View of the amazing Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring) in Michigan.

14 Affordable Summer Vacation Spots In The Great Lakes Region

For those looking for an affordable and adventurous summer getaway in the Great Lakes region, look no further. Offering a variety of cities and attractions that all share proximity to the famous Great Lakes freshwaters and unprecedented access to North American history, any visit here is sure to amaze. Discover Sault Ste Marie and take a hike across the rocky cliffs of the Canadian Shield, or head to Tobermory to view the shipwrecks that sunk in the ‘freshwater sea’ of North America. The Great Lakes Region has so much to offer, at any budget! Get adventurous at the theme parks in Sandusky, Ohio, or buy some fudge on a bike ride across Mackinac Island. The following summer hotspots in the Great Lakes are breathtaking destinations that will not break the bank!

Sault Ste Marie, Ontario: Lake Superior Provincial Park

Misty morning in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Northern Ontario, Canada.
Misty morning in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Northern Ontario, Canada.

Looking to experience the wonder of the changing leaves of the fall season or witness the ancient pictographs of the First Nation Peoples along the Canadian Shield cliffs of Lake Superior? Sault Ste Marie is the best vacation for those who want to enjoy the largest freshwater lake in the world and its surrounding history. Head to this border town to take a tour of the Sault Locks on the Miss Marie along St Mary’s River, which sits on the edge of Canada and the United States. Hop on the Agawa Canyon Train tour for a ride through the surreal scenery that was once captured by the famed Canadian artists, the Group of Seven. For an affordable place to stay, that is close to all of the attractions of Sault Ste Marie and offers several onsite amenities, check into the award-winning KOA campground just a quarter mile from the Trans Canada Highway for as low as $65.00/night.  This vacation has tons of opportunities for free excursions that are unique to the region, for example, Whitefish Point, the location where the famous Edmund Fitzgerald ship sank in 1975. The largest city on the Great Lakes, also known as where the rivers meet, Sault Ste Marie offers a unique and affordable experience for anyone looking to soak in some of the amazing history that the international harborfront holds!

Tobermory, Ontario: Bruce Peninsula National Park

Tourists gather at Indian head cove The cove is located in Bruce Peninsula National Park on the shores of Georgian Bay.
 Bruce Peninsula National Park on the shores of Georgian Bay. Image credit Nathan Bai via Shutterstock.

Dive into the vast history of the Great Lakes and head to the tip of Lake Huron for an exciting, yet affordable, vacation on the harbor in Tobermory, Ontario. Lake Huron was coined La Mer Douce, French for The Soft Sea, for its stunning clear water and beautiful islands. Tobermory is the epicenter of this sea-like atmosphere because it is home to what is known as The Grotto, a giant cave that has been carved out by the Georgian Bay over thousands of years. Visitors can kayak through the tunnels before diving below the water to see amazing shipwrecks that lost their battle to the epic Great Lakes. Visit this small port city and eat some fresh whitefish at the Fish & Chip Place or take a stroll around the charming Big Tub lighthouse before taking in some of the most beautiful sunsets overlooking the Niagara Escarpment. Check-in for the night at The Tobermory Village Campground; this is an awesome place to stay with affordable cabins and glamping pods starting at 89.00 USD a night. A special community in the Bruce Peninsula, the park has a pool, splash pad, volleyball courts, paddling and canoeing on the pond, and a playground included in the fee. For those interested in a more rustic experience, choose a campsite and enjoy the same amenities for half the price!

Munising, Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Kayaker heading for arch at Lovers' Leap in Pictured Rock Natural Lakeshore, MI
Kayaker heading for the arch at Lovers' Leap in Pictured Rocks Natural Lakeshore, MI.

