15 of the Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Manistee MI

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Located on the banks of northeast Lake Michigan in the northwestern lower peninsula, Manistee is a small city in Michigan with just over 6,250 residents. The city is surrounded by Manistee Lake, the Manistee River, and of course, Lake Michigan, so there is a lot of waterfront space for residents as well as visitors to enjoy. And many of these spaces have pup-popular beaches where your canine companion can join in on the fun.   

The main time to enjoy the beach in Manistee is between April and October when the weather is warm. During the winter months, the lows can drop into the teens, and snow is always a possibility. However, you will find that many locals spend time on the beach during the winter, too, just walking and enjoying the view. Others find frozen lakes for ice fishing and skating. But the summer is the best time for beaches if you plan on getting in the water. Here are our favorite 15 dog beaches in Manistee.

Douglas Recreation Area Beach

Douglas Park is also known as First Street Beach because it is located at the end of First Street in downtown Manistee. This is where the locals go when they say they are “going to the beach.” It includes a long stretch of golden sand on Lake Michigan, another section of beach along Manistee River in Douglas Park, a green space full of activities in Lighthouse Park, and even a dog park! Although your pooch has to be leashed everywhere else, the dog park is for off-leash fun!

The dog park is fenced and has two sections for large and small dogs as well as water fountains, plenty of shade, and lots of seating for the pup parents. It is about ½ acre of sandy space that your fur buddy will love to dig in, and you can even play fetch or frisbee. Right next to the dog park is a playground, picnic area, bathhouse, and restrooms. However, keep in mind that you will have to put your pup’s leash back on when leaving the fenced area. 

Fifth Avenue Beach

Located right across Manistee River from Douglas Recreation Area, Fifth Avenue Beach allows fur babies to play, too as long as they have a leash on at all times. This is one of the oldest beaches in the state, purchased by Manistee City in 1912. You have the option of playing in Lake Michigan or Manistee River, with beaches on each side. The river has a bit of a current though, so keep your pup in the shallows. 

At the end of the beach by the river, you will find the 5th Avenue Beachhouse and Snack Shop, where you can grab some snacks and drinks. But make sure you ask before bringing your pup into any establishment. While you are at the beach, take a stroll along the boardwalk and get some selfies with the North Pierhead Lighthouse, and then you can enjoy your snacks at the picnic area nearby. The park also has a playground, volleyball, restrooms, and a fishing area. 

North Beach

Right next door to Fifth Street Beach is North Beach Access, where your fur puppy is welcome as long as he is on a leash. This is the place where locals typically go to walk their dogs along the beach because it is more dog-friendly than the others. But you will still need to bring your own puppy poo bags to pick up after your pup because they do not have dispensers here. But they do have a wooden boardwalk with a large platform overlooking the water. 

From the platform, there are steps to get down to the sand, where you and Fido can run and play, take a leisurely stroll, or play in the water. You could also just relax and soak up the sun. The view here is awesome. Fishing here is popular, too so if you have a pole, bring it along. But pack your snacks and bait because there are no concessions here.  

Orchard Beach State Park

Just north of North Beach, Orchard Beach State Park is also pup-friendly for friendly pups on leashes. With over 200 acres of space, this park features all sorts of activities both on and off the water. You and your canine companion are welcome to swim or play on the beach as long as he stays on a leash. Up above the beach is a 100-foot bluff that looks out over the lake with some stunning views. 

Named after the old apple orchard that was there 100 years ago, today, the park is used for all kinds of fun, including skiing, hiking, fishing, swimming, and picnicking. It also has over 150 campsites and several cabins, some of which are pet-friendly. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and a parking pad for your convenience, and there is a shower house as well. Be sure to bring enough doggie bags to pick up whatever your dog drops. 

Bar Lake Beach

Less than a mile up the sand, Bar Lake Beach is a rustic site that is great for pup parents who do not like crowds. Your canine companion is welcome to join you here as long as you keep his leash on while you are there. Like many of the other parks on this list, this beach is between two bodies of water. This one gives you access to both Lake Michigan and Bar Lake. Many locals swim at Bar Lake because it is warmer and has a sandy bottom. 

