Located in the northern Mideast section of the United States, Michigan is surrounded by water, including Lake Michigan to the west and north, Lake Huron on the east, and Lake Erie to the south. With so much waterfront space, you know there are some fantastic beaches in Michigan to enjoy. But sometimes, it can be a hassle trying to figure out which ones are dog-friendly. Many of them are vague in their online descriptions, and you may end up at a beach that will not let your pup on the sand.
That is why we decided to do the research for you, so all you have to do is pick which ones you want to visit and have a great time. One thing to note, winter in Michigan is cold and snowy, so beaches are often closed during that time. Others are open for ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. But if you do not have a snow dog like a Husky, American Eskimo, or Alaskan Malamute, he may not be up for that kind of fun. Here are 17 of our top picks for you to check out.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Located in the upper peninsula of Michigan on Lake Superior, pups are welcome at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in certain areas, including picnic areas, trails, and several beaches. Some of the beaches include Sable Falls, Au Sable, Twelvemile Beach, Miners Beach, Sand Point, Munising Falls, Hurricane River, and the Lake Superior beaches in front of the campground and day-use areas. Most of the other areas in the park, except for the buildings, allow pets on a leash.
One of the favorites is the Miners Beach area, where you can take a walk on the Miners Falls Trail to see the waterfall and Miners Castle. Sand Point Beach is the most family-friendly because it has shallow water with fewer waves, and it also has picnic tables. Twelvemile Beach is the largest with, yes, you guessed it, 12 miles of beach. Sable Falls is a rocky beach that you have to walk to on a trail and then descend 168 steps to get there.
Straits State Park Beach
At the southeastern tip of the peninsula, Straits State Park is about two hours from Pictured Rocks and is dog-friendly to friendly dogs as long as they are leashed. This place has over 180 acres of recreational space and is situated where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. With thick forests, hilly fields, and lots of sandy beachfront, you get a little bit of everything at Straits State Park. You and your fur puppy can swim anywhere in the park, although there is no real sandy beach area.
The park also has a huge campground with 270 campsites and over a dozen cabins. The campsite includes a picnic table, fire ring with grill, and access to hot showers and playgrounds. In all, there are three playgrounds in the park, but Fido is not allowed to play there. However, picnicking, kayaking, and hiking are all pup-friendly. During the winter, you can even go skiing and snowshoeing.
Fisherman’s Island Park Beach
An hour to the southwest, Fisherman’s Island Park has six miles of beach along Lake Michigan that allows pups on a leash. The 2,679-acre park is no longer on the island as it has moved to the mainland. The small island can be reached by boat from the park if you like, but there are no amenities there. Much of the fun is had on the mainland, where you and your pup can take a walk along the water to look for shells, have a picnic on the beach, or splash around in the water.
The park does not have much in the way of amenities either. It is mostly rugged ground with woods and bogs but it does have a campsite with 80 sites. However, there are no restrooms or showers, just port-a-potties. Many locals come here to fish and hunt, and some even come to look for treasures with metal detectors. And there is plenty of space for skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding during the winter.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Glen Arbors is pup popular and has been named one of America’s most beautiful places by Good Morning America. The whole park is dog friendly except for White Pine Beach, Platte Point Beach, North Bar Lake, and the Manitou Islands. It is only about 70 miles from Fisherman’s Island Park at Sleeping Bear Bay. Sandwiched between Glen Lake and Lake Michigan, you and your pup can find plenty of dog-friendly beach.
One of the most popular beaches is Esch Road Beach north of Esch Road, which is where Otter Creek meets Lake Michigan. The water in the creek is almost always warm, so it is more enticing to the humans. There are several campgrounds as well, but the only one that allows dogs is DH Day Campground in the northern area of the park. There are only 90 spots, though, so make sure you plan well in advance.
Orchard Beach State Park
Continue south along the banks of Lake Michigan for about an hour, and you will find Orchard Beach State Park. As long as you keep your fur puppy’s leash on, you can bring him with you throughout the park, including the beach, although it is closed during high water. Much of the park is on a huge bluff 100 feet above the water, where you can enjoy some stellar views of the water and the surrounding area.
With just over 200 acres, the park got its name from an apple orchard that was there over 100 years ago. Instead of apples, you will find limestone structures built in the 1930s that have now been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you take the hiking trail, you can see some of these structures as well as some of the old trees. There are also picnic areas, a playground, and a campground that has 168 sites.
