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Sleeping Bear Dunes. 

National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan, Michigan
(Photographs:  Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau
Read about the beaches.  (Click here to review criteria used to rate these beaches)

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan, Michigan. 
Here you will find some of the most spectacular coastal dunes in the world—I especially liked trekking up the huge dune on the north end of this expansive park.  There are a variety of beaches with fine to grainy sand and clean, clear water.  Children often play and look for Petoskey stones (beautiful pebbles of fossilized coral) in the small, shallow creeks that drain into Lake Michigan, where the water is warmer than the lake.  Traverse City is a great nearby town with many attractions.  


2. Presque Isle State Park, Lake Erie, Pennsylvania. 
This 7-mile long, naturally-occurring sand spit provides a range of water-based activities, including 11 principal swimming areas (which draw some crowds) to unique ecological areas with very few people.  There is so much to do and see in this curving peninsula-like feature that juts into Lake Erie, certainly making the trip to this 3,200 acre park worthwhile.


3.  Sand Point Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, Michigan. 
This small beach is protected from waves by offshore islands and the water is shallow—these factors make the water warm enough to go swimming, which I did in August.  This is a huge park with spectacular and picturesque cliffs, which is best seen by boat.  The water is crystal clear and surprisingly emerald green in shallow water areas. 
      (NPS Photo by Brenda St. Martin)


4. Bayfield Main Beach, Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada. 
The small village of Bayfield on Lake Huron boasts of being a Blue Flag beach, signifying its environmental quality and services.  There are amenities close to the beach, and crowds are never a concern at this remote beach.  The sandy beach grades into cobbles offshore.  Bayfield is a delightful town to explore, and the town pier is the favorite place to watch sunsets.


5. Oak Street Beach, Lake Michigan, Chicago, Illinois. 
Oak Street Beach is located on Chicago’s famed Lakeshore Drive.  This 26-mile lakefront is used by cyclists, runners and parents with strollers; the fine-sand beach has lifeguards, making it a safe beach.  This strand of sand provides stunning views of the historic architecture of Chicago and Lake Michigan.  I recommend public transportation to the beach as there is limited street parking


Honorable Mention:  North Beach, Racine Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. 
This is probably the most improved beach in the Great Lakes, earning it high marks.  In the summer, the beach is the activity center of Racine residents and visitors.  Handicap ramps are an example of their pro-active management The Florida panhandle beaches are back as oil from the BP spill has vanished, and the sand is squeaky clean (just rub your feet on the sand and hear them squeak).
  The brilliant white sands and clear waters of St. George Island were fortunately not even impacted last summer.  Stingrays are sometimes resting in the shallow waters so shuffle your feet when entering.  Birding and fishing are very popular activities here. 


Honorable Mention:  Grand Haven State Park, Michigan on Lake Michigan. 
There is camping on the beach and so much to do in the Grand Haven area.  A picturesque red lighthouse sits atop the inlet jetty for recreational boaters.  Golfing is big here, and swimming is a pleasure at this beach and the string of nearby beaches.     



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