Looking for beaches with crystal blue water and don’t want to leave the U.S.? TC is the place for you! Check out this guide to the beaches in Traverse City, Michigan.
The Perfect Geography for Sun, Fun, and Food
Traverse City is a lovely Great Lakes beach town in northern Michigan. It sits at the bottom of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, separated from Lake Michigan by the Leelanau Peninsula.
The Old Mission Peninsula runs north from Traverse City, splitting the Grand Traverse Bay into a West Arm and East Arm. The latter peninsula also creates an abundance of scenic waterside views in Grand Traverse Bay. It’s a beautiful place for relaxation or thrills.
In the map above, pull Traverse City towards the bottom of the screen to see how Traverse City sits at the bottom of Grand Traverse Bay and between the two peninsulas and enjoy the (literal) fruits of this ideal geographical location and climate.
If you love cherries, you’re in luck! The Traverse City area is the largest source of tart cherries in the United States. The National Cherry Festival is held the first week of July each year. If you want to see the gorgeous cherry blossoms, though, plan to visit Traverse City in early May.
Traverse City tourism is chock-full of outdoor activities. You’ll find plenty to do indoors and outdoors, casual and cultural. It is also home to spectacular beaches, most of which are public beaches. You’ll enjoy this town any time of year.
The Best Beaches in Traverse City, Michigan
To help you plan, I organized the beaches by location. You’ll want to enjoy time on the downtown beaches in the city of Traverse City. You’ll also enjoy venturing out into the quieter beaches around the peninsulas.
For the best things to do in Traverse City that aren’t on a beach, check out this post and podcast episode on my travel podcast, All Things Travel.
Here is the list of beaches and more information on each below.
Beaches Near Downtown Traverse City
- Clinch Park Beach
- Sunset Park Beach
- Volleyball Beach
- Traverse City Open Space Park
- West End Beach
- Bryant Park Beach
- East Bay Park
- Traverse City State Park Beach
- Bayside Park
- West Bay Beach
Beaches on Leelanau Peninsula
- Esch Road Beach
- Good Harbor Bay Beach
- Van’s Beach
- Suttons Bay Beach
- Lake Leelanau
- Glen Lake
- North Bar Lake
Old Mission Peninsula Beaches
The Best Beaches in Traverse City Downtown
If you want a day lounging on the beach, these downtown Traverse City beaches will be the best places to spend a day, to spend any time of day. Most of these beaches are a short walk from downtown.
Which beach is best for you is a question your travel advisor can you help you decide. Better yet, spend a few days visiting all of the best beaches in Traverse City and decide for yourself which one is best for you.
Clinch Park Beach
Clinch Park is considered one of the best beaches. It is conveniently located close to Font Street in downtown Traverse City on West Grand Traverse Bay. It’s at the center of the West Grand Traverse bay shore at Cass Street, easily walking distance from most downtown locations.
There are many reasons Clinch the city’s most popular beach.
- 1500 feet of sandy beach
- splash pad
- lifeguards on duty
- picnic area
- snack bar
- bike racks
- kayak/paddleboard rental
- TART Trail access
- Adjacent to Clinch Park marina
If you watch closely, you might even find one of the famous Petoskey Stones.
There are nearby places to rent watercraft, such as kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes. Being the most popular beach also means that it can get pretty crowded, especially during the summer months.
Sunset Park Beach
Between Clinch Park and Bryant Park beaches is Sunset Park Beach. More urban lakefront, Sunset Park Beach a great place to read on the beach and enjoy views of bats from the nearby Duncan L Clinch Marina.
It’s a great location, right off Front Street, about a block from the Traverse Bay Cafe. Or across the street from a Mcdonald’s if you prefer.
Just west of Clinch Park, separated by Duncan L Clinch Marina, is Volleyball Beach. It’s Traverse City’s newest beach and offers fantastic (you guessed it!) sand volleyball courts.
Volleyball Beach hosts leagues and tournaments and is also conveniently located downtown on the shore of West Arm Grand Traverse Bay. This is the beach where you want to go to party Traverse City-style.