Silver Lake State Park Beach
An hour to the south, Silver Lake State Park has almost 3,000 acres of space between Lake Michigan and Silver Lake. The 3+ miles of shoreline lies open to everyone, including your fur buddy, as long as he is leashed. Another 2,000 of those acres are sand dunes, which are an enjoyable feature for any dog as well as those with four-wheelers, side-by-sides, quads, and other ORVs. There is a special season for those with ORVs from April 1st until Halloween.
There is also a special section of dunes for walking and playing in without an ORV, which means you can take your canine companion to dig in the sand as much as he wants here. If you want to stay a while, pick from 237 sites in two different campgrounds, some of them right on the edge of Silver Lake. All sites have picnic tables, fire pits, grills, and tent slabs. The park also has playgrounds, picnic areas, and a lighthouse, as well as fishing and hiking opportunities.
Kruse Park Beach
Norman F. Kruse Park has a dog beach at the northern end of the park in Muskegon, about 45 miles south of Silver Lake. One unique thing about this lake is that dogs can be off the leash while they swim. There is a certain area for dog swimming, so make sure you look for the signs and remember that he has to be on a leash at all other times. The park has over 52 acres, with a huge picnic area with dozens of tables, grills, and restrooms with water.
Besides all that, there are also playgrounds, a basketball court, shelters, dune walks, and nature trails. You can get some of the best views of Lake Michigan from some of the overlooks. If you have a large group, they also have four picnic shelters you can reserve that seat between 25 and 40 people. Bring some burgers, and you can grill up some dinner for you and the pup!
Kirk Park Dog Beach central southwest 24 miles south of Kruse
Only 24 miles south of Norman F. Kruse Park, Kirk Park Dog Beach is one of the most pup popular parks in the area because of its leash-free beach section. Yes, Fido can be unleashed on the beach as well as in the water anytime from October through April but not between 10 AM and 6 PM from May through September. There is about ⅓ mile of beach along Lake Michigan for you and your canine compadre to enjoy.
Kirk Park also has close to 70 acres of bluffs, dunes, and nature trails as well as a deck that looks out over the lake. The trails have a wooden boardwalk over the dunes and through the woods where you and your pooch can explore, looking for wildlife. Many people come here to fish, swim, and sunbathe, so it can be crowded during the summer, which is why they have special hours for dogs.
Grand Mere State Park Beach
In the southwestern corner of Michigan, just over an hour from Kirk Park, Grand Mere State Park lauds a mile-long beach along Lake Michigan where you can take your fur baby to swim and play. He will have to remain on a lead the whole time you are in the park, but he will not mind. This park also has sand dunes like a few of the others, and although you cannot use an ORV here, you can play in the sand with your pup.
Climbing up the steep hills of sand can be strenuous, but sliding down the other side is so much fun! According to the experts, the dunes have been here for more than 10,000 years, and people come here from all over to enjoy sandboarding. You can also take your dog on one of the trails through the woods and sand. People also come from all over to fish for some huge bass, crappie, and bluegill.
River Oaks County Park
River Oaks County Park is about 70 miles from Grand Mere State Park and has a dog run as well as a lake and a river on its 330 acres. Morrow Lake may not be as huge as Lake Michigan, but it is perfect for playing in with your leashed pup. And he will love romping around the banks of the Kalamazoo River. The park is named for the oak trees along the lake that are more than 100 years old.
Besides the water and beaches, you can also enjoy the splash pad, boat ramp, picnic areas, playgrounds, hiking trails, and ball fields. The dog park is fully fenced, with four acres for big dogs over 25 pounds and one acre for the littler pooches. There is plenty of seating for pup parents to relax in the shade but make sure you get up and play fetch with your fur puppy while you are there. After all, you are his best friend.
Mill Pond Saline Dog Park Beach
Mill Pond Park is a 54-acre waterfront park in Saline, about 100 miles east of River Oaks County Park. Inside this park is a special place for canine companions, a one-acre off-leash dog park along the river. Saline Dog Park has fences on three sides, but your dog has access to Mill Pond and the river on the other side. You can join him in the water if you like or just sit on a bench and watch him have fun.
Your pup is welcome to enjoy the rest of the park too, but you have to put his leash back on. There are several hiking trails you and Fido can explore, a huge playground for the human kiddos, and a picnic area with tables, barbecue grills, and restrooms. The Saline River is a wonderful place for fishing if you have a Michigan fishing license, or you can take out a canoe or kayak on the pond.
William C Sterling State Park Beach
The only dog-friendly beach on Lake Erie, William C. Sterling State Park, is only an hour southeast of Mill Pond Dog Park. Besides the one mile of sandy beach along Lake Erie, you and your leashed canine companion are also welcome to play and fish in the River Raisin, which has a marina and campground. There are also several lakes, marshes, lagoons, and ponds throughout the 1,300 acres of park space where you and your pup can play.
