Wait for a summery day to escape to Good Harbor beach, one of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's (231-326-5134; nps.gov/slbe) most alluring stretches of sand.
Pack your bag with sunscreen, sandwiches and sand toys, and aim your auto north on County Road 651 toward Cedar. Stop off at Cedar City Market (8994 S. Kasson, 231-228-5415, cedarcitymarket.biz) to explore an refreshing blend of health and ethnic foods, imported beers, wine and liquor. Grab some snacks and chilled iced teas and sodas (no glass bottles allowed on Good Harbor beach, so pour contents into a thermos and you're good to go).
Continue north on 651 until you meet M-22, and then continue across to the seasonal road. A half-mile of dust and washboard later, the blue of Lake Michigan and its rim of golden sand stretch before you.
Scan the beach for a place to park yourself and unroll your towel. Let the blissful release of an unscheduled afternoon envelope you. Admire the gradient aquamarine of Good Harbor Bay and, to the west, the promontory of Pyramid Point, which divides Good Harbor from Sleeping Bear Bay. To the north, the glacial moraine known as Whaleback rises along the mainland shore, so named because its towering snub nose and sloping backside calls to mind those giants of the sea. Fido is welcome at Good Harbor, but only if you pick up after him, keep him on a leash and stay on the section of beach north of the main entry trail.
For a perfect wrap-up to your sun-soaked day, bring along casual dinner wear and call for reservations at Trattoria Funistrada (4566 MacFarlane, 231-334-3900, trattoriafunistrada.com) in Burdickville - an uncommon countryside cuisine experience featuring authentic Italian fare. A favorite: linguini with salmon and pine nuts in Gorgonzola cream sauce that'll make it difficult to save room for the homemade tiramisu, but trust us, you'll want to try. (To find Funistrada from Good Harbor beach, follow M-22 south to C-675, turn south to Burdickville, about 20 minutes total).
Katie Holland was an intern at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in May 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.