Silver Lake Sand Dunes 2024: Explore Michigan’s Hidden Gems at Silver Lake State Park

Ultimate Outdoor Experience at Silver Lake Michigan

Wrap adventure, natural beauty and family fun into a one-of-a-kind destination and you get the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.

Located on the west coast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, this outdoor recreation oasis is a magnet for ATV riders, sand dune enthusiasts, and beach lovers alike. It’s a hidden gem among Michigan vacation destinations.

_Silver Lake Sand Dunes Michigan - Tiffany Kamphuis

In this article, we’ll give you the scoop on how to make the most of your first time visiting Silver Lake sand dunes.

Meet the Silver Lake Sand Dunes

With over 2,000 acres of sand dunes in the Silver Lake area, they are the main attraction at Silver Lake State Park.

Sometimes, people think that the Silver Lake Sand Dunes are just a smaller version the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore off to the north.

But the Silver Lake Sand Dunes are drastically different from Sleeping Bear. Yes, both of these Michigan sand dunes feature rising, open mountains of sand but beyond that, differences abound.

You won’t get to drive on the sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and you won’t find amusements like a roller coaster, go karts, or putt putt there, either. These attractions are unique to Silver Lake, Michigan.

If you’re looking for adventure or a relaxing day in the sun and sand or out on the water, a trip to Silver Lake Dunes might be just what you need.

Best Things to do in Silver Lake Michigan

Visiting for a week? Do one activity a day for a leisurely 7-day trip that will spread out the fun.

Only in town for a long weekend? You’ll be busy packing in all there is to do in Silver Lake Michigan, but, if you’re up for a challenge, it can be done!

1 – Feel Like You’re Flying on a Mac Woods Dune Ride

629 N 18th Ave, Mears, MI 49436

Mac Wood’s Dune Ride has been in business for generations and they offer a great 40-minute, seven-mile dune tour.

mac woods dune rides silver lake sand dunes

The tour makes frequent stops for pictures and even gives you a chance to get out and play in the sand while overlooking Silver Lake.

While it may sound like a slow pace, the ride is quite an adventure.

mac woods dune rides silver lake sand dunes
Take a ride over the sand dunes with Mac Woods Dune Rides

You’ll go flying over a few steep hills. Kids of all ages enjoy the ride.

mac woods dune rides silver lake sand dunes

If you are traveling with an infant, come prepared with a baby carrier and a hat or blanket to keep the wind out of their face.

2 – Stay, Play & Swim at Silver Lake State Park

Heading to Silver Lake for the weekend might mean you’re going for a beach getaway or looking to ride ATVs. In either case, you’ll likely find yourself in at Silver Lake State Park during your visit.

Silver Lake State Park
9679 W. State Park Rd, Mears MI 49436

Several sections comprise the State Park:

  • ORV Area
  • Day Use Section
  • Pedestrian Dune Area
  • Campground
  • Lighthouse
  • Multiple Beaches
silver lake sand dunes area map

(If you want to check the weather for the area, search for Mears, MI in your weather app.)

Michigan Recreation Passport

Do yourself a favor and get a Michigan Recreation Passport when you renew your license plates through the secretary of state. It’s just $14 and gets you into all of Michigan’s State Parks and Recreation Areas for a fraction of the price you’d pay for individual visits.

You can buy a Recreation Pass at the State Park entrance station for $18, or get it online ahead of time to save a few bucks.

3 – Climb the Little Sable Lighthouse at Silver Lake State Park

287 N Lighthouse Dr, Mears, MI 49436

Little Sable Point Lighthouse is located on Lake Michigan south of the sand dunes area.

The lighthouse opened to the public in 2006 and normally allows you to climb to the top for a small fee. Standing at 115 feet up, the views are quite spectacular!

silver lake state park little sable point lighthouse beach

You must be at least three feet tall to make the climb. For safety reasons, you are not allowed to carry anyone.

Those that make it all the way up the steps to the portholes are rewarded with great views and photo ops.

