The beaches, water and snow sports in Elk Rapids, Michigan, turn a Northern Michigan vacation into an adventure. Whether it’s body surfing the old sluice on the Elk River (so fun!), lounging on the sands of Veterans Memorial Park, or parking your boat at the full-service marina,  Elk Rapids spells sum, sum, summertime. In the winter Elk Rapids turns into a storybook setting—just the place to stage your ski vacation. Here’s your guide to the beaches, water and snow sports in Elk Rapids, Michigan.

Veterans Memorial Park, Elk Rapids

Find this sugar sand beach at the southwest end of River Street and on the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay. The location is especially nice for families, as the waters here are shallow and warm, and kids love playing where the mouth of Elk River empties out on the beach. Other features: basketball courts, tennis courts, picnic tables, play area, grills and trees for finding respite from the sun.

Elk Rapids Dam Beach and Fishing Park

Elk Rapids’ 1920s-built hydroelectric dam has become a popular spot for angling and spreading a towel, with beach access and restrooms too. Dexter Road bordering East Grand Traverse Bay.

Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Nature Preserve

This 41-acre shoreline preserve just north of Elk Rapids off US 31 is a beachcomber’s paradise. Just remember to obey the rules in this fragile ecosystem that includes the endangered Pitcher’s Thistle and Lake Huron Tansy: keep your dog on a leash, stay on the trail and when you spread a towel do it below the high water mark where it’s clear of vegetation. Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Nature Preserve

Elk Rapids Harbor, Edward C. Grace Memorial Harbor

Lower Harbor

213 slips from 28′ -70′ for seasonal and transient boaters; full service amenities with direct access to East Grand Traverse Bay.

Upper Harbor

30 slips for seasonal boaters with direct access to Elk River and the Antrim Chain of Lakes.

Upper Harbor II

20 slips for seasonal and transient boaters; full service amenities with direct access to Elk River and the Antrim Chain of Lakes.

Courtesy Dockage

Courtesy docks are available in the Lower and Upper Harbor for 1-3 hour maximum docking to enjoy shopping or dining in the Village of Elk Rapids. Hail the Harbor office on channel 73 or call 231-264-8174 for availability.

Lower Harbor Launch Ramp

A four-lane concrete launch ramp with sufficient water depth and lake size to accommodate most trailerable boats, offering direct access to East Grand Traverse Bay.

Upper Harbor Launch Ramp

A two-lane concrete launch ramp with direct access to Elk River and the Antrim Chain of Lakes.


Dockside fresh water, electric (30,50 and 100 amp), cable TV, and WIFI Internet access; large fuel dock with ethanol-free gasoline, diesel, and pump-out service; dock carts; slip-side portable pump-out service; block and bag ice; 3 dog run areas with eco-friendly disposable doggy bags; coin laundry; individual bathrooms and showers; comfortable Day Room with TV, seating, and tables; complimentary shuttle to any business/location within the Village of Elk Rapids; auxiliary lots for overnight trailer parking; picnic areas with gas and charcoal grills; bike racks; air conditioned Pavilion with large, flat-screen TV and sound system; friendly, knowledgeable staff to assist with docking (rain or shine!); fishing Charter Service located on site in Harbor; short walk to beaches, playground, tennis courts, basketball courts and fishing piers.

Snow Sports

The fabulous downhill slopes of Shanty Creek Resort are just 30 miles away from Elk Rapids.  This resort headquartered in Bellaire, Michigan, boasts two mountains:

Schuss Mountain combines award-winning terrain, pristine grooming and snow conditions, and the perfect mix of gentle, easy runs and steep, challenging slopes. Schuss Mountain features five terrain parks, five quad-chair lifts, friendly lift operators and a nationally recognized two-time Ski Patrol of the Year staff dedicated to the safety and enjoyment of Shanty Creek’s guests.

Summit Mountain, Shanty Creek’s original slopes, offer guests a more family-friendly experience and Michigan’s best value. The 12 slopes are located behind The Lakeview Hotel & Conference Center and are serviced by two double-chair lifts. With “Summit Only” weekend lift tickets starting at $15 and $20 rentals, the fun and excitement of skiing can be affordable too.

Cornerstone:  Beaches, Water and Snow Sports in Elk Rapids, Michigan

Photo(s) by SHEA HADDAD