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10 Best Dog Beaches in Michigan

Dog on Michigan beach
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Michigan is a state surrounded by the Great Lakes, with Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Huron to the east, Lake Erie to the southeast, and Lake Superior to the north. So many miles of lakeside shoreline mean plenty of beaches to explore with your family, including its canine members. 

In 2018, 125 million people visited the state of Michigan [1]. From buzzing nightlife to stunning coastline, Michigan has a ton to offer. For people seeking sandy beaches and outdoor fun with their pets, finding the right pet-friendly beach in the state is essential. Luckily, dog-friendly beaches in Michigan can be found from its lakes to its historic, pedestrian-only Mackinac Island.

No matter where you’re visiting in the Great Lake State, we’ve compiled some of the best dog beaches in Michigan to choose from and sorted them by vacation destination.

Michigan: A Great Dog Beach Destination

Dog running on beach in Michigan

Michigan is home to the nation’s longest freshwater coastline, at 3,288 linear miles [2], which means there are bound to be some awesome beaches along the way. This is tremendous news for pet parents who have dozens of Michigan dog beaches at their disposal to let pups romp around and maybe even go for a swim. With so much shoreline, dog owners are never far from a beach that welcomes their four-legged companions — even in Detroit, which many people know as an industrial hub. Just a few miles outside of Motor City are not one but two dog beaches that have made our list.

Michigan also welcomes dogs in many of its state parks, forests, and campgrounds. It’s the perfect stop with your pup on a U.S. road trip, nestled between iconic American cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis, and a stone’s throw from Ontario, Canada. 

If you’re looking to plan a stay along the Great Lakes, there are many dog beaches on Lake Michigan, as well as the other lakes. With so many options statewide for you and your dog to enjoy, you won’t be far from a pet-friendly day in Michigan, especially if you are looking for a beach to bring your best bud. 

10 Best Dog Beaches in Michigan

Lake Michigan

Kirk Park Dog Beach

Kirk Park Dog Beach

Of the Lake Michigan beaches that allow dogs, Kirk Park Dog Beach is one of the most popular, located in the town of Holland just 30 miles outside Grand Rapids. More than 1,500 feet of shoreline along Lake Michigan includes scenic wooded dunes and bluffs. Hiking trails, including an accessible loop, are on the grounds to explore, along with a swimming beach and off-leash dog beach, which is open year-round by using the south beach stairs. Dogs are permitted in Kirk Park between 7 to 10 a.m. and 7 to 10 p.m., daily. Watch for high water, which might result in limited hours at the dog beach. Restrooms are available in season but closed for the winter.

Costs: Free, but parking fees are in effect Memorial Day through Labor Day

Rules: Dogs are not permitted in park buildings, playgrounds, or picnic shelters. Unless dogs are enjoying the dog beach, they are required to be leashed and under control at all times, with a maximum leash length of 10 feet.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

If you and your pooch are up for a hike to get to those sandy lakeshore dunes, then consider Saugatuck, which also sits within the city limits of Holland. This 1,000-acre state park along Lake Michigan offers 2.5 miles of freshwater shoreline and towering coastal dunes. There are 13 miles of trails, though Beach Trail is a quarter-mile long. Visitors with dogs in tow say the views are rewarding but the walk to get there can be tricky over increasingly sandy terrain.

Costs: There is a $10 daily fee for non-residents to visit state parks, which can be purchased online in advance during the summer season (May 16 to September 5; dates vary annually)

Rules: Only leashed dogs are permitted, and pets are not welcome in swimming areas 

Grand Haven City Beach

Grand Haven City Beach

The Grand Haven City Beach is a dog-friendly beach in Grand Haven, Michigan. For most of the year, leashed dogs are allowed on the south end of the beach at any time. You’ll also be next door to the Grand Haven State Park Beach on Harbor Drive, property with a history as a park that dates to the 1880s. Grand Haven is one of many dog-friendly beaches in southwest Michigan and on the shores of Lake Michigan. Nearby, Noto’s at the Bil-Mar offers wood-fired pizzas and Sicilian-influenced cuisine, which can be ordered for curbside pickup and munched on at the beach. 

Costs: Free, with limited free parking nearby

Rules: Pooches must remain on leash at all times; in the summer season between Memorial Day and Labor Day, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

Warren Dunes State Park

Dog at Warren Dunes State Park

A 90-minute drive from Chicago across the border in Sawyer, Warren Dunes State Park is a Lake Michigan beach that allows dogs and is known as the unofficial western gateway to the state’s park system. It offers 2.5 miles of pet-friendly shoreline and spectacular views of Lake Michigan with 6 miles of hiking trails. A distinct dune formation rises 260 feet above the lake, providing humans with hang gliding opportunities (with a permit). It’s also great for birdwatching as the dunes of the park are a stopover on a bird migration route.

Costs: A $10 per vehicle daily non-resident pass must be purchased to visit any state park

Rules: Pets are allowed north of the northernmost swim buoy on a 6-foot leash.

