Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches: 8 Best Beaches to Visit in 2023

Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches include Platte River Beach on the south end of the National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches are Plentiful. Here’s Where to Find Them

If you’ve made your way to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 429, you can’t help but notice the endless sand and gorgeous turquoise waters.

Hiding within the dunes are several picturesque beaches.

Some are tucked away on less-traveled roads or at the end of a long path, which makes the experience even sweeter. Other beaches are easy to access and are ideal for all ages and abilities.

Platte River Beach shoreline, one of the most popular Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches.
Platte River Beach

Whether you’re in the mood for the big waves and horizons that seem to never end on Lake Michigan, or if a more quaint, kid-friendly beach on the river entices you, you’ll find it all on the sandy coastline of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Read on to discover eight of the best Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches Have Wide Open Shorelines & Unique Features

Michigan is known for its pristine shoreline and sugar sand beaches 429.

One of my favorite things about the Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches is the sprawling nature of the coastline, which allows visitors to spread out and not feel crowded.

And bonus! Many Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches are near lakes, rivers, and creeks that are fed by Lake Michigan, which means the water is warmer and slower. 

Platte River Point Beach - Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches
Playing in the sand at Platte River Point Beach

A National Parks pass is required to visit any part of Sleeping Bear Dunes and can be purchased at several locations within the lakeshore.

1 – Platte River Point Beach

Location: At the end of Lake Michigan Road, which intersects with M-22 near the Platte River in Honor, MI.

There is a place where the Platte River ends and flows into Lake Michigan, and it’s called Platte River Point.

The beach at Platte River Point is full of excitement (and people watching) because it’s the end of the Platte River tubing route 429.

When tubers, canoers, and kayakers arrive after their hours-long excursions, they’re rewarded with this epic Sleeping Bear Dunes beach complete with breathtaking vistas.

Mouth of the Platte River at Lake Michigan.

There are two parts to Platte Point Beach: the river side and the Lake Michigan side. You can choose to set up camp on the river with a glorious view of Lake Michigan right in front of you, or you can choose to cross the river and park yourself between the river and the lake. 

Make the short trek around the river through the sand, or if you’re up for an adventure, cross the river by walking right through the water! Most years, the level is only about waist-deep for adults. Once to the other side, it feels like you’re on your own island. 

platte river tubing

Sit back, enjoy views of Empire Bluffs and Sleeping Bear Point, and people-watch as they come in from their day’s adventures.

There are paved parking lots, a bathroom building, a picnic area, and a boat launch at this location.

Cost: Two parking lots are National Park Service parking lots and require a park pass. The third parking lot is a Lake Township lot which carries a daily fee.

2 – Good Harbor Bay Beach 651

Location: On Good Harbor Bay at the end of County Road 651, between Pyramid Point and Leland.

Good Harbor Bay Beach greets you with a long sandy beach, perfect for long strolls along the lakeshore. This gorgeous spot also offers clear views of Whaleback and the Manitou Islands as well as beautiful views at sunset.

Good Harbor Bay Beach 651. Photo credit: National Park Service
Good Harbor Bay Beach 651. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Arrive at a paved parking lot with bathroom facilities. Overflow parking is on the road.

Enjoy the crystal clear waters and rock hunting during the day and finish with a bonfire at sunset.

Sunsets are gorgeous at all the Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches, including Good Harbor Bay Beach. Photo credit: National Park Service
Sunset at Good Harbor Bay Beach

3 – The Infamous Dune Climb

Location: 6748 S Dune Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Okay, so this Sleeping Bear Dunes beach takes some work to get to, and is not one where you can haul in a beach chair.

But if you’re already planning a dune climb 429, there’s no better reward than some rock hunting in refreshing water and downtime playing in the sand when you’re finished.

Sleeping Bear Dunes beach on Lake Michigan at end of the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb.

The dune climb all the way to Lake Michigan is a 4-mile round trip up and down strenuous terrain at times. If you fill your backpack with snacks and sunscreen, though, you can break up the hike with a dip in turquoise-colored Lake Michigan.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Dune Climb
The dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes

4 – North Bar Lake Beach

Location: 1030 North Bar Lake Rd, Empire, MI 49630.

North Bar Lake Beach is one of the hidden gems of the Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches, and definitely a family favorite.

Here you get the best of both worlds: swim or float the day away in smaller, warmer North Bar Lake or brave the big waves in majestic Lake Michigan – all in the same place!

North Bar Lake Beach, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Beach lineup, has shallow water great for kids.
The view of Lake Michigan from North Bar Lake

You can’t see the lake from the road or parking lot, which builds the suspense and makes your first look at this hidden oasis even more spectacular.