4 – Make a Splash at one of the Silver Lake State Park Beaches

There’s a lot more to do than ride on the dunes when you’re at Silver Lake, Michigan. If you’re looking for a beach day, start by picking your beach.

Here are your options and how they compare:

Lake Michigan Beach at the Lighthouse

The lighthouse beach is sandy, narrow, and long. Erosion changes the shape of the beach on a yearly basis.

silver lake sand dunes beach lake michigan

The Lake Michigan waves can be large; use caution while swimming.

Beach & Boat Launch at Silver Lake State Park Day Use Area

8674 W Silver Lake Rd, Mears, MI 49436

The Silver Lake State Park Day Use Area is located on Silver Lake, adjacent to the State Park campground.

Find a boat launch, large beach with shallow swim area, picnic tables, playground, volleyball courts, parking lot, and modern bathrooms in this space.

silver lake state park beach
The Day Use Area Beach at Silver Lake State Park near the Campground

This beach has a great view of the Silver Lake sand dunes across the lake.

silver lake state park beach (1)

Dune Beach via Silver Lake State Park Pedestrian Dune Access

8890 W Shore Dr, Mears, MI 49436

The beautiful Dune Beach in Silver Lake State Park  is only accessible via the dune pedestrian area parking lot (near the ORV area entrance).

silver lake sand dunes beach swimming
Dune Beach on Silver Lake, Michigan. The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are in the background.

A visit to this beach is earned – the public pathway to this beach is up and over a dune.

silver lake state park pedestrian dune beach access

To visit the beach, you must climb up the dune. (Note the people on the side of the dune are on the Pedestrian Dune Access trail.)

Silver Lake State Park Pedestrian Dune Beach Access
A long hike over Silver Lake Sand Dunes is required to make it to Dune Beach.

Alternatively, you could launch a boat from the State Park Boat access on the other side of Silver Lake and moor at this beach.

A word of caution here – the water gets deep quickly at Dune Beach. The water drop-off is extreme and can be dangerous; life jackets are a good idea for kids or anyone who is not a strong swimmer.

5 – Get Out on the Dunes in an ORV

The Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) section of Silver Lake State Park is a huge draw for visitors wanting to scoot their vehicles up and over the sand dunes. In fact, it’s the only place you can ride ORV on dunes east of the Mississippi.


It turns out that there are many different ways to experience the dunes. You can choose to test out your own off-road driving skills in the dunes with your own 4-wheel drive vehicle or you can rent a Jeep or dune buggy.

Book a Guided Jeep or ATV Tour

If you don’t own a vehicle capable of handling the sandy terrain, have no experience driving one, or are not familiar with Silver Lake sand dunes, a learning Jeep or ATV tour offers the perfect initiation.

Sunbuggy’s Intro to Silver Lake Dunes Tour (1931 N 24th Ave, Mears, MI 49436) will get you out on the dunes on an ATV or multi-passenger UTV. After getting your gear and intro, riders follow an expert SunBuggy Dunie on a tour of the Silver Lake Dunes.

Sunbuggy ATVs Silver Lake Michigan

This is a perfect way to get to know the area before heading out on your own with an pay-by-the-hour free roaming rental.

It’s the same idea when you sign up for a Jeep Dune Tour.

You drive, follow-the-leader style, with a guide across the Silver Lake Sand Dunes for an hour.

This is an amazing opportunity for first-time dune drivers to get their feet wet and learn how the ORV area is laid out and operates.

Depending on the time of your visit, you’ll be sharing the dunes with thousands – or tens of thousands – of other drivers.

parrots landing silver lake state park sand dunes ORV rental (1)
Rent an ORV and drive the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Yourself

Our tour guide was in constant communication (via radio) with our group and did an excellent job coaching each driver up, over, and through the dunes.

Opt to add an hour or two on to your Jeep rental if you want to stay and play for a while.

Rent or Drive Your Own Vehicle on the Sand Dunes

Silverback Offroad: 1920 N 24th Ave, Mears, MI 49436. Rentals are available from April 1st – October 31st. ATV, UTV, Jeep Rentals.