Lake Superior

Au Train Dog Beach

If you’re looking to spend a superior day with your pup in the Upper Peninsula, head 25 minutes outside of Marquette to Au Train Beach. The dog-friendly beach on Lake Superior, with access to the Au Train River, has a shallow area where canines can splash without worrying about larger waves. The town of Au Train is located within the Hiawatha National Forest, yet easily accessible by highway from M-28 or US-2. This beach is typically quiet and will offer a relaxing afternoon with your fur baby.

Costs: Free

Rules: None posted; always be in control of your dog at all times and never leave them unsupervised in the water.

Lake Huron

Tawas Point State Park

Tawas Point State Park

Called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Tawas Bay sits along Lake Huron in Northern Michigan and offers 183 acres of natural beauty. Tawas Point State Park welcomes canines with a dedicated stretch of dog beach near warm, shallow waters—complete with views of the Victorian-era lighthouse. This pet-designated beach is enclosed by fencing and next to a dog-friendly campground. 

Costs: As with any Michigan state park, a $10 per-vehicle fee applies for non-residents 

Rules: Dogs are not allowed on any other beach at the park and must remain on a leash no longer than 6 feet — this also technically applies to the water. 

Detroit

Belle Isle Beach

Belle Isle Beach in Michigan

Busy—especially in the summer months—Belle Isle is a popular beach destination just across from downtown Detroit on Belle Isle, which sits along the Detroit River. Though the beach is dog-friendly, it’s not strictly pet-designated so expect kids to splash alongside your fur baby. For this reason leashes are a must at Belle Isle Park, which spans 985 acres and also boasts an aquarium, golf course, bike trails, and more. 

Costs: A $10 per-vehicle fee to access the island

Rules: This recreational park set outside the city is bustling. Therefore, be sure your dog is properly leash trained and listens to commands.

Dodge #4 State Park

Dodge Number 4 State Park

This pet-friendly Michigan state park is located 35 miles northwest outside Detroit in Waterford. Day trippers will find a sandy beach and milelong shoreline along Cass Lake. The land was donated by the Dodge Brothers in 1922 (founders of Dodge automotives) under the stipulation that it would remain a public park. Today, dog parents will find the park to be amenable to their leashed companions on trails and along the beach.

Costs: The State of Michigan requires a $10 per-vehicle fee for non-residents visiting state parks

Rules: Dodge often fills to capacity, especially on busy holiday weekends in the summer, so plan ahead if you’re looking to visit the park during one of these times; overflow vehicles will be turned away.

Mackinac Island

Windermere Point

Windmere Point
Credit: gg5795 / Shutterstock.com

Across from the Windermere Hotel, one of the resort-style accommodations on pedestrian-only Mackinac Island, is Windermere Point. A great expanse of grassy lawn sprawls before you and Fido before reaching the beach along the Straits of Mackinac. Here you’ll find views of Mackinac Bridge along with picnic tables. Even better, the aptly named Doghouse is located steps away serving hot dogs and summertime snack fare. A 15-minute walk will find you and your doggo at Mission Point Resort, the only dog-friendly hotel on the island.

Costs: Free

Rules: Due to strong currents, swimming at Windermere Point is not advised for dogs — or humans. Mackinac Island is home to many working horses who carriage tourists from place to place; be sure your pet isn’t spooked around these much larger animals. 

Traverse City

Mission Point Lighthouse Park & Beach

Mission Point Lighthouse

Since 1870, the Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City has been a Northern Michigan landmark. Head to the Old Mission Peninsula with your pack, and explore the peaceful park trails and beaches, which are open daily until 10 p.m. year-round. Obedient dogs can wander off leash around the park and on the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay. If your pup likes a good drive, the M-37 is a top-rated coastal route passing through vineyards and cherry orchards on your way to Mission Point Park.

Costs: Free (with a small fee for humans who want to climb the lighthouse)

Rules: Dogs are welcome on trails and the beach, but not in the lighthouse.

Michigan Dog Beach Travel Tips

Bernese Mountain Dog on beach

It seems as if unpredictable weather patterns have affected parks and natural attractions across the country, and unfortunately Michigan is not excluded. High water levels and erosion are regular threats to its Great Lakes ecosystem [3]. As a visitor, be mindful of conditions and posted signage that might prohibit entry to a dog-friendly beach due to high risk of dune erosion. Only visit the beach with your dog if it is deemed safe by local authorities to do so. 

Keep in mind that water temperatures in the Great Lakes can be cold in the beginning of the summer and it may not be safe for dogs to swim for long periods of time. August is the month when water temperatures in the state reach their highest levels. Make sure you have a towel handy to dry off and warm your pup after a romp in the waves. 

When visiting any Michigan dog beach with your pup, make sure to pack appropriately. Your dog’s beach bag should include sunscreen, a towel, plenty of fresh water and your dog’s favorite treats—because no trip to the beach is complete without snacks. If you plan to be near areas where there may be hot pavement or sand, consider bringing dog shoes or paw balm to help protect their paw pads from burns. 

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