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan is one of the most epic above-water shorelines along the Great Lakes, and one of the most affordable too. Home to opulent blue-green waters edging along the bright orange sandstone cliffs, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a site that holds all of the wonders that any outdoor enthusiast dreams of. Munising gives visitors up-close access to the beauty of Lake Superior and an opportunity to hop on a glass-bottomed boat and take a shipwreck tour to soak in one of the coolest views of the lake. Float past the overhangs and waterfalls before grabbing a delightful dessert from Muldoon’s Pasties before heading to bed at the Cedar Motor Inn, priced as low as $93.00, a night with amenities like a pool and sauna in a rustic yet modern cabin setting. Want to be closer to the wilderness? Permits are available for only $25.00 which allows guests to stay at the drive-in campgrounds right along the edges of Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. One of Michigan's hidden gems, Munising is one of the top choices for visitors who want to hop in a kayak or take a hike on the wild side across waterfalls, cliffs, and dunes on this Great Lakes getaway.

Traverse City, Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes 

Azure blue skys and the waters of Lake Michigan are the background at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Haven Michigan
 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Haven Michigan. 

Are any beachcombers looking for some sunbathing? Look no further than Traverse City, Michigan, one of the most popular beach locations in all of the Great Lakes region. Listen to the waves of Lake Superior sit along the sandy beaches and enjoy the relaxation that this summer getaway can offer. The cherry capital of the world, Traverse City has many options for visitors, but the best experiences are free. Enjoy the dunes and historical trails at the Sleeping Bear Dunes or go fishing in the abundant waters of Lake Michigan. Grab your paddleboard, or kayak, or just swim along the sandy beaches of Lake Superior's coastline. Check into Camp David starting as low as $30.00 per night for an experience of a lifetime. Camp David is a unique place, situated on a homeowners farm that is also home to horses, chickens, pigs, and dogs on site. Get out and enjoy Traverse City’s locally brewed craft beers and specialty wines at Right Brain Brewery and grab some dessert at Grand Traverse Pie Co. which uses the cherries sourced by the fields of cherry trees surrounding Traverse City. Stay downtown for some entertainment, award-winning food festivals, and specialty wine tours. Spend the day picking fruit or simply enjoy the pristine beaches of Lake Michigan on this super affordable and fun summer getaway. 

Mackinac City Michigan: Mackinaw Island

Looking down the main street of Mackinac Island
Looking down the main street of Mackinac Island. Image credit Michael Deemer via Shutterstock.

History buffs will love Mackinaw City, one of the most popular tourist destinations of the Upper Peninsula thanks to its beautiful architecture, and of course the historic Fort Mackinaw. Fire an old-style cannon on your own or have some freshly brewed herbs in the tea room. Step inside the culture of the military outpost lifestyle and take advantage of the beauty and history in Mackinaw. Look over the famous Mackinaw drawbridge while riding the ferry over to Mackinac Island. On the island, there are no motorized vehicles so bring or rent a bicycle to enjoy this serene outing on the freshwater Great Lakes. Grab some of the famous fudge made on-site at the local shops and boutiques. Although there is no camping on the island, accommodations are not far away and boast affordable prices. Crash for the night under the magnificent Mackinaw drawbridge and check in at the award-winning Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground for as little as $26.00/night. Take advantage of the natural swimming beach, parks, heated pool, and free shuttle rides to the ferry. The all-inclusive nature of this vacation makes it well worth the trip. Get it all in one place and check out this military outpost for a serene and relaxing walk through history.

Charlestown, Indiana: Squire Boone Caverns

Squire Boone Caverns
Interior of Squire Boon Caverns.

Ready for some underground fun? Get out and visit Charlestown, Indiana for a thrilling summer vacation; Squire Boone Caverns is the main attraction. Check out the ravines, hills, waterfalls, and mine for gemstones before heading to this amazing location. Make sure to take out your camera when visiting the 1920s abandoned theme park on Rose Island. Kayak under the waterfalls, swim among the fishes, and enjoy over 15 miles of trails that go deep into the forest and provide you with opportunities to see immaculate fossils and natural sinkholes. Take in the wonder of the outdoors in this famous site for bird watching with over 70 species moving through the Clark County coast. Grab a slice of pizza at Charlestown Pizza Company before trying one of the specialty drinks down at San Pedro Mexican Restaurant. When you’re ready for bed, check into the Charlestown State Park Campgrounds for an affordable vacation with each night starting as low as $12/night. There is no better place to enjoy the natural wonders of Indiana and the freshwaters that flow through the caverns on their way to the famous Great Lakes. Don’t miss your opportunity to take a vacation with unmatchable awe-inspiring natural wonder. 

