If you love the sand, sun and shore, West Michigan is the place for you. With 300 miles of gorgeous shoreline, lucky visitors and residents enjoy quick access to beaches that dot the Michigan coastline. The ability to combine a big-city getaway with a beach vacation is one reason Grand Rapids gets top marks from travel experts at Expedia, Lonely Planet, Thrillist and more.

There are 22 Lake Michigan beaches within an hour’s drive of downtown Grand Rapids. Here are some of our favorites!

P.J. Hoffmaster State Park photo from trails video.

Hiking along Sand Dune at PJ Hoffmaster Park provides scenic views and a workout!

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Beaches Families Love—Great for Everyone

PJ Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon)

[40 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

The ever-popular PJ Hoffmaster State Park boasts over three miles of shoreline and is a beautiful place to enjoy the sun and sand, and take a hike on the trails. You can also learn about the park’s ecosystems at the Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center. Listen for the roar of the surf as you walk through the woods on the way to the beach.

When you go, plan on bringing lunch or dinner. Picnic tables are available and restrooms are located at the nearby Nature Center.

After you eat, talk yourself into tackling the Dune Climb Stairway. Your well-deserved reward will be a stunning panoramic view of Lake Michigan and the dunes from the observation deck.

Holland Lightouse

Pedestrian access to Big Red is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays to local residents from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Holland State Park (Holland)

[35 miles southwest of Grand Rapids]

If you’re in the mood to relax in a beach chair and watch the waves, Holland State Park has a long, beautiful shoreline and a historic red lighthouse, fondly called Big Red.

For a great view of Big Red, which sits at the end of the channel leading from Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan, follow the wheelchair-accessible boardwalk to the north pier.

Beachgoers can take advantage of the volleyball and basketball courts. Activity junkies can visit the park’s Macatawa side to rent kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards.

Holland State Park also features a great playground for kids, a concession stand with food and beach supplies, as well as picnic tables, fire pits, grills, and restrooms.

Lake Michigan Shore

Grand Haven State Park encompasses 48 acres.

Photo by Paul Jendrasiak - Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Haven State Park (Grand Haven)

[35 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

While the scenic sandy beach in Grand Haven State Park attracts sunbathers and swimmers, the State Park has plenty to offer, including volleyball and fishing.

Add the pier and striking lighthouse, food trucks, the Musical Fountain (the world’s largest!), and the proximity to the city’s quaint downtown, Grand Haven State Park makes a great destination for families, friends, and couples.

Fodor’s Travel named the North Shore Beach at Grand Haven State Park one of the Best Beaches in the U.S. That are Nowhere Near the Ocean. “A must-visit hidden gem,” raves the well-known travel guide. 

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On calm days, it is an easy day trip by boat from the Muskegon area. Water from Duck Lake streams into Lake Michigan providing a calm wading area between the north and south beach areas.

Van Buren State Park and North Point Conservation Area (South Haven)

[62 miles southwest of Grand Rapids]

The beach at Van Buren State Park is a rock-hunters dream: it’s wide, long, and covered with beautiful rocks. Picnic tables and grills are available for use, as are restrooms. Plus, four-legged friends are allowed in the park as long as they’re on a six-foot (or shorter) leash.

North Point Conservation Area is just a hop, skip, and drive north of Van Buren State Park. The area, which spans 17 acres, boasts over 300 feet of shoreline, forested dunes, and wetlands.

The state park is just a 10-minute drive from picturesque downtown South Haven and its beautiful harbor, shops, restaurants and bars. It’s a great place to end your day at the beach.

Duck Lake State Park (Whitehall)

[50 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

Duck Lake State Park encompasses shoreline from Duck Lake all the way out to Lake Michigan and is a favorite for fishing, hiking, and swimming.

Parents of young kids especially love the area where the lakes merge – it’s shallow and easy to watch kids play without worrying about the depth of the lakes. The park is also accessible by boat and is often visited by boaters from Muskegon on a leisurely day cruise.

A boat passing a lighthouse by the pier.

From the Pere Marquette Park you can see the Muskegon Break Water Light on Lake Michigan.

