Whether you’re looking for a quick lakeside getaway or a lakeside vacation, Michigan lakes are the perfect place to spend your time. Lakes across the state offer different activities, amenities, and scenery suitable for anyone’s tastes. Michigan has thousands of inland lakes, as well as nearly the most shoreline of any state in the country. Check out lake listings to find perfect Michigan lake near you for a quick getaway or for your next Michigan vacation.
If you’re coming from out of state you might be surprised by everything Michigan has to offer from sandy beaches, to the sand dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, to the rugged terrain of the Upper Peninsula. Our goal is to help you find the best lakes in Michigan, regardless of what your criteria may be. We’ll help you find what you need, whether it’s the:
- Clearest lake in Michigan
- Best lakes for boating in Michigan
- Best Michigan lakes for swimming
- Perfect lake for a day trip adventure
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To make your Michigan vacation research easier, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite lakes in Michigan (in no particular order).
Top 10 Best Lakes in Michigan
- Torch Lake – Located near Traverse City, this lake is popular all year round with boaters and fishers alike! The average summer temperature stays between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. For swimming enthusiasts, the water is just over 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months. If you’re not into fishing or boating there are plenty of lakeside parks to enjoy, as well as the beach on Torch Lake.
- Burt Lake – Located in Cheboygan County, this lake has an average summer temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but it also offers many activities that are water-based including biking, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, fishing, and boating. There are several lakeside restaurants for your lakeside dining pleasure!
- Grand Traverse Bay – This is a favorite among boat enthusiasts who stay up north for weekend getaways or full summer vacations. The bay’s water remains at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year making it perfect for drinking or swimming. You can even rent boats or jet skis during your visit if you’ve got the extreme boating itch.
- Lake Charlevoix – This lake is a four-season getaway with average summer temperatures of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Activities include kayaking, swimming, water skiing, and even wine tasting at a scenic winery! There are many restaurants to choose from for a lakeside meal or snack. You can’t miss the spectacular sunsets from this lakeshore too!
- Grand Traverse Bay – This bay also offers boat rentals and fishing opportunities. If you’re not into catching the fish yourself don’t worry, there are plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy dinner by the lake. The temperature averages around 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months making it chillier than some lakes, but still enjoyable.
- Little Traverse Bay – If you’re looking for something a little less busy than Michigan’s most popular lakes then head to Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey where people from across the country flock to enjoy the vacation-like atmosphere. The water remains at an average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year making it perfect for swimming or canoeing. In addition to being a great place to spend a day there are plenty of restaurants and bars so you can stick around until the sun goes down.
- Higgins Lake – This lake has many activities for you to enjoy, including an amusement park with plenty of rides for your enjoyment. The average summer temperature has been recorded at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit making it perfect for swimming or kayaking during the day (just make sure you wear sunscreen!) and ice-skating lakeside at night! Many restaurants are there in case you get hungry or thirsty between all of your adventures.
- Big Sable Point – If you’re looking to spend some time outdoors there’s no better place than this lake which offers hiking trails, bike trails, fishing, kayaking, and more! You can even go horseback riding along the lakeside trails. If lakeside adventures aren’t your thing you can always head to the campgrounds for a camping trip.
- Portage Lake – This lake offers a variety of activities including fishing, hiking, and kayaking. There are nearby parks with campsites so if you do want to stay overnight you don’t have to go far! The average summer temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit making it great for swimming or just relaxing lakeside. You can even rent boats to take out on the water!
- Lake Leelanau – If you’re looking for lakeside activities rather than parks, then head to Lake Leelanau where seasonal activities include boat rentals, fishing, and kayaking. The summer temperatures range from an average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s chillier than other lakes in the area.
The Great Lakes
Of course, if we’re discussing the best lakes in Michigan, you can’t possibly get away without mentioning the Great Lakes. Michigan is bordered by four of them – Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Erie. The lakes of the Great Lakes are the largest system of freshwater lakes on earth. They contain about 20% of the world’s surface fresh water. If you want a truly epic Michigan lake vacation, you might want to start your research with these four incredible bodies of water and the towns that border them.
