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19 of the Best Lakes in Michigan for an Ideal Getaway

By | Last Updated: 13th January 2024

The state of Michigan is blessed with numerous lakes, making it the longest freshwater coastline within the United States. With the Great Lakes bordering the state and several inland lakes within it, you are in for a treat to spend an ideal vacation. The sand dunes and gorgeous beaches with multiple recreational activities are add-ons to make your trip an enjoyable one. Also, with the turquoise waters and white sandy beaches of Torch Lake offering a slice of Caribbean paradise, you will not have to travel afar anymore.

Lakes in Michigan

Lakes in Northern Michigan

1. Lake Superior

Lake Superior in Northern Michigan

Lake Superior, flowing in the state’s Upper Peninsula, is indeed superior in terms of surface area. With 31,700 square miles of surface area, it is the world’s largest freshwater lake. Besides this, its clean and clear waters attract several visitors to enjoy swimming and boating. Don’t miss visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located on the lake’s southern shoreline, to enjoy witnessing the colorful, towering Pictured Rocks cliffs, unique sandstone formations, remnants of shipwrecks, and hiking the various scenic trails.

Fishing: Lake Superior offers excellent fishing opportunities. Shore anglers can catch steelhead, rainbow trout, and coho salmon. Other fish species to target in this lake include walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch, and brook trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, diving, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, birdwatching, camping

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2. Torch Lake

Torch Lake in Northern Michigan

Visiting Torch Lake would give you a feeling of being transported to the beaches of the Caribbean. Located just 10 minutes away from downtown Charlevoix, the white sands and its clear turquoise waters indeed make it an ideal holiday destination. Visitors enjoy a plethora of water activities, from kayaking to water skiing in the vast lake. Also, the 2-mile sandbar at its southern end is a favorite swimming spot in summers. Don’t miss staying in one of the campsites in the Torch Grove Campground adjacent to the lake for a fulfilling adventure.

Fishing: The clear waters of Torch Lake are excellent for catching Atlantic salmon, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, yellow perch, lake trout, and northern pike.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, waterskiing, snorkeling, paddle boarding, jet-skiing, picnicking, camping

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3. Elk Lake

Elk Lake in Northern Michigan

The quaint and tranquil setting and calm, gorgeous blue waters of Elk Lake make it an ideal place to relax by its shore. Located near the town of Elk Rapids, this inland lake attracts visitors for boating or cruising on it and admiring the surrounding magnificent mountain landscape. In winter, it is a popular place to enjoy iceboating.

Fishing: You would find lake trout in abundance here. The lake also supports fish species like smallmouth bass, black crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, and bluegill.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, waterskiing, tubing, wakeboarding, sailing, and ice-boating

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4. Lake Huron

Lake Huron in Northern Michigan

Lake Huron might be the second largest of the Great Lakes but ranks first in having the longest shoreline. The beautiful sandy beaches dotting it, combined with its pristine turquoise waters and impressive collection of islands, make it a favorite vacation spot for many. An added boon is the stunning beauty of the sunrise and sunset that you can take pleasure of with the water as a backdrop.

Among the 30,000 islands it boasts, you could visit the Mackinac Island during the late spring or fall season to admire the wilderness. The island is also an important historical site where you can witness a battleground from the War of 1812 and sacred areas of Native Americans. The Flowerpot Island is also worth visiting to see the unique flower pot-like rock formations lining the lake’s shoreline.

Fishing: While trout fishing is excellent in Lake Huron, it also supports fish species like salmon, walleye, and perch.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, camping, picnicking, nature gazing, birdwatching

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5. Big Glen Lake

Big Glen Lake in Northern Michigan

Big Glen Lake is known to be the clearest, and cleanest of most Michigan lakes. Located near the town of Glen Arbor, it is a paradise for those who enjoy water activities like kayaking and swimming. You could also relax on the sandy beach while soaking in the views of the stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes at the backdrop. If seeking an adventure on land, hiking the nearby 4.8-mile Alligator Hill Trail is a must, to enjoy the breathtaking views of the area. You could even consider staying in the cottages, lying close to the lake’s shore for an enjoyable weekend vacation.

Fishing: The lake is well-stocked with pike, perch, bluegill, walleye, trout, and bass.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, hiking, picnicking, camping

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6. Black Lake

Black Lake in Northern Michigan

Black Lake flows in northern lower Michigan within the Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties. Visitors usually head to Onaway State Park, located in its southwestern part, to enjoy various recreational activities from swimming to fishing. Visitors of any age can easily hike along the 3-mile nature trail. You can also have a great time with your loved ones in the picnic area and stay overnight in the campground by the shore.

