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Northern Michigan Summers: the sun and water beckon, and we see no good reason to ignore the temptation. Pack your vacation playthings and head north to these nine stunning destinations on Northern Michigan’s endless shore.
Located on the south end of shipwreck-strewn Manitou Passage, Point Betsie juts out like a proud chin into the waters of Lake Michigan, ready to take whatever the elements throw at it. On calm days, the vast sandy beach is a peaceful spot for sunbathing, sandcastles and touring historic Point Betsie Lighthouse—but locals know that the real magic happens when the weather rolls in. “Point Betsie has great energy—especially on a windy day, when you have the tourists mixing with the surfers, windsurfers and kiteboarders,” says photographer Elizabeth Price, who became so enamored with the surfers she saw at beaches like Point Betsie that she took up the sport herself. Our suggestion for an epic beach day: Head to Point Betsie with a picnic in tow, spend the afternoon exploring the shore, and linger late for the sunset—which is always a stunner, whatever the weather. EAT: Soak up Frankfort’s local flavor with a platter of pan-fried whitefish at Dinghy’s (231.352.4702, dinghysrestaurant.com) or toast the day at Fusion, where creative cocktails and the North’s largest sake list complement the Asian-American cuisine (231.352.4114, the-fusion.com). STAY: Blessings by the Beach, an unstuffy B&B in a buttercream-colored cottage, offers three lovely rooms just steps from the shore (616.822.7754, blessingsbythebeach.com).
Ludington is one of the North’s best little beach towns, and Stearns Park—the city’s largest in-town beach—is the heart of the action, with a skate park, mini-golf and 2,500 feet of sandy shoreline. But despite the modern amenities, the main attraction remains the historic North Breakwater Light: a 1924-built, pyramid-shaped marvel that was recently voted one of the top 10 must-see lighthouses in the entire country. On balmy summer evenings, nothing beats a stroll along the half-mile breakwall out to the light—except, perhaps, a climb to the top of the light’s tower on one of the daily lighthouse tours (tour schedule online; splka.org). EAT: A scoop of hand-dipped, homemade ice cream from ’40s diner Park Dairy House of Flavors is the stuff of summer dreams—celebrating its 65th anniversary this year (231.845.5785, houseofflavors.com). STAY: Ludington’s darling Parkview Cottages boast original knotty-pine interiors and fieldstone fireplaces—and they’ll put you just a half-block’s walk from Stearns Park (231.843.4445, parkviewcottages.com).