East Bay Park
A true locals-only hideout away from main roads, the beach at East Bay Park is the in-town place for a quiet afternoon at the beach. Enjoy picnic tables, restrooms, and water so shallow many locals park their lawn chairs right in the water. Great views of the tree-lined hills that line the eastern shore of Grand Traverse Bay. Located where East Front Street meets the water on East Bay.
Credit the residents of Acme for giving the region one of its most natural urban beaches. Back in 2006, locals envisioned opening up a mile-long stretch of beach on East Bay, where natural beach grasses and humans could enjoy the sand in harmony. Last summer, the newly expanded Bayside Park finally opened to the public, with amenities like picnic tables, basketball and shuffleboard courts, and public restrooms. Enter just south of the intersection of U.S. 31 North and M-72.
Arbutus Lake Beach
Don’t let the glory of Lake Michigan become an excuse for not exploring some of the region’s inland lake systems. One of the best? Sprawling Arbutus Lake, about 10 miles southeast of Traverse City. The public beach at the north end isn’t huge, but neither are the crowds, and the little brook that empties into the lake will fascinate the kids for hours. Superb picnic area, fun fishing, and a campground nearby if you decide to stay awhile.
Interlochen State Park
One park, two lakes: located on an isthmus that runs between Green Lake and Duck Lake, Interlochen State Park offers swimming, fishing, hiking, playgrounds, restrooms, picnic areas and a campground. Plus you’ll be treading on hallowed ground: Interlochen State Park was Michigan’s first state park—christened in 1917 to preserve one of the state’s last virgin pine stands. 4167 M-37, Interlochen, 231.276.9511.