 minute drive from our campground, 80 f degrees and the sun was shining. Perfect lighthouse hunting weather!
St. Joseph North Pier
Each lighthouse is unique and has its own fascinating history, road tripping around the shorelines of Michigan you’re bound to run into a lighthouse or two.
South Haven South Pier
Go for a Swim
Like I mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake that comes salt and shark free. Immerse yourself in the crystal clear blue waters to cool down from the summer sun and Michigan humidity.
Search for Petoskey Stones
Searching for stones as you walk along the beach shore was a tradition growing up. If you were lucky, you would find a Petoskey stone- the Michigan state stone. The stones are unique to the Great Lakes, and can only be found along the shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Relax on the Beach
The lake temperatures range from 60s in early summer to high 70s in late summer. The beach entrance at Warren Dunes State park has a sign showing the water temp each day so you can plan accordingly.
Pack a beach bag, your furry friend or adorable nephew, and a picnic lunch- then head to the beach. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can hike to the beach on one of the many trails that runs through Warren Dunes State Park.
Windmill Island Gardens
Windmill Island Gardens is home to de Zwaan windmill, the last mill allowed to be transported from the Netherlands. de Zwaan still functions by grinding locally-grown grain into flour that is sold to visitors and local businesses. A highlight of visiting is a tour of this historic working windmill. Visitors can enjoy music from our antique Dutch street organ given to the City of Holland by the City of Amsterdam after World War II. Children can also ride on our antique carousel from the Netherlands. There are several other replica Dutch buildings and shops. The Island is home to beautiful gardens which feature tulips in the spring followed by beautiful annuals and perennials throughout the summer.
Hike The Sand Dunes
Enjoy the world’s largest dune system, and go for a hike! At 400 ft the highest dune resides in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The dune formation pictured above was the largest at Warren Dunes State park. The dune rises 260 feet above the water with Lake Michigan views from the top.
We stopped at the local Three Blonde’s Brewing for lunch and a drink to cool down. Michigan’s west coast is crawling with local watering holes. Beer, Wine, Cider. We do them all impeccably well. The craft beer craze has swept through the state like wildfire, with hundreds of local breweries statewide. Just as Michigan has its own west coast, we have our own wine country, much of which resides on the beautiful Lake Michigan. You haven’t tasted anything like the sweet nectar Michigan’s cideries create. Cider is easily my beverage of choice, and I would highly recommend any produced locally, a few of my favorites include Blakes, JK Scrumpys, and Vandermill.
After our boozy lunch we decided dessert was a must. Good thing icecream is yet another thing Michigan is awesome at. There was a local dairy farm mere seconds away from the brewery we ate lunch at. Sherman’s Dairy Bar didn’t disappoint. I had a hard time deciding between the yellow cake batter flavor and the birthday cake. With over 70 different flavors of homemade recipes featuring all the Michigan classics, can you blame me? (I went with yellow cake batter 😊)
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