Saugatuck, Michigan: Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

Dunes are a natural wonder that only takes place in vast, windy, and sandy landscapes that can be hard to find. Saugatuck is home to 2.5 miles of sandy Lake Michigan shoreline with coastal dunes and access to natural forests. In the Patty Birkholz Natural Area, there are several hikes with three different endangered plant species that are worth visiting. The hikes range from a 2-mile trek to a disc golf course and other free opportunities to enjoy the dunes. After a day of fun on the epic dune trails, check in for the night at the Saugatuck State Park Campgrounds where accommodations begin at the very low price of 12 USD per night. Most campsites are easily accessible and can be booked online. If you’re looking to stay at a specific park, with a very sought-after location, you can create scans for cancellations and receive text notifications when those spots become free at There are so many ways to take advantage of the natural wonders at an affordable price. Create memories that will last a lifetime and don’t miss out on the amazing, rustic adventure that awaits at the Saugatuck Dunes State Park. 

Duluth, Minnesota: Park Point Beach

Park Point is a seven mile long White Sand Beach in Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior
Park Point, White Sand Beach in Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior

For those looking for a true summertime getaway filled with beaches, bathing suits, and freshwater fun, look no further! Park Point Beach in Duluth, Minnesota is a huge, 7-mile-long dune between Lake Superior and Duluth Harbor that has everything from paved trails, beach houses, concessions, playgrounds, sports fields, and a massive public beach. Check out the Park Point area which is spread out along a single street called Minnesota Avenue that hosts several community events like the Park Point Art Fair. If you’re looking to stay close to Point Park and want to keep the costs low and the experience full of valuable memories, check into the Indian Point Campground just a short ride away from Park Point. With rates starting at 40.00 USD per night, you are going to want to take advantage of this affordable opportunity to take in everything that Park Point in Duluth, Minnesota has to offer. Choose a site that overlooks Spirit Bay, just three miles from the ship canal, and spend the day sailing beneath the lift bridge on the vast freshwater sea. Take a walk down Park Point to visit the Canal Park Brewing Company before grabbing a bite to eat close by at the locally loved Green Mill Restaurant and Bar. This vacation has the culture that you are looking for and a beach town that is accessible unlike any other. Enjoy the free events, and exquisite cuisines surrounded by opulent cabins and seaside ranches. This is one adventure surrounding the Great Lakes that visitors will not want to miss. 

Bayfield, Wisconsin: Apostle Islands

Park Point is a seven mile long White Sand Beach in Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior
Park Point is a seven-mile-long White Sand Beach in Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior

Dreaming of sea caves, lighthouses, and hiking rugged and rocky trails? Head down to the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin to explore the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Get in on the awe of Lake Superior’s Western coastline and check out the 21-island archipelago of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. This hidden jewel of Lake Superior offers caves that can be kayaked through for miles and waterfalls that you can visit along the way. Camping is available on 18 of the 21 islands and can be rented for 15.00 USD a night. There are 9 historic towers on 6 islands to explore and visitors can paddle, sail or scuba dive the abandoned quarries. Stroll through over 50 miles of maintained trail and witness more than 240 birds and other species that migrate to the archipelago each year. If you’re looking for a cozier setup with windows overlooking scenic views of Lake Superior, check out the Bayfield Inn. Grab a snack before sitting under the 900-seat canvas tent for some free entertainment at Big Top Chautauqua. There is plenty to enjoy in Bayfield and the Apostle Islands are one of the more unique sights to visit for anyone who wants to explore the Great Lakes

