There were many destinations on our bucket list when we moved into an RV and started traveling full time. Excitement filled our hearts as we dreamed of sunsets in the Florida Keys or seeing the alpine lakes of Glacier National Park. The thoughts of sipping chardonnay in California wine country or eating fresh lobster in Maine were almost too much to take. Going to the beach in Michigan… yeah, not so much.
For reasons that I can’t understand, Michigan and the Lake Michigan coast were not really high on the list.
We had absolutely no idea what we were were missing out on. We were unaware of the beautiful beaches with white sugar sand and crystal clear, Carribean colored water. We were clueless to the rolling hills dotted with farms and wineries. Even as beer lovers, we were in the dark about the plethora of top-notch breweries all over the state.
We finally found out, though. Lake Michigan in the summer is close to paradise and the type of place you will want to return, year after year. I know we do.
Our Favorite Lake Michigan Destinations – Perfect for an RV Road Trip
Holland is located 45 minutes southwest of Grand Rapids and features a terrific beach, great breweries, a little dutch culture, and a beautiful downtown with shopping and great restaurants.
Visit the beach
The main beach access is located within Holland State Park and you’ll find it packed on summer days. There’s a great boardwalk for strolling, grabbing some ice cream and taking in all of the activity. While at Holland State Park, be sure to hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah (10-15 minute walk via stairs) to take in the breathtaking views.
Tunnel Park is great because it features a picturesque overlook of Lake Michigan and a cool tunnel that leads you to a small beach. This is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Holland.
New Holland Brewing Company
Most known for one of the country’s best stouts, New Holland Brewing shouldn’t be missed. They have great food (try the pizza pinwheels), terrific beer and perfect outdoor spaces for enjoying the Michigan summer.
Where to Park Your RV
Camp at one of the two campgrounds at Holland State Park for easy access to all the attractions. Be sure to book in advance, however. With a short camping season, most Michigan campgrounds are fully booked all summer long.
Even though Grand Haven is a small town, it has a lot to offer for visitors. Coast Guard, USA comes to life every summer as thousands descend upon the town for festivals and fun.
The Grand River Boardwalk
Stroll along the restaurant and shop-lined boardwalk along the harbor from the downtown to the pier at Grand Haven State Park. There’s plenty of spots to slow down and relax and it’s a great place for people watching and to get a little exercise.
The Pier at Grand Haven State Park
Walk out into Lake Michigan on the Grand Haven Pier. The Pier is a very popular place for tourist and locals alike. There are two historic lighthouses on the pier which are popular amongst photographers. The pier is beautiful at night as well so consider making a trip in the evening for a different perspective.
Grand Haven Musical Fountain
The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is located on the banks of the Grand River, right at the start/end of downtown. The fountain plays a daily 20-minute show from Memorial day to Labor Day. The show synchronizes water and lights with music to dazzle spectators. The fountain was built in 1962 and was the largest fountain of it’s kind in the world until the Bellagio took that honor with their world-famous fountains in Las Vegas.
Where to Park Your RV
The best place to park your RV is at Grand Haven State Park. The campground is nothing more than an asphalt parking lot, but, it is located directly on the beach and only a short walk from downtown, the pier, and the Musical Fountain.
Traverse City & Surrounding Area
Traverse City and the surrounding area was our favorite. We absolutely loved downtown Traverse City and found no shortage of incredible things to see and do. From picturesque seashore to farms and wineries, this part of the state really is Pure Michigan.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a 45-minute drive from Traverse City. It is completely worth the drive, however. Embark on the famous Dune Climb to experience this unique landscape first hand. Once you struggle to the top, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful inland views. If you’re really adventurous, continue on the Dunes Trail (3.5 miles r/t) and take a refreshing swim in Lake Michigan.
Another can’t miss while in the park is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This scenic loop takes you to several overlooks including the Lake Michigan Overlook. This overlook may just be the memory that sticks with you long after you leave the park. The sheer dune cliff contrasted with the never-ending blue horizon is spectacular.
If you’re looking for an incredible workout, feel free to head down to the water. It looks like a lot of fun getting down there, but a lot of work getting back up. We were told it would take about an hour to hike back up, so keep that in mind if you get any crazy ideas :).
Downtown Traverse City
Downtown Traverse City is really cool. It’s nestled right along the coast, has lots of public parks, trails, beaches and waterfront to enjoy. Not to mention, it’s filled with hip restaurants and bars. There’s plenty of shopping, art galleries, watering-holes, and ice cream shops to keep nearly anyone entertained. Simply walk around, grab a sweet treat and take in the sites. For sunset, head to the rooftop bar at the Hotel Indigo for a good drink and an unforgettable view.
