Top 20 Fun Things To Do on Lake Michigan (Unique List)

Lake Michigan / Source: WorldAtlas

Bordered by four Midwestern states, Lake Michigan offers over 1,600 miles of shoreline and countless recreational opportunities. From scenic beach towns to metropolitan cities like Chicago, this massive inland sea provides the backdrop for so many incredible adventures.

Let’s find out some of the best things to do here!

1. Relax on the Beaches in South Haven

South Haven / Source: WorldAtlas

Known as one of Michigan’s best beach towns, South Haven offers gorgeous stretches of golden sand along Lake Michigan perfect for swimming, sunbathing or just taking in the peaceful views.

Two great public beach options are South Beach right downtown and North Beach extending north from the pier. Make sure to sample ice cream, pizza and other beach town treats!

2. Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes National

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore / Source: Britannica

Perched above Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore protects towering dunes, pristine beaches and scenic forests.

Hike the Dune Climb trail for panoramic views from the top or walk along beaches to see windswept dune formations. The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive also provides stunning overlooks.

3. Bike Chicago’s Lakefront Trail

Lakefront Trail / Source: Choose Chicago

For an exhilarating and beautiful ride, pedal along the 18 mile paved Lakefront Trail in downtown Chicago. Travel through scenic parks, pass Navy Pier and beaches, and view the Chicago skyline while hugging Lake Michigan’s shores. Bike rentals available in multiple locations.

4. Kayak the Sea Caves in Door County

Door County / Source: Lonely Planet

Paddling sea kayaks to the sea caves along Door County’s rugged coast is an incredible Lake Michigan experience. Glide your kayak through the archways and tunnels formed by crashing waves in these unique geological formations. Guided kayak tours available in towns like Baileys Harbor.

5. Tour Historic Lighthouses

Michigan Lighthouses / Source: Jim Zuckerman

Michigan houses over 120 historic lighthouses on its expansive Great Lakes shoreline, many still standing proudly on Lake Michigan.

Climb to the top for views, tour the grounds, or just photograph their charming facades. Don’t miss favorites like Grand Haven Light, White River Light, Big Sable Point Light and more!

6. Camp Beside the Lake at Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park / Source: Belt Magazine

Indiana Dunes State Park offers great camping a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan in Chesterton, Indiana. The family campground has 200+ sites, many lake view.

Hike to beaches, climb wooded dunes, and at night drift off to the sound of waves lapping the shoreline. Excellent campground facilities too.

7. Visit Milwaukee Art Museum’s “Wings”

Milwaukee Art Museum / Source: FSB North America

Visually striking from the lakefront, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s iconically designed “wings” feature a 217 foot sunscreen that opens and closes twice daily.

Inside, admire stellar collections of paintings, sculptures, and folk art. Don’t miss lake views from the museum’s rooftop lounge either.

8. Charter Fishing on Lake Michigan

Fishing on Lake Michigan / Source: PlanetWare

Lake Michigan offers world-class fishing for salmon and trout. Book a charter trip with an experienced fishing guide and try your hand at catching species like Chinook salmon, steelhead, coho, lake trout and more. It’s a thrill reeling in a 20 pound “king” salmon on the massive lake!

9. Tour Historic Coast Guard Stations

Grand Haven Coast Guard / Source: WCSG

Dotting Lake Michigan are iconic U.S. Coast Guard stations standing watch over the shoreline. Tour stations like the Grand Haven Coast Guard building with maritime artifacts, Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station accessible by hiking, and more to learn about lake rescue history. Active stations like Muskegon conduct open houses too.

10. Watch the Sunset at Holland State Park

Sunset at Holland State Park / Source: Tripadvisor

Holland State Park features an expansive Lake Michigan beach, considered one of the prettiest in the state. Arrive a few hours before dusk, take a tranquil stroll along the lakeshore as the sun dips towards the horizon, then watch as vibrant hues reflect off the glimmering water at sundown. The photo ops are phenomenal.

