A day at the beach is most people's perfect idea of a vacation well-spent. While the typical fantasy may involve an image of a tropical paradise, for Canadians and Americans in the Great Lakes region, there are beaches galore of a different nature to flock to each summer. Here, the fresh waters soothe rather than sting, and the North American wilderness creates a different kind of backdrop that is equally postcard-worthy. The following is a list of twelve beautiful beaches to hustle out to before the fall comes knocking.
Saugatuck, Michigan (Lake Michigan)
On the southwestern shore of Michigan's Lower Peninsula is the small city of Saugatuck. However, given its minuscule population of 1,000 residents and ample waterfront wonder, it is much better classified as a classic beach town. The idyllic Oval Beach is the focal point for fair-weather vacationers. Harbored by grass-covered dunes and the Kalamazoo River, en route between Kalamazoo Lake and Lake Michigan, this humble bed of soft sand is ideally suited for a day of unwinding. And after sufficient lounging, there are plenty of trails and a pretty town to explore.
Long Point Provincial Park, Ontario (Lake Erie)
Being the shallowest, Lake Erie has the warmest waters and the longest swimming season. One of the gems to lay out a towel on is Long Point Beach within Long Point Provincial Park - a thin strip of land that juts out from the northern shore of the lake. This area is part of a World Biosphere Reserve, which helps to protect one of the continent's largest bird and waterfowl migration areas as well as the vibrant scenery.
Ipperwash, Ontario (Lake Huron)
The Southern Ontario stretch known as Lambton Shores has several standout beaches adjacent to the waters of Lake Huron. Ipperwash Beach is one of the longest in the province, and since it is just out of the way of the more popular beaches at Pinery Provincial Park and Grand Bend, it is generally more relaxing in nature. There are three main access points to give visitors a chance to choose their own slice of paradise for the day.
Grand Haven, Michigan (Lake Michigan)
About 35 miles north of Saugatuck, the popular lake life getaway of Grand Haven awaits. Visitors must visit Grand Haven City Beach, Grand Haven State Park, and North Beach Park. For some sneaky alternatives during peak season, one can also visit Olive Shores Park, Buchannon Beach, Rosy Mound Natural Area, or Windsnest Park.
Beach Park/Illinois Beach State Park, Illinois (Lake Michigan)
This quiet village forms a part of the Benton and Waukegan townships. Beach lovers can set up camps and then visit the 6.5-miles of beaches and sand dunes in Illinois Beach State Park. The dune areas harbor more than 650 species of plants. The park also offers campgrounds, hiking paths, daily-use facilities, and the opportunity to splash to one's heart's content.
Port Stanley, Ontario (Lake Erie)
Port Stanley is a harbor village situated on Lake Erie's northern shore. On the way to some of the best sands in the region, visitors can witness the different sailboats in the marinas. The well-maintained Port Stanley Beach has gained Ontario's coveted Blue Flag status for its excellent water quality and environmental measures. When the sun starts to set, the tourists must stroll through the streets full of pubs, restaurants, and ice cream parlors.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana (Lake Michigan)
Situated along Lake Michigan's southern shores are the beaches of Indiana Dunes National Park/Lakeshore. These include Bailey Beach, Dunes Acres Beach, Porter Beach, Indiana Dunes State Park Beach, Kemil Beach, Dunbar Beach, and Lake View Beach. This whole shoreline offers sand dune trails, pleasing views from atop the soft mountains, peaceful sunbathing opportunities, and in the community of Beverly Shores, a chance to see the Century of Progress Homes that were relocated after the 1933 World Fair - a quirk that adds to the magic of the area.
Marathon, Ontario (Lake Superior)
Pebble Beach, in the town of Marathon, Ontario, trades in the soft sands for colorful pebbles and cobblestones. Though this shore may not be as inviting to sprawl out on, it is a joy to walk along, letting your gaze float across the individual rocks, passively searching for anomalous patterns. All the while, the waves of Lake Superior break rhythmically, adding to the meditative trance and further smoothing out the stones. If you are short on sturdy footwear, there is an elevated parking lot/picnic area that is perfect for viewing the full beach/lake/sunset trifecta.
Paradise, Michigan (Lake Superior)
Paradise is an unincorporated community situated in Michigan's Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior. The state's quintessential shoreline combination of an inviting beach and proud lighthouse holds strong. But what other Michigan beach towns cannot claim are the Tahquamenon Falls, which are the focal point of the delightfully underdeveloped State Park of the same name. For those more interested in maritime lore than sunbathing, float by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to learn about the ill-fated vessels throughout history.
North Beach Provincial Park, Ontario (Lake Ontario)
Situated on Lake Ontario's northern shore within the provincial park of the same name, North Beach crops up in two lovely slivers. The larger of the two beaches face the Great Lake, while the smaller is a short walk away on the waters of North Bay. The dueling shores give the opportunity for day-trippers to switch up their experience. No matter the selection, bird-watchers and anglers will feel right at home, as too will help anyone who wants a serene day of leisure.
Hamlin Beach State Park, New York (Lake Ontario)
Situated on Lake Ontario's southern shore in the state of New York is the family-fun getaway spot of Hamlin Beach State Park. These beaches may not have the Caribbean sands kind of beauty, but they are wide, laid-back, and next to big sections of grassy parks, complete with plenty of walking paths, picnic tables/barbeques, and some other friendly amenities. This is the type of spot that will make you grateful to be out of the city, enjoying a nice lunch or tossing a frisbee against the fresh breeze. Hamlin Beach State Park also has loads of tent and trailer sites for all you campers out there.
Old Woman Bay, Ontario (Lake Superior)
Representing yet another excellent entry from the province of Ontario is the back-to-basic beauty of Old Woman Bay. This area is a snapshot of the more rugged wilderness of Algoma Country in the center of Northern Ontario, bordered to the west by Lake Superior. Looking out from the flat, driftwood-rich beach, the likeness of an Old Woman's face can be spotted in the cliffs on the left-hand side. Beyond her faithful watch, the frigid waters of Superior expand out. This makes for a great place to unplug from the world and reconnect with unspoiled nature.
The beaches of the Great Lakes range from wild to pristine, soft to rugged; some can be packed on weekends, while others remain generally undiscovered. But a common thing among all beaches is multitudinous beauty. These twelve, in particular, are the perfect stage for a memorable summer day.