This beach tends to be louder and host more of a party atmosphere. If you enjoy volleyball or hanging out with a younger, louder crowd, Volleyball Beach is definitely one of the best beaches in Traverse City.
Traverse City Open Space Park
Between Clinch Park Marina and Volleyball Beach is a lovely public green space. Open Space Park offers open space, picnic tables, a water bottle filling station, and a paved walking and biking path, all with a great view of Grand Traverse Bay.
Hopefully returning to the post-pandemic world is the Open Space Outdoor Cinema, where movie lovers can enjoy outdoor films on a 65-foot screen by the water!
The calendar for the National Cherry Festival currently shows events scheduled for July of 2021.
West End Beach
Adjacent to Volleyball Beach, separated by Division Street, on the west end of the downtown Traverse City shoreline is West End Beach. West End Beach is one of the favorite places for those who desire some quieter beach time than you’ll find on other downtown beaches. People go here for more tranquil mornings and take smaller kids here.
West End Beach is dog-friendly (if they’re on a leash) and has plenty of parking and public restrooms.
Also, since the beach lies just past the point where the shoreline turns northward up the Leelanau Peninsula, it faces east, giving you a perfect place to watch the sunrise.
Bryant Park Beach
On the opposite side of West Grand Traverse Bay is Bryant Park. It’s a shaded picnic area with a playground and grills, which might make it the perfect place for families. It usually has lifeguards to give a little extra peace of mind.
Bryant Park lies just past where the shore turns north up the Old Mission Peninsula. The sets you facing west, so a perfect place to watch sunsets.
You can enjoy the sunrise from West End Beach in the morning and the sunset from Bryant Park Beach in the evening with a little planning.
East Bay Park
This quiet beach lies on the west end of the East Arm Grand Traverse Bay. This beach also has restrooms, picnic tables, and a lifeguard. Situated on the south end of the east side of and at the base of Old Mission Peninsula. Facing east, it is a great spot for watching sunsets.
The beach has rather shallow waters here. That and typically being less crowded might make it a great place to bring little kids. You could be here with a short drive from downtown.
Traverse City State Park Beach
This state park is located on the shore of the base of East Grand Traverse Bay and about 2 miles east of downtown.
This 47-acre state park has about 350 campsites. Camping is currently closed due to the Cornovirus pandemic, but camping is scheduled to reopen on April 2, 2021.
When it’s a quarter-mile of sandy beaches are open, Traverse City State Park tends to be busy all 4 seasons for camping and hiking. Other activities include fishing, Swimming, Sunbathing, and you can rent boats.
For information about camping, check out the Michigan State Parks website.
Lying opposite The East Arm Grand Traverse Bay from East Bay Park is Bay Park. It’s a small beach, but with good parking, restrooms, a playground, and picnic tables. It faces west, giving you another great place to enjoy sunsets.
West Bay Beach, a Delamar Resort
Just east of Clinch Park Beach is West Bay Beach Resort. It is a resort with a beach!
Best Beaches in Traverse City on Leelanau Peninsula
To experience all of the best beaches in Traverse City, you’ll want to venture outside of downtown. Head out to Leelanau Peninsula for more remote, less crowded beaches set in some of Michigan’s most beautiful scenery.
Leelanau is a Native American word that means “delight of life.” When you drive a country road or two through this peninsula and witness the gorgeous landscapes, beaches, and hills, you’ll agree there is no better place to enjoy the outdoors.
Esch Road Beach
The beach on Esch Road is on the other side of the Leelanau Peninsula, on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near the mouth of Otter Creek. Walking along the creek is a nice walk offering several types of wildflowers to enjoy.
It is sometimes called Otter Creek and also called Aral Beach after the logging village that used to lie on the same site. Since Esch Road Beach is a little harder to find and away from downtown, it can be a better beach to get away from bigger crowds.
Good Harbor Bay Beach
Good Harbor Beach stretches along the Good Harbor Bay on the other side of the Leelanau Peninsula. This long sandy beach provides great views of the islands. You’ll also enjoy stunning sunsets over Pyramid Point and Whalebook dune.
This beach also has a nearby stream that kids enjoy playing in. You can also walk along the stream into the woods.