Fishing: Fish varieties like largemouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, northern pike, and walleye reside in the lake. Ice fishing for lake sturgeon is also common in winter.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, picnicking

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7. Higgins Lake

Higgins Lake in Northern Michigan

The glistening blue waters of Higgins Lake would make anyone believe it to be an ocean at their first sight. In fact, Chippewa people who were the early settlers here called it Majinabeesh, meaning ‘sparkling water.’

With clear, warm waters and stunning beaches, swimming and snorkeling are some of the favorite activities among visitors. Also, its vast size makes it an ideal place to enjoy jet skiing and water skiing. There is a state park at either end, providing ample camping facilities. You will also find boat launches and numerous hiking trails here to spend a fun-filled time.

Fishing: This lake has an impressive lake trout population. Other commonly captured fish species include rock bass, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and northern pike.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, snorkeling, jet-skiing, water skiing, kneeboarding, hiking, camping

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8. Lake Leelanau

Lake Leelanau in Northern Michigan

Located close to Traverse City, Lake Leelanau has two parts, North Lake Leelanau and South Lake Leelanau. You can have a great time at the sandy beaches or enjoy boating on its clear waters and admire the scenery. Also, the nearby Sleepy Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is worth a visit for the sand dunes and breathtaking scenic views.

Fishing: The lake has abundant walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, trout, and perch.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, camping, snowboarding

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9. Lake Charlevoix

Lake Charlevoix in Northern Michigan

Lake Charlevoix is one of the most beautiful lakes in Michigan, making it a favorite among many. In fact, as per the USA Today nominations in 2012, it had been voted as the second-best lake in the U.S. only after Lake Tahoe. With numerous beaches like Depot Beach and Ferry Beach, visitors can enjoy a great time with their families. Located on its shore, Young State Park features five miles of hiking trails to explore and three campgrounds to spend a peaceful night.

Fishing: Smallmouth bass, rock bass, northern pike, trout, walleye, perch, and crappie are some of the mostly caught fish in this lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet-skiing, waterskiing, sailing, paddle boarding, picnicking, hiking, cross-country skiing

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10. Walloon Lake

Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan

Flowing between Jordan Valley and Little Traverse Bay, Walloon Lake boasts a serene and scenic setting. Whether you’re planning a relaxing vacation with family or a fun-filled time by the lake, the public sandy beach and crystal clear blue waters attract everyone to spend time here. You could also visit the encompassing Village of Walloon Lake and check out the various restaurants and hotels.

Fishing: As Walloon Lake is an oligotrophic lake, it has less plant and algae life. Due to this, it has excellent oxygen levels to support the lives of various fish species. Anglers usually catch walleye, smallmouth bass, rock bass, northern pike, perch, and trout here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, camping, picnicking

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11. Mullett Lake

Mullett Lake in Northern Michigan

Named after John Mullett, one of the federal survey members of the area, Mullett Lake is a vast lake flowing on the northern edge of lower Michigan. Visitors can indulge in fun activities throughout the year, from swimming and boating in summer to ice fishing and snowmobiling in winter. With several public launches and boat rentals, boating is also a sought-after activity. For a peaceful camping experience, you can head to Aloha State Park, which sits on the lake’s northeast side.

Fishing: Anglers can expect to catch fish species like walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, and rainbow trout. This lake also hosts several fishing tournaments to catch walleye and smallmouth bass every year.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, waterskiing, camping, snowmobiling, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking

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12. Burt Lake

Burt Lake in Northern Michigan

Burt Lake is a well-known family holiday destination in the northern Lower Peninsula in Michigan, boasting a gorgeous natural setting. Visitors usually flock to Burt Lake State Park, located on the southeast edge of the lake. It features a sandy beach, a boat launch, and an open public area where kids enjoy playing. A one-mile hiking trail within the park allows you to experience the picturesque landscape of the place. Also, the campsites are pretty spacious for one to enjoy peaceful and private time at the lake.

Fishing: Fish species attracting anglers include bluegill, brown trout, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and muskie.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, picnicking, camping, hiking

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13. Portage Lake

Portage Lake in Northern Michigan

Located in Manistee County in northwest Michigan, Portage Lake is a pretty lake connected to Lake Michigan by a channel. It is often a favorite stop among boaters enjoying their boat ride along the shores of Lake Michigan. It is also an interesting diving site with some shipwrecks underwater. The rolling dunes of Portage Point Beach are a great place to have fun with your families. You could also visit the nearby historical artesian springs, which were once believed to have many healing properties.