Photo by Nick Irwin Images

Pere Marquette Park (Muskegon)

[45 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

Pere Marquette Park’s lengthy two-in-a-half-mile shoreline, playground, convenient snack bar, and numerous volleyball courts are a few of the reasons beachgoers love to visit the park in Muskegon. In fact, the beach was voted the top beach in the state according to USA Today's 10 Best Reader's Choice Poll

The park is a popular site for kayakers, paddle boarders and kite boarders. Bring your own gear for a game of volleyball, or rent supplies from the nearby concessionaire. The beach has an accessible walkway for people who use wheelchairs, and The Deck, Muskegon’s only beachfront restaurant, is just steps away.

In addition to the beach’s fantastic features, Pere Marquette Park is home to the USS Silversides, a World War II submarine, which draws history buffs as well as beachgoers. You can even book an overnight stay on the submarine!

Take Your Pet to the Beach

Kirk Park (West Olive)

[32 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

Stretching more than one-third mile along the Lake Michigan coast, this park boasts 68 acres of sandy beach, high bluffs and wooded dunes PLUS an off-leash dog beach. Nature trails with wooden stairways wind through wooded dunes, offering spectacular views of Lake Michigan. A paved path leads to a deck overlooking the beach and Lake Michigan.

Dogs are permitted on the beach anytime between October 1-April 30 and outside the hours of 10am-6pm from May 1-September 30. Dogs are always permitted on-leash on the park trails.

A few other beaches that welcome pets:

  • Van Buren State Park in South Haven (see Beaches Families Love-Great for Everyone)
  • Kruse Park in Muskegon (its dog beach is currently being restored after erosion damaged it, check here for updates)

Hidden Gems

Lake Harbor Park (Norton Shores)

[40 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

Lake Harbor Park encompasses 4,000 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline, 1,500 feet on Mona Lake and 2,000 feet on the Mona Lake Channel. Locals come here for fishing, picnicking and sunbathing away from the crowds of better-known beaches.

The picnic area that overlooks the channel offers grills and picnic tables. The park’s picnic shelter is free, on a first-come, first-served basis.

When you take the walkway along the channel out to the beach, be sure to take a slight detour to climb the wooden boardwalk to the top of the dunes and enjoy the view of Lake Michigan.

Olive Shores

[32 miles west of Grand Rapids]

Tucked along Lakeshore Drive just north of Holland, Olive Shores features hiking trails through beautiful wooded acreage adjacent to the 728-ft. long beach. Modern restrooms, a barrier-free trail loop, and an extensive series of stairs and boardwalks traverse the dunes and provide access to the sandy beach. 

Sit on one of the decks for stunning views of Lake Michigan and to see a display highlighting the property as the site of a scene from the Tom Hanks movie, "Road to Perdition."

Meinert Park (Montague)

[62 miles northwest of Grand Rapids]

Located at the northern end of Muskegon County, Meinert Park is a quiet retreat for the outdoor enthusiast. A small, pristine beach is sheltered by rolling, grassy dunes and scenic overlooks. Visitors can climb a trail to the top of a dune for a panoramic view of lake Michigan and the surrounding countryside.

Popular activities at Meinert Park include hiking, swimming, kite boarding, boating and camping. There are a few picnic benches near the parking lot, as well as a picnic shelter available for rent.

 

Hiking to the Dunes at Saugatuck Dunes State Park

The Saugatuck Dunes State Park is a sight to see!

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Best Beach for Nature Lovers

Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Saugatuck)

[40 miles southwest of Grand Rapids]

This beach is a nature-lover’s dream. When you arrive at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, you won’t immediately see its two-and-a-half miles of beautiful shoreline. To get there, you have to walk through the coastal dunes, some of which are over 200 feet tall. The walk isn’t terribly strenuous, but it’s also not a casual stroll.

Four well-marked trails lead visitors from the parking lot to Lake Michigan. The three-quarter-mile Beach Trail is the shortest route.

The park has picnic tables and a couple of rustic vault toilets near the parking lot, two-and-a-half miles of undeveloped beach frontage and a 300-acre nature park favored by birdwatchers and hikers.

One trail passes by Shore Acres Township Park, home to the imposing, historic Felt Mansion. Open to the public for self-guided and private tours, and available to rent for events, the 1920s home boasts 25 rooms, including a ballroom, which comprise more than 12,000 square feet. Shore Acres also includes a 19-hole disc golf course and a mountain bike trail.

Note: State parks require a Recreation Passport to enter. Non-Michigan residents can purchase a daily passport for $10; residents can get a yearly pass for $12 (if purchased when you renew your license plate) or $17 (if purchased at other times). Check websites for daily fees at other parks.