Also near is the Good Harbor Bay Trail. This is a lovely trail with a beautiful area for picnics with a few picnic tables.
Entrance to Good Harbor Bay Beach requires a park pass.
On the shoreline of an unincorporated community called Leland is Van’s Beach. Leland is on the west side of the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s a nice clean beach with lots of rocks if you’re into rocks hunting and plenty of parking.
It also has nice sand (the Leelanau Conservatory calls it “sugar sand.”) and is another great beach for watching sunsets. It will take about 40 minutes to drive to Van’s Beach from Traverse City.
Suttons Bay Beach
In the West Arm Grand Traverse bay side of the Leelanau Peninsula, you’ll find Suttons Bay Beach. If you travel north on 22 from Traverse City, this beach is about a 20-mile drive.
It’s a clean beach with a small playground and picnic area, usually not very crowded. You can also rent kayaks and standup paddleboards at Suttons Bay Beach.
While you’re there, Suttons Bay is a beautiful, quaint bay village with plenty to eat, drink and do. You’ll also find plenty of gift shops.
Another lake on the Leelanau Peninsula is Lake Leelanau. It is a big lake comprised of two smaller bodies of water called North Lake Leelanau and South Lake Leelanau.
An unincorporated village called Lake Leelanau, Michigan lies where the two bodies of water intersect. In this village, you will find several vineyards, a distillery. It also hosts several beautiful cottages and inns that offer lodging.
Glen Lake lies east of Sleeping Dunes. The gorgeous blue water is perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating. Glen Lake is rated as one of the Great Lakes region’s most beautiful lakes. Types of fish you might catch here include:
- yellow perch
- smallmouth bass
- northern pike
- brown trout
- lake trout.
Another thing that makes this lake interesting is the unincorporated hamlets and villages that lie on or near its shore.
Because of the nearby trails, roads, and elevation changes, the area around this lake is excellent for long walks or trail running.
North Bar Lake
The sandy bottom and clear, shallow water make the beach of North Bar Lake one of the most popular beaches. The water is warmer and calmer because it’s shallower.
It’s conveniently located too. If you decide you want cooler water or to play in some waves, you can hike over the sand dunes in a couple of minutes to enjoy Lake Michigan. You can also travel between the two lakes via the small inlet that connects them. Kids also enjoy playing in the inlet.
The Best Beaches in Traverse City on Old Mission Peninsula
Old Mission Peninsula extends from downtown Traverse City 18 miles into Grand Traverse Bay, splitting the bay into two arms. Mostly less than a mile wide, Old Mission Peninsula delights with excellent beaches, spectacular view of the bay, and gorgeous foliage.
Power Island is an island in West Arm Grand Traverse Bay. It’s a 202-acre island with primitive camping, picnicking, and hiking on its beautiful beaches. It’s a great destination if your boating in the bay.
The nearest boat launch to navigate to the island is a Bowers Harbor, located about halfway up Old Mission Peninsula from downtown Traverse City.
A few meters north of Power Island. Depending on water levels, the two islands are sometimes connected by an isthmus. It has 5 primitive camping sites, each with its own grill, picnic table, and fire ring. You have to call the Parks and Recreation Office to reserve the campsites or by clicking here.
Other Things to Do in Traverse City
For more information about these non-beach things to do in Traverse City, check out episode 49 of my travel podcast All Things Travel: The Best Things to Do in Traverse City, MI. You can also listen here:
Grand Traverse Commons
You can enjoy plenty of indoor and outdoor fun in this 480-acre common area. The architecture is lovely. It’s a state hospital and asylum that was built in 1984, the Victorian buildings for which have been preserved and repurposed into an entertaining public area.
The Traverse Area Recreation Trail is a system of multi-use trails that run through Traverse City. Some run downtown, parallel to Grandview Parkway, and all the way to sites such as Grand Traverse Commons and all the way up to Sutton’s Bay.
Great Lakes Children’s Museum
A museum that “features hands-on activities and exhibits to help teach kids about the Great Lakes.”
Great Wolf Lodge
The national chain resort features an indoor water park and an immersive live-action magic wand adventure.
What is your favorite beach in Traverse City, Michigan?
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