Nestled in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula, Torch Lake is considered one of the most beautiful inland lakes in the world. The turquoise blue waters and sandy beaches make it a popular summertime destination.
Surrounding the lake are charming small towns, parks, trails, golf courses, resorts and other attractions. Here are some of the top things to do in Torch Lake, Michigan.
1. Relax at the Beach
Several public beaches allow access for swimming and soaking up the sun around Torch Lake. On the south end, Eastport’s Sugden Lake Park has picnic areas and playgrounds along with beach access.
Dock Road Beach in Alden offers convenient public access in a central lake location. Up north, Clam River Park has a nice public beach and camping sites.
2. Rent a Boat, Kayak or Paddleboard
Enjoy Torch Lake from the water by renting boats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Torch Lake Marine in Alden offers pontoon rentals and water toys like tubes and water skis.
Stay upright with kayak and SUP rentals from Ground Up Adventures or Chain O’ Lakes Water Sports. No boating experience required!
3. Go Fishing
Anglers flock to Torch Lake to catch prized gamefish like smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and more. Join a Torch Lake fishing charter like Reel Time Sportfishing or hire a local guide to improve your chances of landing the big one! Or cast a line from shore at spots like Alden Boat Launch.
4. Golf at Area Courses
Play a round of golf while enjoying gorgeous views of Torch Lake at area courses like Antrim Dells Golf Course and Torch Lake Golf & Yacht Club. For a more secluded wilderness golf experience, head to Beaver Creek Resort, ranked among America’s toughest courses.
5. Antrim County Historical Museum
This museum in downtown Bellaire documents the region’s history through exhibits and artifacts covering lumbering, railroads, area landmarks and more. Fun interactive displays like an old general store and barber shop. Outdoor heritage buildings to explore as well.
6. Ride the Aerial Park
Adventurous families can climb, zip line and navigate obstacles at Terrific Aerial Park next to Short’s Brewing in Bellaire. The park features circuits of rope bridges, ladders, logs and zip lines up to 30 feet high. Test your skills on the “Supreme Course.”
7. See the Dennos Museum Center
Address: 1410 College Dr, Traverse City, MI 49686
This museum at Northwestern Michigan College has outstanding collections of Inuit art and artifacts along with rotating fine art exhibits. The interactive Discovery Gallery engages kids with hands-on science and art projects. Lovely views of West Grand Traverse Bay.
8. Watch the Sunset from The Rocks
Locals flock to “The Rocks” in Elk Rapids to watch the sunset over East Grand Traverse Bay. The scenic overlook has a stone stairway down to the beach below. Nearby restaurants like Pearl’s and Art’s Tavern are popular pre-sunset hangouts. Prepare for stunning views!
9. Climb the Elk Rapids Dam
For an adventurous hike, head to the Elk Rapids Dam on the east side of Torch Lake. Metal re-bar pegs hammered into the cement dam provide handholds for climbing to the top. The views from the top of the 120-foot dam are incredible but use extreme caution.
10. Grab Ice Cream in Alden
The small downtown of Alden offers shops, cafes and several spots for delicious ice cream on hot summer days. Longtime favorite Gunther’s Place serves huge homemade scoops, while fancier Moomers covers waffle cones with hot fudge. The perfect treat after a day at the beach!
11. Hike the Falling Waters Trail
One of Torch Lake’s most scenic hikes near Bellaire, the Falling Waters Trail passes numerous waterfalls cascading down a gorge to Torch Lake. The 2.5 mile loop provides plenty of picturesque overlooks and footbridges crossing the water.
12. Visit Short’s Brewing Company
Pay a visit to Bellaire’s popular Short’s Brewing Company, known for crafting creative beer flavors. Take a brewery tour to see their operations, or just swing by the Eccentric Cafe taproom to sample unique brews only found here. Live music and great pub grub add to the fun.
13. Tour Historic Alden
The quaint town of Alden along Torch Lake’s southeast shore has several historic buildings from the 1800s. Get a walking tour map from the Alden Depot Museum to see sites like the Alden Bank Building, Dr. Crandall’s Office, and Victorian-era homes.
14. Visit Torch Lake Cellars Winery
Sample award-winning wines in a French-inspired tasting room overlooking Grand Traverse Bay. Whites like Chardonnay and Riesling are a specialty. Outside you’ll find bocce ball courts, cornhole, live music on weekends and wood-fired pizzas from their food truck.
15. Catch a Show at The Meadow Brook
This intimate theater venue hosts concerts, stand-up comedy, musical acts and theatrical productions throughout the year. Grab dinner and drinks next door at their Antrim Dells restaurant before the show.
16. Explore Grass River Natural Area
Address: 6500 Alden Hwy, Bellaire, MI 49615
Trails wind through this protected nature area encompassing forests, wetlands and rivers. Look for wildlife like beavers, river otters, eagles and osprey. A boardwalk trail leads to an iconic arched footbridge over the Grass River.
17. Shop Downtown Central Lake
Central Lake’s small downtown along scenic Torch Lake has shops and eateries to explore. Find gifts at the Little Bohemia Gallery, trendy clothes and accessories at Blu Luna Boutique, or grab a burger at Lakeview Cafe. Relax by the public boat launch or town park.
18. See the Kewadin Casino
Address: 2186 Shunk Rd, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
Try your luck at slots and table games at this casino just outside St. Ignace by the Mackinac Bridge. The large Vegas-style casino has over 1,500 gaming machines, poker room, bingo hall, dining options and live entertainment venues.
19. Hike Mt. McGuire Overlook Trail
For panoramic views over Torch Lake, hike the half-mile trail up Mt. McGuire. The steep climb leads to a ridge with sweeping vistas of the lake’s blue waters and surrounding forests. Access the trailhead on Twin Lakes Rd. west of Alden.
20. Visit Camp Daggett
Address: 03001 Church Road, Petoskey, Michigan 49770
This wilderness recreation and retreat center offers fun activities like archery, horseback riding, sailing, canoeing and indoor rock climbing. Family camp options available. Conference and event facilities on over 400 wooded acres on the east side of Torch Lake.
21. Indulge at Cuppa Joe’s
Start your day with coffee drinks, bagels and pastries at this cozy cafe in downtown Bellaire. Lunch options like soups, salads and sandwiches are all homemade. Save room for dessert – their fudge is a local legend along with monster cookies and cinnamon rolls.
22. See Birds of Prey at Wings of Wonder
Address: 13035 S Greenway Trail, Empire, MI 49630
Visit this aviary and rehabilitation facility near Empire to see eagles, owls, falcons and other birds of prey up close. Educational presentations let you observe the birds in free flight. They also rescue wild injured raptors. Tours available.
23. Boat and Fish the Chain of Lakes
The 14-lake Chain of Lakes near Ellsworth offers outstanding boating, fishing, paddling and swimming opportunities. Access via public launches like Shanty Creek Resort Marina. Fish for walleye, pike, bass and more! Canoe down the Crystal River between lakes.
24. Play Disc Golf at Glacial Hills Course
Test your disc golf skills at this top-rated course with multiple tee pads, beautiful terrain and wooded holes with tunnels. The 18-hole natural layout utilizes elevation changes across gently rolling hills near Bellaire.
25. Ride the Ironton Ferry
Take a 5-minute ferry ride across Torch Lake between Ironton and Alden. Enjoy views of the water and surrounding hills from the ferry deck. Walk or bike onto the ferry, which runs daily during summer. Ferry service began here in 1876!
As you can see, Torch Lake offers endless recreational opportunities and attractions in a gorgeous natural setting. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach vacation or active adventures, Torch Lake is a perfect Michigan summer destination.