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Spotlight: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Spotlight: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

A place to play, dream, refresh, and create

lake michigan

Get There

Drive or fly into Traverse City. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located along the northwest coast of the lower peninsula of Michigan in Leelanu and Benzie Counties.

What You’ll Find

Sixty-five miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, clear inland lakes, unique flora and fauna, high, immense dunes, an island lighthouse, U.S. Life-Saving Service stations, lush hardwood and conifer forests, abandoned farm sites, meadows, wetlands, streams, bogs, countless shipwrecks.

Sleeping Bear was voted “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America—and it’s not hard to see why the public picked this majestic and fascinating locale over places like Hawaii; Point Reyes, California; Newport, Rhode Island; among other sought-after destinations. A visit to Sleeping Bear is bound to make even the most traveled visitor feel the wonderment of our natural world.

Stay Here

The Platte River Campground is open year-round and located in a wooded area in the southern district of Sleeping Bear. It’s within walking distance of the Platte River and a short walk or drive from the Lake Michigan shore.

South Manitou Campground is a tent-only, backcountry facility on South Manitou Island. Take a 1 1/2-hour ferry or boat ride to reach the island, then hike, with your gear, from the dock to your site. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more peaceful, natural setting in which to rest your head.  

Make Sure You

Plan ahead and allow enough time to do everything you want to do while you’re here. Look out for birds and you may see a bald eagle or common loon. Treasure a sighting of a northern flying squirrel; they’re active mostly at night. Hike the myriad of trails through the forest, visit the Manitou Islands, and, of course, climb the dunes.

You should also look out for any of Sleeping Bear Dunes' Artists in Residence, visiting through a program that has been in place since 1993. Using contemporary approaches and techniques, they translate the park's purpose as a place of pleasure and preservation into images and other types of creation that bring other people new insights, enjoyment and understanding.

Try This

Cherry pie, cherry jam…this area is known for cherries. Wander into Traverse City, voted one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Summer Trips, and the surrounding communities, for their charm, cafes, bakeries, culture and more. They also have many festivals (including—you guessed it— the National Cherry Festival), activities and events throughout the year, so check  the Traverse City page on Michigan's Official Travel and Tourism Site for a current calendar.

And if you have a few extra days to spend, be sure to cool off with a relaxing float or kayak down the Platte or Crystal River. The river is shallow and clear, and while it moves along at a good pace, there are no rapids to contend with.

Gear Up

Summertime temps range from 70 to 90 degrees, with nighttime temps dropping to 50 or 60 degrees. Wintertime can be frigid—though still gorgeous—so if you’re planning on visiting when it’s cold, make sure you’re prepared.