11. Experience Lake Michigan Beach Towns

Michigan Beach Towns / Source: My Michigan Beach and Michigan Travel

Quaint beach towns line the shores of Lake Michigan offering charming downtowns to explore, great eateries, gift shops, and of course access to beautiful beaches and outdoor recreation.

Enjoy destinations like South Haven, Saugatuck, Grand Haven, St. Joseph, Ludington and Manistee in Michigan or Kenosha, Racine and Sheboygan in Wisconsin.

12. See the Manitou Islands in Michigan

Manitou Islands / Source: Michigan Home and Lifestyle Magazine

Accessible only by ferry from Leland, the Manitou Islands offer remote wilderness perfect for hiking, camping, and enjoying unspoiled Lake Michigan nature and views.

South Manitou has historic lighthouses and forests while North Manitou is undeveloped wilderness accessible by permit. Day trips or overnight island exploration available.

13. Bike Chicago’s Lakefront Neighborhoods

Chicago’s Lakefront Neighborhoods Bike Tour / Source: GetYourGuide

Beyond Chicago’s downtown lakefront trail, the city’s North Side also offers stellar biking along Lake Michigan through neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Edgewater and Rogers Park.

Ride residential streets to access parks, beaches, historical sites and unique attractions away from the skyline hustle and bustle.

14. Experience Warren Dunes State Park

Warren Dunes State Park / Source: Pure Michigan

Warren Dunes State Park in Bridgman, Michigan spans over 3 miles of golden Lake Michigan shoreline and massive dunes that tower 240 feet.

Hike the winding dune trails, have a picnic atop a dune, or swim and sunbathe along warm sands on the beach. Campground available too.

15. Cycle Around Milwaukee By Bike

Milwaukee by Bike / Source: bikabout

Milwaukee provides miles of scenic urban biking alongside Lake Michigan and the downtown Riverwalk.

Cruise by lakefront Bradford Beach, explore brewery-filled neighborhoods, and indulge in the city’s famous custard and beer. Bike rentals are available from companies like Coast in a Crate.

16. Experience Ice Fishing in Winter

Lake Michigan Ice Fishing / Source: Poseidon Flies

When Lake Michigan freezes over in winter, anglers head out to ice fish for delicious yellow perch, whitefish, brown trout, and other species.

Rent an ice shanty or bundle up to drop lines down ice holes. Locals also create hockey rinks on frozen harbors and bays for casual pickup games with lake views.

17. See the Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Little Sable Point Lighthouse / Source: Michigan.Photography

On a beautiful stretch of shoreline north of Silver Lake, Little Sable Point Lighthouse stands 56 feet tall, decorated with an intricate brick and terra cotta exterior.

Tour the interior museum to see the lens and living quarters. Or walk the beach to photograph this picturesque light against Lake Michigan’s waves and dunes.

18. Experience Lake Michigan Circle Tour

Lake Michigan Circle Tour / Source: DMV

Extending over 1,000 miles across four states, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour Scenic Byway allows you to road trip around the entire Lake Michigan coastline.

Drive through beach towns, coastal forests, harbor communities and major cities while enjoying fabulous lake views along the well-marked circular route.

19. Photograph Historic Michigan City Lighthouse

Michigan City Lighthouse / Source: iStock

Standing at the entrance to Michigan City’s harbor since 1837, the iconic Michigan City Lighthouse can be photographed from the beach or by walking out to the lighthouse breakwater that extends into Lake Michigan.

Generations of maritime history unfold at this still operational light protecting ships entering the harbor.

20. Experience Navy Pier in Chicago

Navy Pier / Source: Choose Chicago

Spanning over 3,300 feet into Lake Michigan, Chicago’s Navy Pier offers endless entertainment options including rides, restaurants, gardens, concert pavilions and more.

Attend a music festival or event, dine overlooking the lake, ride the 196 foot Ferris wheel, or watch an evening fireworks show at the iconic pier.

Whether you prefer scenic nature settings, historic towns, urban big city excitement, cultural attractions or outdoor adventures, the diverse experiences available along Lake Michigan offer something for every interest and taste.

Start planning your Lake Michigan bucket list adventures today!

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