Nestled between East Grand Traverse Bay and Elk Lake, this coastal town has plenty of golden sand to go around, plus a sweet downtown brimming with fun shops and eateries. Cheers to a perfect Elk Rapids beach day. 

Before You Go: We encourage visitors to travel safely and responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember to always practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others and wear a cloth mask or other face-covering while in enclosed areas or near others. Not sure whether your favorite shops and eateries will be open during your visit? Be sure to give them a call, check their website or follow them on social media for updates.

Start Your Day: Java Jones

Get there: 131 River St., Elk Rapids

Grab coffee and breakfast to-go from Java Jones on your way to the beach. The scone flavors are always rotating (and delicious)—blueberry lemon, cheddar bacon, mocha chip and many more—and the breakfast burrito is a winner.

Photo by Nick Hearn

Hit the Beach: Elk Rapids Day Park

Get there: South Bay Shore Drive, about one mile south of downtown

Home to the Art Rapids Walk of Art, an outdoor sculpture gallery, the Elk Rapids Day Park has more than 30 sculptures tucked along trails leading to a quarter-mile of sandy beach frontage on East Grand Traverse Bay. The art is selected by a jury and placed on display for one to three years, so the exhibits are continually changing, and most of the sculptures are for sale. 

Amenities: restrooms, a picnic pavilion with handicap access, 90-car parking lot, picnic sites with charcoal grills and tables, dog-friendly

Tip: Pick up all-natural bug repellent at Wildflower Soapworks. (And a bar of Elk Lake Sunset Soap to take home. The shop carries nearly 100 varieties of soap and each handmade bar is more beautiful than the last).

Photo by Nick Hearn

Photo by Nick Hearn

Photo by Nick Hearn

Get on the Water: Right Tree Adventure Rentals

Get there: 107 Bridge St., Elk Rapids

Right Tree Adventure Rentals offers SUPs, kayaks, bikes and other outdoor recreation equipment on a donation basis, and 100 percent of rental donations flow back into Right Tree programming to help empower teen girls through experiences like backpacking the Porcupine Mountains and stand-up paddleboarding. Right Tree Adventure Rentals will deliver and pick up equipment at any location.

Tip: Right Tree Founder Craig Mosher’s favorite kayaking spots: “We generally recommend Elk Lake instead of Lake Michigan. Folks can use the public boat launch directly down the street from our location or the public launch at Rotary Park next to the Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. There are lots of interesting things to see on a paddle in the Elk River and spots where folks can stop and swim. But if the weather is cooperative, nothing beats a paddle on Lake Michigan along the Elk Rapids shoreline—crystal clear water and swimming opportunities galore. Try a short trip from Memorial Park to the Elk Rapids Day Park.”

Sip Like a Local: Townline Ciderworks

Get there: 11595 US-31 S., Williamsburg

Townline ciders are made with hand-harvested apples and fruits that are pressed and served on the edge of the orchard where they were grown. It doesn’t get more farm-to-glass than that! Choose from nearly a dozen ciders on tap or grab cans to-go (wine, too!).

Tip: All hail Queen Ann! This cider is a blissful apple-berry blend with strawberries, blueberries and sweet and tart cherries.

Top It All Off: A Lake Michigan Sunset

The Elk Rapids Day Park is one of the best beaches in the region to catch a sunset. Get pizza to-go—by the slice or a whole pie—from Chef Charles’ at 147 River St. for a sunset dinner at the beach. (Make sure to get a side of the chef’s pesto for dipping.)

For a sit-down dinner before sunset, head to Cellar 152’s back deck, complete with twinkling lights and a Lake Michigan view.

Tip: Glass isn’t allowed on the beach, but you can bring those cans of cider you bought at Townline Ciderworks. Just make sure not to leave any trash behind.

Photo by Nick Hearn

Photo(s) by Nick Hearn