Silver Lake Buggy Rentals: 8288 W. Hazel Rd, Silver Lake, MI 49436. Off-Road & ATV Rentals

silver lake sand dunes michigan (3)

Sunbuggy Silver Lake ORVS: 1931 N 24th Ave, Mears, MI 49436 

And if you’re bringing an ORV of your own, you’ll want this map.

The dunes are open April through October. An ORV permit is required, as well as a safety flag. Additional regulations beyond this are in place.

6 – Paddle, Jet Ski or Boat Silver Lake

Ski boats, pontoon boats, wave runners, SUP’s, kayaks, and more are available to rent here. Reserve early for best selection, and then enjoy playing on the water at Silver Lake Michigan.

Wave Club Water Sports
1220 N. Shore Dr, Mears, MI 49436

Silver Lake Stand up paddleboards

  •  6 passenger Ski Boats and 10 passenger Pontoon Boats 
  •  Paddle boats and stand-up paddle boards
  • Wave runner rentals

7 – Climb the Sand Dunes at Silver Lake State Park

In addition to the ORV area, there is also pedestrian access to the dunes in Silver Lake State Park.

You begin your trek into the dunes by climbing several flights of stairs and then you have a fairly steep climb in the sand before reaching the “top” of the dunes. (This is the same path you’d take to reach Dune Beach.)

silver lake sand dunes hiking
Walking the dunes is popular past time at Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Park in the pedestrian area and walk up the dunes.

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Pedestrian Access

Kids loving running up and down the hills.

If you’re adventurous, you can hike to Silver Lake or even out to Lake Michigan (a super long hike) from the pedestrian part of the dunes.

You could literally walk for hours through the dunes while watching the off-road vehicles and enjoying the spectacular views of Silver Lake.

Pictures hardly do justice to the vastness of the dunes: it is truly something you need to see for yourself – and it’s absolutely magical at sunset.

Try Sandboarding or Sledding the Dunes

The Sandbox (8437 W Silver Lake Rd, Silver Lake, Michigan 49436) rents sand boards at their store in Silver Lake.

sand sledding canva

They rent Venomous boards as well as adult and youth sleds. $10 per hour/$30 per day.

8 – Have a Blast at Craig’s Cruisers

8343 W. Hazel Rd, Silver Lake, MI 49436

Craig’s Cruisers in Silver Lake Michigan offers plenty of opportunities for family fun.

Craig’s Cruisers Zipline Ride at Silver Lake Michigan

You’ll find an arcade, roller coaster, go-cart rides, bumper boat rides, a zipline, a miniature golf course, and more!

Silver Lake Craigs Cruisers Roller Coaster

We also enjoyed some of the local shops. They have wonderful and unique specialty stores, restaurants, and bakeries as well as candy, fudge, and ice cream shops.

Silver Lake Michigan

Nearby Things to Do in Silver Lake Michigan

9 – Tubing to Benona Township Park at Lake Michigan

Benona Township Park
9202 W Garfield Rd, Shelby, MI 49455

Benona Township Park is located on Lake Michigan and is located about 10 minutes south of the Silver Lake area. Kayaking and tubing down the Stony Creek to Lake Michigan is a popular pastime.

The river is slow, making it nice for kids. There is a lot of seaweed in the river and lots of dragonflies along the way.

The place where the beach meets the river is sandy and a lovely place to park a beach chair.

Facilities are limited to an outhouse and the parking lot is quite small.

River tubes for floating down the river can be rented or purchased at the small convenience store, Stony Lake Store & Cafe, near Stony Lake Park. We floated the river in about two hours.

10 – Enjoy the Labyrinth & Treats at Cherry Point Farm Market

Cherry Point Farm & Market, Lavender Labyrinth & Fish Boils
9600 W. Buchanan Rd, Shelby, MI 49455

This farm and market is a fun stop. The herb garden, in the center of their labyrinth, is thriving and open to walk through.

silver lake Cherry Point Farm & Market labyrinth

Stop and walk through the plants, grab some fresh produce from the market, and make plans to return for one of their iconic summer fish boils (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.)

