LAKE MICHIGAN BEACHES
Lake Michigan beaches from South Haven to Saugatuck - and beyond, are some of the best beaches in the world! Yes, you heard me. And here are a dozen good reasons why.
My husband's family grew up on Southwest Michigan beaches, so it's no surprise that they're in love with them. But I'm a transplant to Michigan. I needed to be convinced.
Growing up in the land-locked Midwest, I'm infatuated with beaches and they've always been the center of vacation adventures. The French Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, the Bahamas, the Carribbean, European coastal villages, Mexico, and scenic US inland lakes all have natural beauty, charm, and bragging rights.
But here's why Lake Michigan beaches are some of the very best!
1. The Sand. Fine, soft Michigan sand that lends itself so nicely to building sandcastles, staking umbrellas, and bare feet. It's a beautiful pale color; well, it's the color of sand. Many areas of beach are so sandy and "foot-friendly" that they appear man-made.
My first encounter with these soft beaches I was sure that the sand was "brought in" by truck. Then I discovered that all of the beaches in this area are like this. I was amazed. Many exotic beaches are beautiful to look at, but their surface is covered with rocks, harsh sand, lava, sharp coral, or other unforgiving surfaces. Not Michigan beaches.
2. No Hostile Sea Creatures. Yes, primarily because it's not really the sea. That's the beauty of it! I remember walking out onto a beautiful white sand beach in Mexico one morning and seeing pretty "sparkles" in the sand. I then noticed my feet burning as I spotted a man raking up hundreds of tiny jelly fish into piles before the tourists descended upon the beach.
Visitors are not meant to see what washes onto the beaches overnight, nor what is surely swimming with you in the water. Warning signs are often posted in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach to "Beware of Man of War" (large jelly fish) - so, we swim in the chlorinated pool. Shark warnings in Belize, sea urchins in Tahiti. Snakes and snapping turtles in inland lakes.
The only threat I have encountered on the beaches of Lake Michigan was a honey bee on the sand. I'd rather take my chances with him.
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3. It's Not Salt Water. Given the choice or fresh or salt water for wading or swimming, who would rather have salt water? Burning in your eyes and nose, chafing your skin? Not very many would choose salt.
And the water is so clear in most Lake Michgan areas that you can pick out pretty rocks, Petoskey stones, or beach glass on the bottom of the lake. When fresh water dries on you, it feels so much better than salt water. If you need salt water to help you float, just grab a noodle instead.
And, like we pointed out above, fresh water doesn't breed the oddities that live in the salty sea!
4. Waves. Unlike inland lakes where the only waves are caused by boats, Lake Michigan has real waves. What's the big deal? Well, waves look nice, they sound nice, and they are great fun to jump through and play in. It's much more pleasant sitting on a beach with movement than by a still body of water. Most beaches that have any natural waves are salt water. Not Lake Michigan.
This website (SouthHavenToSaugatuck.com) has freed us from a 9 to 5 job. Here's how we did it.5. Picturesque Scenery. Most Lake Michigan beaches are naturally beautiful. Many are undeveloped with lovely beach grass, driftwood and native wildflowers. It's rare to find much trash. Developement of beach areas is carefully regulated. You can walk along miles of uncrowded beach. The Lake Michigan shoreline gives you that "wild, back-to-nature" feeling.
6. No Vendors. If you've ever been on one of those exotic and beautiful beaches on the vacation brochure, you know what's missing from the photograph:. The local vendors! Yes, it adds a little "local flavor" and "cultural flair", but vendors often will continually peddle their wares to you during your "afternoon of relaxation" on that beautiful beach. If you've ever had the same child ask you to buy a trinket 20 times in an afternoon or glanced out from under your hat to see a boy with his arms draped with necklaces - again, you know what I mean.
When I walk onto a Michigan Beach, put my umbrella into the soft sand, and settle into my chair with no one hassling me, I have a new-found appreciation for that process. The beach on the exotic brochure will likely be a different story.
St. Joseph Michigan Area
7. It's Close. You could be reading this from anywhere, and I'm glad you are. But, you're likely to be within a day's drive to a Lake Michigan Beach. If you're further, come anyway. It'll be worth it! Closer generally means cheaper and fewer headaches to get to. Closer also tends to make us think things are less desirable. We imagine we need to go far away to find something great. Think again.
8. Lake Michigan Beach Towns. It's no surprise that these great beaches have matching quaint little beach towns. Most were built around shipping, agricultural, fishing, and now tourist industries. Small town values and characteristics prevail. Fruit farms; cherries, apples, blueberries, peaches, and grapes dot the countryside. Local flavor is easy to come by.
Speaking of great beach towns; Saugatuck Michigan was just named by Budget Traveler's 5th Annual selection of "The 10 Coolest Small Towns in America" which spotlights "hometown escapes with tons of personality". Congratulations Saugatuck Michigan!
9. We Speak English. Of course, this is only a positive if you speak english. Many beautiful beaches come with a language barrier and that's novel and exotic for a short while. But eventually, it will wear on you.
10. Safety. Any place can have its problems or "bad apples". But overall, as beautiful beaches go, they are often an illusion of beauty in the midst of turmoil and poverty. Tourists can be targets of thefts, scams, and other ill-fated deeds. This scenerio is not generally the case in Michigan beach resort towns.
11. Sunsets. This stretch of Lake Michigan beaches is further blessed by "the luck of being placed on the correct side of the lake." The "Chicago" side of Lake Michigan faces sunrises. While they can be spectactular, sunrises are no match for a sunset. A sunset on famous Oval Beach in the Saugatuck-Douglas area or from the South Beach lighthouse pier in South Haven is not soon to be forgotten.
12. Cleanliness. Michigan beaches are clean. It's disappointing how many beaches are not clean all over the world. I'm talking about human littering. Trash, bottles, cans, unwanted furniture, drug paraphernalia, - you get the idea.
Europe, Puerto Rico, French Polynesia, Carribbean, and Hawaii (to name only a few) all have their share of unsightly and unsanitary debris left behind by humans. The beaches in front of large hotels are kept manicured, but when you look at many of the public use areas, it's sad to observe what people leave behind to clutter such beautiful areas.
I have not seen a "trashy beach" in Michigan. I've seen many people walking the beach with a bag to collect anything unsightly they may come across - I know we do.
No, they're not perfect. But the Lake Michigan beaches I've walked have been some of the least-littered I've encountered.
It's no wonder that Lake Michigan beaches end up on all the right lists, not just in the United States; but worldwide!
Oval Beach in Saugatuck / Douglas Michigan was named one of the Top 25 beaches in the world by Conde Naste Magazine. And that's just one of many awards bestowed upon the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan.
So what's the downside of Lake Michigan beaches?
Well, the water is only warm enough to swim comfortably in about 2-3 months a year - unless you're an extremely hardy-type or wear a wet suit. But most pleasures take place on the beach, not submerged in the water.
So wading, picnicing, reading, relaxing, people-watching, volleyball, kite flying, metal detecting, playing frisbee, windsurfing, sandcastle building, beach glass hunting, walking the dog, campfires, and enjoying the scenery can happen most any time of year.
Lake Michigan beaches don't have any shells to speak of other than some small Zebra Mussels that originally came in on the bottoms of ships. I suppose that's the flip side of the Lake Michigan benefit of "no creature oddities" in our waters. Wierd water creatures often come with pretty shells, and we have none of either.
But, we do have some treasures to keep your eyes peeled for along your beach stroll - like Petoskey stones, pretty quartz, agates, and beach glass. You can also find some other interesting and colorful rocks along the way.
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