Traverse City Brewery Tour
Traverse City is one of the best cities in the country for craft beer lovers. For a fun way to visit several breweries, try something different and book a Kayak, Bike and Brew Tour. Or simply visit them on your own. Either way, if you’re looking for creative craft beer, Traverse City is a great choice.
Sutton’s Bay is one of the places to go if you enjoy visiting wineries. The Leelanau Peninsula is littered with beautiful farms – places where you can taste local wine and cider or pick your own fresh blueberries. Sutton’s Bay is a scenic small town that’s a great spot to basecamp if you wish to spend a day or two enjoying the area. Be sure to check out the local brewery, Hop Lot Brewing Company as they the perfect outdoor space to enjoy the weather.
Torch Lake is often referred to as the Carribean of Michigan. This inland, glacier-cut lake is nothing short of astonishing. The color of the water will lead you to believe you’ve been transported to the warm waters of the Carribean Sea. While not the best lake for beachgoers due to limited access points, it’s an amazing place for boaters. There’s a massive sandbar on the south end of the lake that’s perfect for anchoring with friends, hanging out and frolicking in the water.
You can also rent boats, SUPs or kayaks. There are only a few places to get equipment, however. Try Butch’s in Clam River. While your there, consider getting a bite to eat at the Dockside Torch Lake. They have an amazing patio that overlooks the water.
Where to Park Your RV
There are numerous places to RV in and around Traverse City. Traverse City State Park is a great choice as it is really close to downtown and the beach.
There are also some great Harvest Hosts options where you can stay a night for free. We’d recommend this option should you choose to overnight in or around Sutton’s Bay because not only is it free, it’s such a fun and unique camping experience. I mean, who doesn’t want to camp at a winery?
St. Ignace & Mackinac Island
The main reason most people go to St. Ignace is to visit ferry Mackinac Island. It’s a great place to basecamp if you aren’t going to stay on the Island (especially for RVers).
Visit Mackinac Island
Catch a ferry from either St. Ignace or Mackinaw City to the enchanting Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island is home to the Governor’s Mansion for good reason. It’s absolutely beautiful. Moreso, this popular tourist destinations boasts fine dining and accommodations, famous homemade fudge, the only highway in the U.S. in which automobiles are prohibited, history and plenty of spots to take in the sunset.
While you’re there, bring or a rent a bike and ride it around the circumference of the island. This 8-mile loop takes you along the coast and allows you to see the best of the island. Make sure to visit Arch Rock as its a sight you won’t want to miss.
Where to Park Your RV
We loved our stay at Tiki RV Park & Campground for several reasons. The first was the proximity to the ferry to Mackinac Island and the second was that they accept Passport America. With our Passport America discount, the nightly rate for water and electric was $16.50! They also accepted the discount for four nights (even during summer) which was absolutely perfect for us. Just staying there for the four nights paid for our annual membership.
Our final stop in Michigan is not along Lake Michigan, but rather Lake Superior. Regardless, many people exploring the UP make the trip to Munising to experience Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks by Sea
According to the National Park Service (and pretty much everyone else), the best way to see Pictured Rocks is by boat. There are several NPS approved operators that offer tours. You can choose from a larger, less expensive group tour, a private, more expensive pontoon tour or even rent a boat and captain your own tour. Whichever you chose, you’ll love the incredible scenery. Reserve your tickets well in advance because tours typically sell out during the high season.
Pictured Rocks by Land
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore extends beyond just the shore. It’s easy to explore some areas of the park by vehicle as well. We really enjoyed Miner’s Beach at sunset. Head to the Miner’s Castle overlook first, then hop back in the car and hit the beach for sunset. One great thing about Miner’s Beach is that you can bring your dog – something that earns major points from us!
Where to Park Your RV
Munising Tourist Park Campground is a good choice for RV parking in Munising. It’s really close to town and one of the only parks in the area.
There is also another Harvest Hosts opportunity in Munising where you could stay for free at a local art gallery and pottery shop – very cool!
Don’t be like us and overlook Michigan as a great summer destination. No matter where you choose to go during your stay, chances are you are going to love it. We hope this article helps you generate some ideas for your own Michigan road trip.
Have you ever traveled along Lake Michigan? What was your favorite place? Tell us in the comments below.
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