Fishing: Fish species residing here include lake sturgeon, northern pike, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch, and walleye. Ice fishing is a favorite activity among anglers in winter here. You could also participate in the bass fishing tournaments held annually.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, camping

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 Lakes in Western Michigan

1. Silver Lake 

Silver Lake in Western Michigan

The shallow warm waters and encompassing soaring sand dunes make it an excellent spot to come with your kids. You can head to the Silver Lake State Park for a fun sand dune cruising or trekking. There’s also a Little Sable Point Lighthouse nearby climbing up which, would give you spectacular views of the surroundings and a lovely sunset view. The camping facilities at Silver Lake State Park and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park are popular among families planning to stay overnight.

Fishing: The dense aquatic vegetation is excellent for bass habitation. Largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, and panfish also populate the lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, sand cruising, sandboarding,

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Lakes in Eastern Michigan

1. Lake Saint Clair

Lake Saint Clair in Eastern Michigan

Lake Saint Clair, also known as the ‘Heart of the Great Lakes,’ flows between the St. Clair River and the Detroit River systems. Its name is given by the French explorer, Robert de la Salle, who arrived on its shore on 11th August, the feast day of Saint Clair. On its shores lies the Lake St. Clair Metropark featuring a 1000-foot beach, boat launches, marinas, and a one-mile trail running parallel to the lake’s shoreline. You can also check out the Nature Center and witness over 275 bird species.

Fishing: Fish species mainly caught are smallmouth bass, walleye, perch, northern pike, bluegill, and muskie.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, ice skating

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Lakes in Southern Michigan

1. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan in Southern Michigan

Among the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is the only one that flows entirely in the United States. Having 22,404 square miles surface area with 307 miles length and 118 miles width, it borders the states of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The part that flows in Michigan has a picturesque setting with numerous state parks lining its shoreline.

You could head to the Duck Lake State Park, where the sand dune stretches from Duck Lake to Lake Michigan. The boardwalk and shallow beaches make it an incredible spot to spend time with your family. If planning to extend your stay, many campgrounds are also available in the vicinity, including D.H. Day Campground and Dune Lake Campground.

Fishing: Lake Michigan has salmon in abundance. While you can find coho salmon any time of the year, the ideal time for catching chinook salmon is between July and August. Other fish species common here are steelhead, perch, rainbow trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and walleye.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, camping, picnicking, horseback riding,

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2. Lake Erie

Lake Erie in Southern Michigan

The smallest and shallowest of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie, flows along the state’s southeast region. Sterling State Park, the only Michigan state park on the lake, offers several recreational activities, from boating to hiking. You could enjoy your time at the sand beach or hike on the paved trails around the lagoons while keeping your eyes peeled for the numerous bird species flying overhead. For accommodation facilities, you’ll find many lakefront campsites.

Fishing:  Lake Erie has a healthy population of walleye fishing, luring anglers to catch them all summer. Yellow Perch, white bass, crappie, and bluegill are common catches here.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, birdwatching, wildlife viewing

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3. Indian Lake

Indian Lake in Southern Michigan

Located in southwestern Michigan, Indian Lake provides a serene experience, perfect for those who prefer staying away from the crowd. A boat ride on its calm shallow waters would be ideal for spending time. Indian Lake State Park, located on its shoreline, boasts beautiful sandy beaches where you could enjoy swimming and picnicking.

Fishing: The common fish species found here include perch, northern pike, walleye, rock bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, and muskellunge.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, golfing, hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, camping, picnicking

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4. Gun Lake

Gun Lake in Southern Michigan

Gun Lake is a hotspot for water sports. You could visit the state park, located on the lake, featuring two beaches, a boat launch, and picnic areas. Those preferring land activities can visit Yankee Springs Recreation Area on the lake’s northeastern side to enjoy hiking or biking. Modern camping facilities are also available here if you wish to stay overnight.

Fishing: Catching walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass are pretty common in Gun Lake. You can also expect to find bluegill, northern pike, and perch. In winter, ice fishing is a sought after activity here.    

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, water skiing, tubing, sailing, jet-skiing, hiking, biking, and snowmobiling, camping, picnicking

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Best Lakes for Fishing: Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Superior

Best Lakes for Ice Fishing: Black Lake, Mullett Lake, Portage Lake

Best Lakes for Boating: Big Glen Lake, Lake Huron, Torch Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: Burt Lake,Silver Lake,  Higgins Lake

Best Lakes to Live On: Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Charlevoix

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