If you have a kayak or board, there is a trail that leads to boat access. You and your pup can explore the waters of both lakes but make sure you both wear life jackets. You do have to have an entrance pass for this beach. If you did not get one beforehand, you can buy them at a machine in the park. 

Captain John Langland Park Beach

Also known as The Turnaround, Captain John Langland Park Beach is sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Portage Lake, and your fur baby is welcome as long as he is on a leash. There is more than half a mile of golden sand beach on Lake Michigan’s shoreline where you can swim, do some fishing, or even put in a kayak or paddleboard. Or play in the cool, clear water of Portage Lake on the other side of the park. 

From the parking lot, there are two gazebos with stairs to the beach as well as the Portage Lake North Pier, where many locals do their fishing. Named for the officer who tended the lighthouse from 1891 until 1917, the historic site has a memorial stone with a plaque where the original structure was. With more than 60 acres, you and your pooch will surely find a lot to keep you busy. 

Onekama Village Park Beach

On the other side of Portage Lake, Onekama Village Park Beach has almost four acres where you can bring Fido, but he has to remain on a leash the whole time. The large lake is clear and beautiful, and it is a popular swimming spot for many local families. But you will also see a lot of dogs here in and out of the water. Bring a kayak or paddleboard to enjoy some time on the water with your pup if he is agreeable. 

You can even bring a fishing boat since they have a boat launch here. You will also find restrooms, a bathhouse, and water fountains for your convenience. The human kids love the large playground with swings, slides, and plenty of room to run around. If you get hungry and forgot to bring food, you can get something from one of the local eating establishments like Papa J’s Ice Cream & Eatery. 

Bear Lake Beach

Just a mile to the northeast, you will find Bear Lake. The lake is so crystal clear you can see the bottom because of the springs that constantly feed it. There are four different public access beaches on the lake, including South Shore Drive, 13 Mile Road, Division Street, and 7th Street. There is no boat access, but you can launch a kayak from any of these spots. Just remember that these are neighborhoods, so you should be mindful of the residents. 

If you want to stay overnight, there are quite a few campgrounds around the lake. Hopkins Park Bear Lake Beach is the most popular and is the only one actually in Bear Lake Village. It boasts 31 dog-friendly campsites on the water. But you better book early because they go fast. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring, and there is a community shower house and restrooms nearby. Pack plenty of puppy poo bags, and remember to keep him on a leash. 

Arcadia Beach Natural Area

A little bit further north, Arcadia Beach Natural Area is located between Lake Michigan and Arcadia Lake. You can bring your canine companion along with you to the beach but keep him restrained by a leash at all times. You will also need to bring doggie cleanup bags to pick up anything he drops. The beach itself is not large, but it has plenty of room for everyone to have a spot on the sand. 

The parking is super close, and there are several picnic tables with barbecue grills to use so you can pack a lunch and grill up some BBQ for lunch or dinner. Be sure to bring plenty of drinks along and water for your pooch. If you have the kids with you, they will love the playground area with swings right along the water. There are also public restrooms in the lot where you can change clothes. 

Sundling Park Beach

Also known as Magoon Creek Natural Area, Sundling Park has a lovely beach on Lake Michigan where your fur baby is welcome all year as long as he is leashed. The park is just a few minutes south of Manistee and boasts approximately 100 acres of wooded space with 2,300 feet of waterfront on the lake to explore and enjoy. Many locals come here in the spring and fall to look for beach glass and pretty stones to collect since the beach has a lot of pebbles on the southern end of the sand.

During the winter, the park is mainly used for cross-country skiing on its several hiking trails. The woods are so quiet during the winter, you can hear every little sound. It is also a pretty perfect spot for picnicking with tables and grills up on the bluff giving you an amazing view. But if you and your fur puppy want to swim, you can do that too! Just remember your doggie bags to pick up after your pup.

Lake Michigan Recreation Area Beach

Found in the 3,500-acre Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, Lake Michigan Recreation Area Beach is dog-friendly to friendly dogs on a leash. Between the wilderness and Lake Michigan, there is no shortage of exciting activities you and your canine compadre can enjoy here. For example, the park has more than 10 miles of trails through the dense hardwoods and hemlock and over the flowing hills to the huge sand dunes and the beach. 

