As a native of Michigan I can personally attest to it being a beautiful state, although I have yet to make it up to the U.P. or the Mackinac Island (maybe one day). Some of the most amazing places I’ve been though have been all along the coast of Lake Michigan. We’ve traveled to the west coast of Michigan numerous times on our weekend road trips, the drive times definitely have varied with some only taking a couple of hours to drive to from Toledo while others taking four or more hours to reach (but always worth it).
Michigan State Parks require a recreation passport to enter. If you’re a Michigan resident I believe you can get these at the DMV, online, and at any state park. You can purchase them for a year or just a day pass. Yearly recreation passports for Michigan registered vehicles are $11, Michigan registered motorcycles are $5, a Non-Michigan yearly pass is $31, and a non-Michigan daily pass is $9
Warren Dunes State Park (Bridgeman) was an unexpected gem. It was a gorgeous day when we went so the beach area was definitely packed with people. However the dunes are huge so there was plenty of leg workouts to be had. I was surprised by the ample parking; we didn’t have any issues finding a spot to park even though it was a busy state park. There are also a lot of offerings at Warren Dunes State Park things like numerous hiking trails, the dunes (of course), the beach, you can rent kayaks, paddle boards, and things like that. We rented a tandem kayak, it was (I believe) $25 for an hour or so. They have a rough area that they don’t want you to kayak out of, and provide the kayak, paddles, and life jackets. It was my first time kayaking so it was a bit overwhelming especially on Lake Michigan but the water was warm, and Erik kept me relatively calm and safe. It was a lot of fun.
Grand Haven State Park/Beach (Grand Haven) is small but lovely. It seems as though the beaches are endless however the parking was tough. It seemed as though a lot of people were parking on a lot of the side streets and just walking in with all of their stuff. It was another beautifully sunny summer day so we were able to walk out to the lighthouse, along the pier, and just really take our time meandering along the beach, well us and every other person in a 20 mile radius. It was a packed little area which made it tough to truly enjoy. People were fishing off of the pier and arguing with some teens about jumping off, as a “tourist” is definitely left a bad vibe. The area is stunning, all of the people crammed into a little area left a lot to be desired.
Muskegon State Park (Muskegon) is definitely one of my favorites to visit. There are so many trails to hike, dunes to climb, beach to walk, AND there’s even a winter area for those that are brave enough to tackle anything the big lake might feel like bringing in. We trekked up dunes on one visit and hiked a trail on another; we wandered through the camp ground while it was empty and sat on the beach listening to the lake. We picnicked in a parking lot, fed seagulls, and splashed in the water often. We even got to peek in an old fort at the top of a hill before taking on a trail. There are plenty of things to do here for the entire family! Also every time we’ve been it has not been crowded at all. Definitely prepare yourself for a variety of terrain including sand, gravel, wooded trails, and of course water!
Ludington State Park (Ludington), we ended up checking out the Ludington area before heading off to the park. We wandered in and out of shops, checked out the quaint downtown; it brought back a lot of memories for me; especially when we wandered into a shop that was still selling the fuzzy toy horse I got there when I was a kid. My heart melted a bit. Now keep in mind Ludington is a legit drive from the Toledo area, it’s about 4.5 hours, so if you’re going to make it into a day trip we highly suggest leaving EARLY! Or if you’re opting to stay in the area get a room before you go, we started off late and there were no rooms to be had there or in many of the other towns along our route so we ended up sleeping for a bit in a rest area on the way back to Toledo around 2 or 3am. After we checked out the city area we were off to the state park. It was a pretty busy weekend probably because the weather was just so nice, but we found place to have our picnic right along a water inlet before we packed up everything parked and hit a trail. We wandered through one of the full campground before making our way towards the lighthouse. Along the way we ran up and down the dunes, collected rocks to skip, and just enjoyed the beauty the Ludington State Park had to offer. People were super friendly, it was clean, and the only disappointment was not being able to actually get into the lighthouse. We ended up hiking over 10 miles that day, we finally decided to leave, just as the sun was setting so we stopped along the park entrance road, found a cozy spot on the beach where we could cuddle up and watch the sunset together. The views were breathtaking.