Manitoulin Island, Ontario: Eco Park and Dark Sky Preserve

Aerial view of the Mississagi Lighthouse, Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Aerial view of the Mississagi Lighthouse, Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

Are you ready to learn the land like the pros? Manitoulin Eco Park (formerly known as Gordon’s Park) and Dark Sky Preserve is the perfect place to take advantage of land-based learning directly from First Nations Peoples on the great Lake Huron. Check-in at the campground for a place to stay starting at as low as 30.00 CAD a night. The park offers everything from tent sites to bunkies and cabins to suites with amenities to take advantage of on-site. Do not miss out on this affordable vacation to the largest freshwater island with the most amazing views of the Northern Lights and perseid meteor showers. Grab some binoculars and watch nature at work in one of the most sought-after locations to see the blues and greens of the Aurora Borealis reflect and dance in the night sky. Designated by the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada (RASC) as the prime location for stargazing, this is the best getaway to explore Lake Huron. Take a drum-making lesson during the day or go on a stargazing hike at night. Head down the road and grab award-winning organic and locally sourced food at Garden’s Gate Restaurant. Hop on the MS Mi-Chi-Cheemaun ferry, also known as the big canoe, capable of carrying 600 people and 150 vehicles around the island or across Huron to Tobermory, Ontario. This Great Lakes vacation is not only affordable but unique in its value. Check out the Northern Lights on Manitoulin Island for one of the most unforgettable experiences that you’ve ever had. 

Thunder Bay, Ontario: Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

A rock formation called the Sea Lion, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay Ontario on Lake Superior.
 Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay Ontario on Lake Superior.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is the best location in the Great Lakes area for summer hiking and running those trails. This getaway brings you to the heart of Thunder Bay, Sleeping Giant, a sleeping person-shaped island that has a long history as some of the best hiking trails in the world. Throw on those boots and head up the Sleeping Giant landform found at the end of the Sibley Peninsula. Ojibwe tradition recalls the land as a protector who turned to stone after the location of silver deposits was discovered by the Europeans. Step onto the land with so much history and hike, bike, or walk the award-winning trails that overlook massive vistas of Lake Superior. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is home to the best views of Lake Superior and staying at the campground can run you as little as 38.75 CAD per night. Reservations can be made and permits can be purchased online at the Ontario Parks before you leave home. While in Thunder Bay, check out Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. and grab some of the award-winning brews named after the famous provincial park. This affordable vacation will give you unprecedented access to one of Lake Superior's most popular landmarks, award-winning trails, and opportunities to engage with the nearby bustling city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Don’t miss your opportunity to take in some of the wonders of the Great Lakes. 

Marquette, Michigan: Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring)

Old Ore Dock in Marquette Michigan's Lower Harbor on Lake Superior
Old Ore Dock in Marquette Michigan's Lower Harbor on Lake Superior.

For a unique and affordable getaway, get out to Kitch-iti-kipi in Palms Book State Park, also called The Big Spring, one of the coolest natural phenomenons that you can visit around the Great Lakes. Kitch-iti-kipi is also called “Mirror of Heaven” by the Ojibwe for its heavenly and surreal qualities. Head over to the freshwater spring for a swim in 45-degree, crystal-clear teal water. Only 200 ft deep and 40 ft across, you can feel the natural jets created by 10,000 gallons of water that erupt from the limestone cracks in the floor. The spring attracts over 60,000 visitors every year and is located a short 11 miles from Manistique, Michigan. Stay at the nearby Indian Lake State Park on a tent site for free or upgrade to cabins for an additional fee. Rent a boat, bicycle, or kayak before heading out for the day, or enjoy some time with friends building a campfire on the beach. Grab a UV light at night to find ‘Yooperlite’,  a special kind of fluorescent rock that you can find along the shores of Lake Superior. The small stones emit a yellowish-teal luminescent glow and collecting these sodalite-rich syenite stones is promoted. A majestic, awe-inspiring, and affordable adventure, Marquette offers some of the most unique attractions surrounding the Great Lakes region. For a fun getaway that won’t break the bank, take advantage of all that the natural world has to offer by booking a vacation to Manistique, Michigan. 