What is unique here is that you can camp on the beach and in the wilderness without having to book a site. The only restriction is that you have to be at least 400 feet from Lake Michigan, 200 feet from Nordhouse Lake, and 100 feet from the trails. Or, you can stay at any one of the many campgrounds here, such as the Lake Michigan Rec Area Campground. They have 99 sites with tables, fire rings, and parking pads. 

Ludington State Park Beach

Right around the corner to the south, Ludington State Park has a pup-popular beach where leashed dogs are always allowed. With 5,300 acres and many different terrains and environments, this park is the most popular state park in Michigan for locals and tourists alike. If you plan to camp, you are in luck because Ludington has three campgrounds with a total of 115 campsites. Some have electricity, water, and sewer, while others just have a picnic table, fire pit, and parking spot. 

Being on Lake Michigan, Hamlin Lake, and the Big Sable River, you and your dog can enjoy all three swimming, boating, and playing in the sand. If you like hiking, there are eight trails here with about 18 miles to explore. There is also a grocery and rental shop where you can get food and rent a boat. During the winter, bring your skis and make sure your pooch is well-dressed for the weather. Remember to bring extra doggie bags wherever you go to pick up after your pup.

Cartier Park Beach

Not only does Cartier Park have a lot to do and plenty of beach space, but it is also the home of Ludington’s Central Bark Park. Central Bark is in the northeastern section of the park, right along the banks of Lincoln Lake. It is a fenced area with a separate section for small and shy dogs, lots of space to run, and even an agility course. Your pup can jump over obstacles, run through tunnels, and weave through the weave poles without worrying about a leash holding him back. 

The rest of the park is pup-friendly, too, but he has to be on a leash outside the fences. You and your fur puppy can play disc golf, go fishing, or take a walk on one of the many trails. There are also picnic areas with tables and grills, as well as a campground with 195 campsites to pick from. For the human kids, there is a playground area and bike path to enjoy. 

Buttersville Park Beach

A few miles south of Manistee on Pere Marquette Lake, Buttersville Park loves dogs. In fact, there is a beach section where pups are allowed to play and swim off their leash! Sandwiched between Pere Marquette Lake and Lake Michigan, this park is packed with fun things to do with your dog. There is a picnic area where you and your pooch can grill up some lunch or dinner near the playground so the kids can play and you can enjoy the view. 

Camping here is open from March 15th through October and is right next to the beach. But there are only 60 sites, so you have to book about six months in advance. Most sites have electricity, and there is a restroom and shower house by the office. Dogs are welcome at any of the 60 sites. They do have doggie cleanup stations but bring your own doggie bags just in case. 

Pere Marquette Conservation Park Beach

Just south of Buttersville Park, Pere Marquette Conservation Park is a relatively new park, just opened in 2021 right on Pere Marquette Lake but it also has beaches on the Pere Marquette River and Lake Michigan. Surrounded by water, you and your fur baby can partake in all sorts of water sports like swimming, boating, fishing, and paddleboarding. Or just find a spot on the sand and soak up the sun while you enjoy the view.  

Your dog is welcome here on the leash, although the park is still developing and plans to have a leash-free dog park soon! For now, he can be happy to experience the whole park as long as you keep him on a leash and pick up after him at all times. There are close to 300 acres of space to explore the forests, valleys, and waterfront. Do not forget to bring sunscreen and bug repellent if you visit during the summer. 

The Final Woof

Take your canine companion on a shopping spree while you are in town. Many of the local shops welcome pets as long as they are on a leash. Any of the marinas in both Manistee and nearby Ludington allow dogs but check with individual shop owners before entering. You can also take your pup to the Avenue’s End Mini Mall, the Historic White Pine Village, Tractor Supply, and Wags to Wiskers. Once you work up an appetite, you and your fur baby can visit TJ’s Pub at the Ramsdell Inn, The Blu Moon Bistro in Ludington, or A & W Root Beer and Burgers on Cypress Street. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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