Lake Michigan is probably the most popular tourist attraction of the Great Lakes. Three of the favorite towns bordering the massive lake on the West side of the state include:
The lakeside town of Ludington is a small town with a population of about 8,000 people. The scenic beauty attracts both tourists and locals to the local restaurants, beaches, shops, parks, hotels, inns, bars, ice cream shops, and theatres. It also offers beautiful fishing opportunities.
Located at the tip of beautiful Lake Michigan’s “Big Bend,” Manistee boasts terrific views of both Lake Michigan and Lake Manistee. The lakefront town itself has plenty to offer visitors including white sand beaches, sandy dunes dotted with pine trees, magnificent sunsets, lakeside restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, inns, parks, beaches.
- Traverse City
Traverse City has become one of the premier lake vacation desintations not only in Michigan, but in the Midwest. With both East and West Traverse Bays, golf, shopping and fine dining, TC is a top destination. Traverse City also hosts the annual Cherry Festival, which draws thousands of visitors every summer.
Northern Michigan is a popular destination for nature lovers. The Upper Peninsula contains some of the clearest lakes in Michigan as well as some of the most beautiful, untouched landscapes in the United States. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular towns bordering this massive, and amazingly beautiful lake in Michigan.
This lakeside town is a couple hundred miles from Lake Superior, so it’s not in the same area as many other places in Michigan that border the lake. The closest town to Houghton-Hancock is Hancock-Pets, and then Mesnard and Portageville are right next to that. Houghton-Hancock offers visitors plenty of activities to enjoy close by including fishing, hiking, skiing (downhill and cross country), snowmobiling, snowshoeing, horseback riding, hunting (in season), picnicking, and more.
Munising is a lakeside town, so you can imagine what kinds of activities visitors have at their fingertips here. Local eateries and shops are abundant, as well as local art galleries, museums, tours of the famous “painted rocks,” fishing jetties, boat cruises to view the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from above Lake Superior’s waters, hiking trails that lead straight to several waterfalls along the shoreline including Miners Falls and Miners River Falls), wildlife viewing (including bald eagles and moose sightings), cross-country skiing in wintertime (downhill skiing is not available), and downhill skiing at the Munising Falls Ski Hill.
The lakeside towns of Houghton-Hancock and Munising are a couple hundred miles from Lake Superior, so they’re not in the same area as many other places in Michigan that border the lake. The closest town to Onotonagon is Bruce Crossing, which is about 60 miles away on U.S.-2 along the north shore of Lake Superior. In addition to plenty of lakeshore activities, visitors can visit historical sites including Fort Wilkins Historic State Park (a large reconstructed fort dating back to 1844) or enjoy art galleries, museums, restaurants, bars/cafes, marinas, boat charters, fishing charters, boating, water skiing, kayaking, in-line skating along the lakeshore trails between lakeside towns in the summertime.
While it doesn’t get as much worldwide fanfare as Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, there are still some charming and beautiful towns along the eastern and northeastern borders of Michigan along Lake Huron.
- Tawas City
Tawas City is one of the town gems of the sunrise side of Michigan. Enjoy watching sunrises over Lake Huron from many viewing points in the town. Tawas offers a bustling downtown, campground, and several hotels to stay while you play in Lake Huron.
- Pointe Aux Barques
Pointe Aux Barques is tucked away lighthouse at the tip of the “Thumb” region on Lake Huron. Situated by Port Austin, the quiet beaches allow walks along the big lake with less crowds and plenty of beauty. Pointe Aux Barques is one of the oldest lighthouses in Michigan.
This lakeshore town is a great central location for your Lake Huron Vacation. There are several nice hotels, in addition to nearby private campgrounds. Alpena as a growing downtown district with shops and breweries. You can also take guided glass bottom shipwreck tours of fallen ships at the bottom of clear Lake Huron. There is a marina and pier for fishing as well.