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.
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.
In this Article
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
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.
You’ll go flying over a few steep hills. Kids of all ages enjoy the ride.
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 Road, Mears MI 49436
Several sections comprise the State Park:
- ORV Area
- Day Use Section
- Pedestrian Dune Area
- Multiple Beaches
(If you want to check the weather for the area, search for Mears, MI in your weather app.)
3 – Climb the Little Sable Lighthouse at Silver Lake State Park
287 N Lighthouse Dr, Mears, MI 49436
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!
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.
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
Find a boat launch, large beach with shallow swim area, picnic tables, playground, volleyball courts, parking lot, and modern bathrooms in this space.
This beach has a great view of the Silver Lake sand dunes across the lake.
A visit to this beach is earned – the public pathway to this beach is up and over a dune.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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 Drive, Mears, MI 49436
- 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
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.)
Park in the pedestrian area and walk up the dunes.
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.
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 Road, Silver Lake, MI 49436
Craig’s Cruisers in Silver Lake Michigan offers plenty of opportunities for family fun.
You’ll find an arcade, roller coaster, go-cart rides, bumper boat rides, a zipline, a miniature golf course, and more!
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.
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 Road Shelby, Michigan USA 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.
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’s has over 700 acres of farm fun!
Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo
4180 West M-20, New Era, Michigan 49446
They have everything from pedal carts to delicious homemade baked goods in addition to plenty of furry friends to pet.
Your kids will LOVE the number of fun things that they can do there. They have everything from pedal carts, bounce pillows, a petting zoo with tons of animals to feed, 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
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”.
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 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.
You can even stay at a castle!
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.
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?
Multiple beach options, hiking, an ORV area, boat launch, and in-town amusements are what you’ll find in the vicinity of Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Silver Lake State Park.