The campground has 256 campsites to choose from, with showers, electricity, picnic tables, fire pits, and a playground. The beach area is nearby too so you can walk to the water from your campsite. Take your fur puppy for a walk on the seven miles of trails, and you may spot some wildlife like raccoons, deer, and even bears. Be sure to keep your pup on a short leash and bring plenty of doggie bags.
Bell Isle Dog Beach, southeast Detroit
Belle Isle Beach is a dog-friendly beach in Detroit, about 43 miles north of William C. Sterling State Park. With almost 1,000 acres of recreational space, Belle Isle Park is an island on the Detroit River between Michigan and Canada. Although the beach does not cover the whole island, the park does, and it includes many attractions. Some of these include the Livingston Memorial Lighthouse, Giant Slide, Oudolf Garden, Bell Isle Golf Course, and the Flynn Pavillion.
The beach is typically the main attraction, though and your pooch will agree as he romps up and down the sand and in the waves of the Detroit River. Just keep him on a short leash close to the riverbank because the currents are rough. The lighthouse is an incredible sight. Made of marble, it is the oldest in the country still standing. There is also an aquarium, conservatory, nature center, and museum, but dogs are not allowed.
Orion Oaks Dog Park Beach
The Orion Oaks Dog Park Beach is located in Orion Oaks County Park, 45 miles north of Belle Isle Dog Beach. Your furry family member can swim and play without the restraint of a leash within this 24-acre dog heaven. It is completely fenced with a special section for small and shy dogs as well as modern restrooms, a grassy field, drinking fountains, a picnic shelter, access to Lake Sixteen, and two trails. Your dog must be up-to-date on his shots and have a license on his collar.
The park itself has 916 acres with 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing, and geocaching as well as picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal with your pup. He will have to be on his leash outside the dog park, though. Fishing on Lake Sixteen is also very popular, and there is a small boat launch for canoes and kayaks.
Bay City State Park Beach 100 miles north
About an hour to the north, Bay City State Park has more than 2,000 acres of wetlands, including the biggest freshwater marsh in the Great Lakes, Tobico Marsh. It is located on Saginaw Bay with over 1,000 feet of golden sand beach for you and your fur baby to enjoy as long as he is on a lead at all times. Besides the beach, the park also has seven miles of trails you can explore together.
Bring along a fishing license and gear, and you can try to catch some bass, sunfish, perch, or northern pike on the bay or in the lagoon. The shoreline has several dunes, but they are not as big as the others, so you can take your pup out on the sand without worrying about him sinking in the sand. There are 193 campsites here, too, but call in advance because they fill up fast.
Tawas Point State Park Beach an hour north of Bay City
Tawas Point State Park is at the end of Tawas Bay shoreline along Lake Huron, about 65 miles north of Bay City. The park has 153 acres and has been called the Midwest Cape Cod because of its beauty and charm. As long as your canine companion is leashed, you will have no trouble finding some fun whether you want to go boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, or biking. They even have a special area for metal detecting.
The beach is a popular spot, but the pup parents around the area know where to take their fur babies to swim. Right by the campground, there is a small beach just for dogs that is fenced in, so you do not have to worry about him running off. Your pooch will love being able to play in the water with the other pups. On the other side of the lake, sailing, fishing, and windsurfing are popular with the locals.
Bay View Park
The final beach is at Bay View Park in northeastern Michigan, about 60 miles north of Tawas Point. Right on Lake Huron in Thunder Bay, this park is part of the Thunder Bay River State Forest. Not only do you and your fur puppy have access to the beach on Lake Huron, but you can also walk over to Thunder Bay River and play around. As long as you keep your canine companion leashed and pick up after him, he is welcome.
Besides the beach and riverfront, Bay View Park also has a harbor, several basketball courts, tennis, and a huge grassy space for running around or lounging. There are picnic areas with grills and tables, a playground for the little humans, and hiking trails to explore the woods. Do not forget to pack your dog waste bags to pick up anything your fur baby drops while you are there.
The Final Woof
Enjoy a glass of wine (or two) at Mari Vineyards in Traverse City after a long day of play at the beach. Your dog is welcome to join you on the patio, and they will even bring him a bowl of water. If you have never been on a horse drawn carriage, you can do it on Mackinac Island Carriage Tours where pups are always welcome, and lap dogs are free. It is a fun and unique way to see the island. If you want to take your fur baby out on the water, the Bavarian Belle Riverboat in Frankenmuth is very popular and even has snacks and drinks.