11 – Spend the Day at Lewis Farms

Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo in New Era, which is a few miles south of Shelby on US-31. It has over 700 acres of farm fun!

Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo
4180 West M-20, New Era, MI 49446

They have everything from pedal carts to delicious homemade baked goods in addition to plenty of furry friends to pet.

Lewis Farms petting zoo Jeffrey the Camel

Your kids will LOVE the number of fun things that they can do there. They have everything from bounce pillows, a petting zoo with tons of animals to feed to a kiddie wagon ride, a great farm stand market, and more family fun that your whole family will enjoy.

My boys particularly enjoyed the jumping pillows, duck races, pedal carts, barrel train, and of course, some Hudsonville Ice Cream.

In the petting zoo, there are donkeys, goats, deer, alpacas, miniature horses, a camel, and a peacock just to name a few. We plan to return in the fall when they have their corn mazes, pumpkin patch, and apple picking open.

12 – Fill up at Country Dairy

Country Dairy 
3476 S 80th Ave, New Era, MI 49446

Country Dairy not only offers a fun place to get ice cream or even lunch, but also has a fun dairy farm tour. You’ll feel like an expert after this tour and have fun learning at the “Moo School”.

country dairy, new era MI

This is also a fun place to stop by for lunch or order pizza.

You’ll find a good selection of meals for families, plus each meal includes their “bottom-less” cup of chocolate milk. Kids meals include a kiddie ice cream cone.

Plus, while you’re there, check out the Moo-School and tour the dairy. Learn how Country Dairy’s milk, cheese, and ice cream is made. Yum!

Lodging Options

Lodging options near the Silver Lake Sand Dunes include hotels, adorable cabins and cottages for rent, and campgrounds.

If you’re looking for a vacation rental, there are plenty of VRBOs in the Silver Lake area – just book in advance for the best selection.

You can stay at this private escape on 23 acres with woods, paths, and dunes. This upscale “Window House” comes with 558 ft of private beachfront, lots of rooms, and tall ceilings.

Window House

We chose to stay at the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort due to the many pre-planned and scheduled activities that are included in the stay.

The pool and kiddie pool were also a nice bonus. Our boys were never bored between all of the crafts, games, wagon rides, and movies that were available every day.

Silver Lake Resort and Campground employs a “hotel approach” to camping.

The front desk staff provide concierge services and can help you plan all or part of your trip while at Silver Lake. You’ll love the friendly staff, super clean bathrooms, onsite heated swimming pool, playground, picnic area, volleyball, and a small pond for fishing.

Silver Lake Michigan FAQs

Where is Silver Lake Michigan located?

Located just south of Ludington, Silver Lake is only a 90-minute drive from the Grand Rapids area. The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are nestled between Lake Michigan and Silver Lake.

What surprises people about Silver Lake, Michigan?

The Silver Lake, Michigan area can be confusing for first-time visitors. Many of the attractions are not visible from the small business district. If you don’t have a plan, you might land at the town center roundabout and think you’ve seen the whole town.

What are the different things to do in Silver Lake Michigan?

You’ll find multiple beach options, hiking, an ORV area, boat launch, and in-town amusements in the vicinity of Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Silver Lake State Park.

downtown silver lake sand dunes
The Roundabout in Silver Lake Michigan

Have You Been to Silver Lake Sand Dunes?

What do you like best about Silver Lake State Park? Did we miss any things to do in Silver Lake MI? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Silver Lake Sand Dunes 2024: Explore Michigan’s Hidden Gems at Silver Lake State Park”

  1. Country Dairy is amazing!! We are trying to think of a place to camp this summer maybe we will go to Silver Lake:)

  2. When you head back in the fall, be sure to go a little bit further down the road in New Era to the Country Dairy.

  3. Thanks … enjoyed reading. We had almost went there this past weekend, but were unsure. I think we will definitely make a trip out there now knowing there are so many options.

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