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These Northern Michigan campgrounds are just a stone’s throw from the water. Wake up to the sound of waves lapping on the shore—the ultimate camping experience. Reserve your campsites early, though, some fill up fast!
Bonus Video: Scroll down to learn how to cook breakfast in a bag. Seriously amazing.
Just over a low dune from Lake Michigan’s spectacular Sleeping Bear Bay (known for Northern Lights sightings!), D.H. Day Campground presents a sublime playground for a summer sleepout. Walk the beach forever, swim in warm waters and relax by a bonfire at night. Cruise a couple of miles into downtown Glen Arbor to pick up supplies for smores, or if you want somebody else to cook for you—here’s a list of restaurants. D.H. Day has drive-in sites, water pumps, outhouses; $16/night. No reservations. 231-326-5134 or nps.gov/slbe. Check out more ideas for camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes, and get an aerial view of the lakeshore in this MyNorth video.
Number of campsites: 75. Number of acres: 2,678. Nice ratio for serenity seekers. Even better, Fisherman’s Island, just south of Charlevoix, offers campsites smack on that endless beach—a rarity despite Michigan’s abundant shore mileage. Site No. 9 is particularly alluring, according to Russ Mikesell, summer ranger. “In one direction the nearest site is a quarter mile away and to the north there aren’t any.” Drive-up sites, hand water pumps and outhouses. $13 a night. Bonus: Five miles of park beach. Reservations: 800-447-2757 or Michigan.gov/dnr.
Pop a tent beside the Straits of Mackinac and consider your place in history. Native Americans traveled these shores by foot and canoe for millennia, perhaps camping where you now sit with a marshmallow and a Pabst. Bonuses: Freighters and sailboats spice your evening water-gazing; 26 miles of shoreline; 30-amp power for those who need juice. $13–45 per night depending on campsite (backcountry to premium); state park permit required. Reservations: 800-447-2757 or Michigan.gov/dnr.
The Two Hearted River’s name was irresistible to Ernest Hemingway, who stole it for a story title (he actually fished the nearby Fox River). But even more irresistible is the location of the namesake campground, right where the river pours into Lake Superior. Cast a line into the trout stream right from your campsite. Walk a short way for agate hunting and beach walking. Beach comb like a pro: Tips for finding agates on the Lake Superior shore. The campground has drive-in sites, water pumps and outhouses; $13/night. No reservations. 906-492-3415 (management unit).
Catch a sunset over Lake Superior in this MyNorth video.
If you’ve been wanting to try backpacking, make this camp south of Empire your first attempt: easy effort, big payoff. A flat two miles of walking off Trails End Road, and you arrive at six well-spaced campsites set in a forest behind a dune. Beyond said dune is the watery prize of Lake Michigan fringed by a lovely arc of unspoiled shore—one that lacks people. Outhouse, yes. Water pump, no—so pack water for an overnight or plan to purify (filter, boil, tablets). Experienced backpackers? You’ll love White Pine, too. Get permits for White Pine at the Platte River Campground Ranger Station during the summer or from the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center the rest of the year.
Have you ever tried cooking breakfast in a bag? Crazy easy and delicious! Here’s how.
Modern campers might prefer the suburbia-like style of the 180 close-knit sites (and hot showers and flush toilets) at the two Lower Falls Campgrounds inside Tahquamenon Falls State Park ($16–$25 per night, plus daily motor vehicle permit; 906-492-3415). But rustic renegades will find a more secluded setting just north of the park near the town of Paradise at Andrus Lake State Forest Campground ($13 a night, 906-492-3415), where 25 sites spread out in the woods and along the otherwise uninhabited sandy lakeshore. Expect great swimming and fishing, a boat launch, plus fire pits, a water pump and vault toilets.
Go with the flow: The best way to see Tahquamenon’s fabulous falls is to hike the four-mile riverside trail from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls. If you can handle a few hardy hills, you’ll be rewarded: Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub waits at trail’s end. The in-park pub not only serves up ever-changing and brilliant beer concoctions (we fell in love with the lightly fruity Lumberjack Lager) and lip-smacking pasties, it boasts a mighty good menu, an outdoor deck complete with fireplace and rocking chairs, and it sits inches from the stop for the shuttle that totes your tired butt back to the Lower Falls.