Our home state—also known as The Great Lakes State—borders four of the Great Lakes and contains more than 11,000 inland lakes. So, when you’re on the hunt for a summer swimming destination, this is a good place to be!
While the communities surrounding Ann Arbor aren’t well known for their large waterways, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any! In fact, Southeast Michigan just happens to be home to countless swim beaches, state parks and pristine waters. To help you on your beach-themed summer adventures, we rounded up a handful of the best options around Ann Arbor. From just a few minutes away to about three hours away on the shores of Lake Michigan, these sandy shores should all be on your summer bucket list!
Distance from Ann Arbor: 11.3 miles | Directions
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Operated by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, Independence Lake Park offers countless, year-round attractions. During the summer months, the park’s 360 acres feature trails for biking and hiking as well as fishing, boating and swimming in Independence Lake. Featuring both a small dock and a boat launch, you can take off in your kayak or leap off the dock into the water. When you’re done, you can sunbathe on the beach or continue the water-themed fun at Blue Heron Bay Spray Park, which features water cannons, geysers and water slides.
Van Buren Park Beach is one of Southeast Michigan’s most popular spots for lake swimming. Just a 20-minute drive from Ypsilanti, the entire park offers hiking trails, three play structures, picnic areas, pavilions, horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, a basketball court, grills, a community garden, restrooms and, of course, the beach with its own concession stand for snacks and refreshments! The shore boasts one mile of sandy beach and high dune formations making it the perfect place to lounge, make sandcastles and enjoy a picnic.
Covering 4,947 acres, Brighton Recreation Area is a hilly, outdoor paradise interspersed with a number of picturesque lakes. The best beach can be found at Bishop Lake. The remodeled, universally accessible beach features a beach house with vending machines, picnic shelters and a sand volleyball court.
In addition to the lake and beach attractions, Bishop Lake is also home to Jump Island! This lake waterpark features an inflatable iceberg, inflatable slides, runways and more, so you can slide, run, walk and play atop the water.
Covering a whopping 11,000 acres, Pinckney State Recreation Area is one of our favorite outdoor destinations in the Ann Arbor area. Known for its extensive trail system and chain of excellent fishing lakes, the park also offers over 40 miles of multi-use trails, picnicking, playgrounds, beaches, a concession stand, boat launches and rowboat, canoe, paddle boat and kayak rentals.
For swimmers, there are two public beaches, one at Silver Lake and one at Halfmoon Lake. A third beach at Bruin Lake is only open to campers and you can see a list of available campgrounds here.
Just 40 minutes from Ann Arbor, located directly above Island Lake Recreation Area, Kensington Metropark is one of the most popular parks in the state of Michigan. Throughout 4,486 acres, you’ll find an 18-hole golf course, a 27-hole disc golf course, a nature center, a farm center, and beautiful picnic areas, as well as scenic hiking and biking trails for hours of enjoyment.
And, on the 1,200-acre Kent Lake, you can swim at Martindale or Maple beaches, get soaked at the Splash ‘n’ Blast, or just spend the day fishing, boating and picnicking along the water.
Located in the heart of the Irish Hills, Hayes State Park is a 78-acre park surrounding the popular Wamplers Lake. The surrounding beach is small but mighty, only offering a few feet of sandy shores. But where it lacks in sand, it makes up for in sheer volume of other summer activities! Take advantage of the modern campground, large swimming area, two boat launches, a fishing pier, hiking trails, a picnic shelter, interpretive programs and more. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities for geocaching, metal detecting and more.
Sterling State Park is the only state park on Lake Erie, conveniently located off 1-75 in Monroe and an easy drive from many Midwestern destinations like Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Chicago. This iconic state park’s 1,300 acres offer great recreational opportunities like beaches (perfect for sunning and/or swimming) a public boat launch; shore fishing on Lake Erie and the fishing lagoons; lakefront camping; modern restrooms and a picnic area; wildlife viewing and 6 miles of trails for hiking and biking.
A three–hour drive from Ann Arbor, Grand Haven State Park is the furthest on our list, but we promise the views are worth it! The 48–acre park consists entirely of sandy beach with Lake Michigan bordering on the east and Grand River bordering on the north. From the beach, you can dip your toes in the water and enjoy scenic views of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. Click here to explore everything you can do to make trip to Grand Haven worthwhile!
Seas the Day!
Take advantage of the warm weather and escape to the beach. If we missed your favorite place to catch some sun in the Ann Arbor area, let us know in the comments!
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