USA Today’s 2024 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards were recently announced, and although it’s tough to choose a favorite beach in Michigan, the top 10 are well-deserving of the honor. Here’s the catch: Visit all 10 beaches in a single road trip and you’re looking at 888 miles and more than 16 hours in the RV. All thanks to two outliers, the final destinations on our road trip. The other eight all sit along Michigan’s western coastline. You can visit those beaches in under six hours of driving (never mind an area or two of construction) over the course of 247 miles. We’ll tell you a little about each of the beaches on the list, and leave it up to you to decide on the duration of your journey.


Begin your journey in the southwest corner, in the village of St. Joseph. This beautiful and popular refuge has been a magnet for city-dwellers for over a century. Silver Beach County Park (ranked #3) is a family favorite, as it’s not just the sandy beach and fresh water that draws people in. There’s a carousal as well as activities for all to enjoy, nearby.


Continue north to South Beach (ranked #5) in South Haven. This public beach, which is also ADA accessible, features a picnic area, playground equipment, and of course, a red, historic lighthouse at the end of a long pier jutting out into Lake Michigan.


Not too much farther up the northern trail is Oval Beach(ranked #7) in Saugatuck.  This village is known for its plethora of antique shops and art galleries, if you get a chance to wander around. The beach itself feels more remote despite its popularity. There are dunes backing the beachfront, which explorers of all ages will enjoy traversing.


Next, it’s north about an hour’s drive to Muskegon. You’ll visit two beaches in this area: Pere Marquette Park (ranked #6) and P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (ranked #8). Pere Marquette Park has a wide beach, offering extra leg room, as well as access to two lighthouses and their complementary piers, volleyball courts, a large playground, and a restaurant on-site. Remember, you’ll need a recreational passport to enter P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. This pretty spot offers you three miles of pristine coastline and is arguably one of the most beautiful state parks in Michigan. There are dunes as well as trails, so you can mix up your beach day with a little land exercise and observation. Make sure to include one of the highlights in your plans: the winding wooden stairway to the Dunes Overlook.


Stearns Park Beach (ranked #2) is 2,500 feet of sandy shoreline near the town of Ludington, simply a paradise for those who love to swim, build, and bask in the sunshine. You can visit North Breakwater Light, which hosts tours – it’s about a half-mile walk out to the light. Across from the beach is a grassy area with picnic tables. A concession stands flank both ends of the beach. On the south end of the park is a skate plaza, mini golf, and a playground.


Then it’s on to USA Today’s number one beach in Michigan, according to readers: First Street Beach in Manistee.  This sugar sand beach is a blissful retreat, and all within easy walking distance of historic Manistee. Folks who have visited here describe the fineness of the sand as “Caribbean-like” and clean. Parking is free. If you visit on a weekday, you’ll have even more space to yourself. Stick around in the evening, after grabbing something from the concession stand or one of the restaurants in town, to watch the sunset.


If you take the infamous M22 along the coast, you’ll pass through several small Michigan towns that will be hard to resist stopping in. The drive between Manistee and your next destination of Empire will take about 75 minutes. There are shorter routes, though it’s not as picturesque. Your next destination is the beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (ranked #10). It’s a place where you can spend the entire day, easily, not to mention all the other natural areas and sights to see, including the Dune Climb and Pierce Stocking Drive. You’ll need to pay to enter the park – and it is well worth your entry into the park as well as worth the preservation of this beautiful natural wonder.


The final two beaches on USA Today’s list are outliers compared to the rest. One beach is on the Lake Huron side, Tawas Point State Park (ranked #9) in East Tawas. From Empire, you’ll need to drive about three hours southeast. This state park has a swim pavilion and a long boardwalk that stretches nearly to the water. There’s a lighthouse, plenty of space for flying kites, and a trail that leads directly into town. People who visit here rave about its beauty, upkeep, and general splendor.


To reach Copper Harbor, that is an adventure all of its own. Copper Harbor sits at the tip-top of the Keweenaw Peninsula. It’s the farthest point in Michigan, and you have to cross pretty much the entire Upper Peninsula to reach it. From East Tawas, you’re looking at nearly 500 miles and eight hours of driving time. Is that reason enough to travel there? It’s one of many reasons. The other thousand reasons is what convince you to make the journey – the scenic views, the wild, the local cuisine, the history, the waterfalls, the outlandish roadside attractions. When you finally reach Hunter’s Point Park (ranked #4), stretch your legs, kick off your shoes, and jump into the chilly, refreshing water of Lake Superior, you won’t notice an ounce of regret. It’s a favorite for bird watching, photography, and hiking. There are several trails, including a 1.6-mile family friendly trail between the visitor center and the parking lot. The beautiful, comfortable beach is a contrast to the unique and colorful rock formations located within the park. Honestly, you’ll probably never want to return home.


Some may say that if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all. That’s not true when it comes to Michigan. For some reason, the vastness of the Great Lakes, regardless of how many beaches you visit, is grand and majestic. The views have an everlasting quality, as well as offer a degree of familiarity and comfort. This driving tour based on USA Today’s 2024 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards will take you to three of five Great Lakes. That sounds like quite an achievement in and of itself – and quite an adventure that might be too good to pass up.


To read the story by USA Today, visit here.