North Bar Lake Beach is great for playing in the sand, hunting for rocks, strolling the Lake Michigan shoreline, climbing the dunes, and checking out the native plants like dune grass, pitcher’s thistle, wormwood, and sand cress.

Girl playing in sand at North Bar Lake Beach.
North Bar Lake Beach

There is a large parking lot with road overflow, plus bathrooms and self-service pay station in case you forgot to buy your National Park pass.

5 – DH Day Campground Beach

Location: 8000 W Harbor Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636.

DH Day is a popular rustic campground in the northern district of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

DH Day Campground Beach is even open to non-campers looking for a Sleeping Bear Dunes Beach.

This wooded campground is tucked into Sleeping Bear Bay and is a favorite due to its proximity to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the dune climb, the Sleeping Bear Maritime Museum, Glen Haven, and Glen Arbor.

Although this Sleeping Bear Dunes beach is part of the campground, visitors who are not camping may use the beach during the daytime. 

DH Day Campground beach is one of the northern end Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches.

Vistas of North Manitou Island, South Manitou Island, and Pyramid Point are perks of DH Day. The handicap accessible Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail also runs right by the beach access trail which is accessible to walkers, runners, & cyclists.

There is some parking on the campground road. Vault toilets are available on the premises.

6 – Glen Haven Beach

Location: In Glen Haven on the edge of Sleeping Bear Bay, near the Cannery Boathouse.

Glen Haven Beach is one of the more accessible Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches; there’s a handicap parking lot which leads to a 6-foot wide deck that goes down to a large platform on the beach with benches.

Glen Haven Beach is concsidered part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches lineup, even though it's not within the National Lakeshore.
Glen Haven Beach

Glen Haven Beach is popular with families because of the crystal-clear waters and the many nearby activities and attractions.

Hike the low-lying dunes, explore the historic Glen Haven village, visit the Michigan boat museum, and check out the Great Lakes fishing tug. There’s even a working blacksmith shop!

Rock hunters will be thrilled to search for basalts, granite, cherts, limestones, and fossilized corals.

Keep in mind that this is catch and release! Under federal law, whatever stones you find must stay in the National Lakeshore.

Glen Haven Beach walkway.
Glen Haven Beach

If biking the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, Glen Haven Beach serves as the perfect respite spot.

Park in one of the paved lots near the Cannery. There is a modern restroom in the village of Glen Haven, about 100 yards from the beach.

7 – Shalda Creek Access Beach

Location: 1952 W Lake Michigan Rd #1592, Maple City, MI 49664.

Shalda Creek is a stream that runs from the woods into Lake Michigan on Good Harbor Bay and is just seconds away from Good Harbor Beach 669.

The off-the-beaten-path beach at Shalda Creek is a perfect Sleeping Bear Dunes beach for kids to play in because of the warmer waters and clear, rocky bottom.

sleeping bear dunes beach shalda creek
Shalda Creek Access Beach

If you’re into rock hunting and skipping stones, Shalda Creek is the place to be.

Follow the creek into the woods for even more adventure and warm up after a dip in Lake Michigan.

Entrance to Shalda Creek Access Beach.
Arriving at Shalda Creek Access Beach

8 – Esch Road Beach

Location: Esch Rd is about 3 miles south of Empire on M-22. You turn west on Esch Rd and follow it about 1 mile until you reach Lake Michigan. The beach is at the mouth of Otter Creek.

Another favorite Sleeping Bear Dunes beach is Esch Road Beach which, because it’s at the mouth of Otter Creek, makes it ideal for families to wade in the warmer waters of the creek.

Play in the sand, identify the many wildflowers that line the banks of the creek, and hunt for unique rocks.

The small gravel parking lot at Esch Road Beach fills up fast during the summer, so visitors park along the road and then walk to the beach. There is a vault toilet located at the parking lot.

Map of Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches

find beaches near Sleeping Bear Dunes

Are There More Sleeping Bear Dunes Beaches?

Did we name all the Sleeping Bear Dunes beaches? We feel like there are so many hidden beaches around Sleeping Bear Dunes that we still haven’t discovered, despite visiting regularly for years. If you know of another one, let us know in the comments!

Is there a Beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes?

There are several beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and also in the surrounding areas.

What is the Best Sleeping Bear Dunes Beach for Kids?

All of the beaches are great, but these three beaches are a hit for families:

Glen Haven beach has accessible parking and has a restroom about 100 yards away in the town of Glen Haven. It’s also near a lot of attractions in the small town.

North Bar Lake Beach has restrooms and a large parking lot for visitors.

Platte River Beach has warmer waters, since it’s located where the river empties into Lake Michigan. It’s also a great spot for rock hunting, which many kids enjoy.

Can you Swim at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?

Yes! The entire Lake Michigan shoreline is open for swimming. Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards and many areas do not have nearby restrooms.

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