Sandusky, Ohio: Jackson Street Pier

Sunset Sandusky Bay (With Lyman) - From Jackson Street Pier
Sunset on Sandusky Bay from Jackson Street Pier.

Looking for some wild thrill and adventure on your vacation to visit the Great Lakes? Sandusky, Ohio is just the destination. A city along Lake Eerie that has all of the beaches, waterfront, and vistas that you could imagine next to a bustling town with theme parks, attractions, and a focus on entertainment. Get up early and stay up late enjoying the different attractions such as the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. Make a vacation to Cedar Point affordable by staying at Lighthouse Bay in a tent space for 186.00 USD. This cost includes park admission, early entry to Cedar Point, parking for each day, and refresh tickets which include a wristband for unlimited fountain drinks while at the park. Spend the day on the beach on-site at the resort and take in the natural environment that Lake Erie has to offer. Don’t miss out on all of the amenities at Cedar Point before heading home to roast some marshmallows on a campfire before sleeping under the stars. If you’re not up to the challenge of the theme parks, stay at the Rodeway Inn North for 69.00 USD which is a beautiful location with a pool and modern aesthetics that’ll make you want to stay more than a night. You can spend your days checking out the Museum of Merry Go Rounds before heading downtown to visit the Jackson Street Pier for hours of free entertainment and activities. Grab a drink, listen to some live music, and enjoy the welcoming environment overseeing the serene lakes and vistas. Check out the Sandusky Speedway Motorsports Park or Skateworld before setting up a picnic and skipping some rocks in Shoreline Park. You won’t want to miss out on the fun in the amusement center of Michigan. 

Charlevoix, Michigan: Fisherman Island's State Park

Fisherman’s Island State Park sunset
Fisherman’s Island State Park sunset.

Where in the world is the best freshwater fishing? Head down to Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix Michigan for an exciting adventure where you can catch and cook your dinner on the same day. Drop a line into the famous Lake Michigan or kayak, swim, and more on the rustic shores of the largest freshwater lake in the world. Visit the South Pier Lakehouse throw a line in and catch a flounder fish before grabbing some locally sourced treats at Celeste Murdick’s Fudge and Candy Kitchen. Check out the world's largest cherry pie sculpture or grab an eclectic object at Charlevoix Circle of Arts. If you’re looking for an amazing getaway that won’t cost a ton of cash, stay at the Fisherman’s Island State Park campground for the low price of 20.00 USD a night. That is such a low price to surround yourself with maple, aspen, and birch trees and take advantage of the nearby lake. Hop on the trolley for a day to enjoy the local farm-to-table goods on a Northern Michigan Wine and Beer Tour or dance the night away with some karaoke at The Back Lot of Charlevoix, the local pub. Head back to your spot in the middle of Fisherman’s Island State Park or if you’re looking to step inside the small-town culture, stay at one of the many bed and breakfasts around town. Jump into the Victorian charm of Charlevoix and take the opportunity to bask in the glory of all that Lake Michigan without overspending at Fisherman’s Island State Park. 


For folks looking for something unique, fun, and affordable this summer, these incredible towns that surround the Great Lakes are the best of the best in the world. Check out the great outdoors and take advantage of the five-star attractions that Mother Nature has to offer. Travel from Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Manitoulin Island to Tobermory, or travel through the Upper Peninsula in Michigan through to Lake Huron by visiting Charlevoix, Traverse City, Mackinaw Island, and Bayfield in one fantastic trip. These aforementioned locations all have something unique to offer making them beyond worthy of the trip, whether you see a few or only one! The Great Lakes has the best summer vacations, many of which are reasonably inexpensive, making these trips accessible, low-stress, and relaxing.


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