The Best Ways to Experience Torch Lake
Nothing shouts “summertime” like a trip Up North for us Michiganders!
Starry nights, crisp air, beach breezes.
Torch Lake has all of this – plus the crystal clear, Caribbean blue waters it’s famous for. In fact, it’s often referred to as the “Caribbean of the North.”
The lake was a local hidden gem for years but social media has changed that for good. Now, it’s a summer hotspot, drawing hundreds of boats to its sandbars in June, July, and August – especially its epic Fourth of July sand bar celebrations. (Local law enforcement has upped their presence so things don’t get as crazy as they used to.)
From what I have heard, Kid Rock owns (or did at one point) a vacation home on Torch Lake and mentions its famous sand bar in his 2008 song “All Summer Long.” Although we haven’t spotted Kid Rock at Torch Lake, what he says is true – Torch Lake is amazing – all summer long!
Consequently, Torch Lake is on many people’s bucket list, whether it’s to join in at the sand bar or to cruise the lake and enjoy the crystal clear waters.
What first-time visitors don’t realize, however, is that a Torch Lake visit presents several challenges, like securing rentals, finding the beach, and accessing the water.
Don’t worry – read on for how to plan the best Torch Lake visit. Here are all of the things you need to know:
- About Torch Lake Michigan
- Torch Lake Sandbar
- Boating Torch Lake
- Torch Lake Beaches
- Torch Lake Public Access
- Torch Lake 4th of July
- Things to Do Near Torch Lake
- Torch Lake Michigan Rentals – Cabins, Vacation Rentals & Other Lodging Options
- Torch Lake Restaurants & Food Stops
- More Michigan Travel
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About Torch Lake Michigan
Torch Lake is Beautiful
Torch Lake is an amazing place to see. To understand the depths of its beauty and appreciate the deep aqua and turquoise colors throughout this lake, you really have to take it in with your own eyes.
Where is Torch Lake?
Torch Lake is in the northwest part of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Note: There is a small township named Torch Lake on the shores of Torch Lake. If you put “Torch Lake” into your GPS, it may direct you to the Township rather than the Lake.
Torch Lake is Big – and Deep
Torch Lake is long and narrow, clocking in at 19 miles long. There’s no bridge over the lake, either, so if you want to get from one side to the other, you’re in for a long drive or you will need a boat. In fact, Torch Lake is Michigan’s longest inland lake and also Michigan’s second-largest inland lake.
Another thing to know about Torch Lake in most places: It’s deep.
The lake is, on average, over 100 feet deep, with some spots measuring almost 300 feet deep. This means that the water stays cold at the bottom all summer long. Sometimes the warmer surface waters “flip” with the colder layers underneath. Shallower areas closer to the shore and the shallow water at the south end sandbar aren’t impacted as much by this phenomenon.
All that to say, if you’re into jet-skiing, tubing, or waterskiing, Torch Lake is amazing! There’s no endless circling needed. Just get out and go!
Torch Lake’s Weather
Torch Lake’s weather is the best for boating and warm-weather fun in July, August, and early September.
Expect days to climb into the 80s on average during these months, although you’ll get 70s and 90s on occasion, too.
Since the lake is in the Midwest, humidity can be high during the summer months. The cool lake waters offer a great respite for those humid days.
Torch Lake Sandbar
If you’ve heard of Torch Lake, you’ve heard of the sand bar.
It’s a popular place to anchor and swim the day away with friends and family.
Packing List for the Sand Bar
- Sunglasses, Sunblock, Hat
- Fun: Beach ball, Swimsuit, Towel, Floaties, Football, Speaker
- Cooler: Ice, Drinks, Beer, Snacks
The Torch Lake Sand Bar is located at the southern end of the lake near where Torch Lake meets Torch River at the Torch River Bridge.
The bridge is narrow.
The Sand Bar is best accessed by boat or kayak, as the sand bar is several hundred yards away from the shore.
This is also where you can get water jet packs! Flyboard and Hoverboard rentals are available, weather permitting. 231-599-2649.
Note that public parking spaces in the area are in short supply.
(Swimmers itch has been reported in the area on occasion. If you do visit the sand bar, apply and maintain a thick layer of sunscreen and shower after exiting the water to help keep your skin itch-free.)
Boating Torch Lake
The best way to experience Torch Lake is by boat (see below for rental locations).
There are multiple public access points around the lake so everyone doesn’t have to put in near the sand bar.
You can also get a boat out on Torch Lake using the Chain of Lakes, as Torch is connected to a bunch of other lakes via a network of rivers.
The Chain of Lakes Water Trail is an inland water trail made up of interconnected lakes and rivers which flow into the East Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan.
The river directly south of Torch Lake, the Torch River, connects Torch Lake to Lake Skegemog.
Boating Lake Skegemog to Torch River can be tricky, as you need to navigate a stump field, but it’s doable and will take you about 30-60 minutes to reach Torch Lake depending on traffic. You’ll enter Torch Lake very close to the Sandbar.
You can also access Torch Lake by renting a boat in Bellaire and floating down the Clam River from Clam Lake. That’s where you’ll find the Dockside restaurant. It’s a popular trip and will likely take you over an hour to reach Torch Lake from Bellaire.
No matter where you start from, be sure to keep an eye on your fuel gauge. Gas is only available in a few locations and Torch Lake is huge!
Torch Lake Boat Rentals
As mentioned, the best way to experience Torch Lake Michigan is by using Torch Lake rentals.
Rent a boat and have it delivered to your vacation rental, or pick it up at a local marina for a day on the water.
Torch Lake Boat rentals book up far in advance, especially for popular times like the fourth of July. Be sure to get your rentals locked in as far in advance as possible.
If you’re looking to make it out to the Sand Bar, a kayak or SUP rental can suffice, too.
Here’s a list of places offering Torch Lake boat rentals, kayak rentals, jet ski rentals, and paddleboard rentals.
|Rental Business Name||Details||Phone|
|Crazy Waves Rentals||Paddleboards, Pontoon boat rentals, Jet Skis|
Free pickup and Delivery
|H2O Sports Rentals||Pontoon boat rentals, SUP rentals, Fat Tire Bikes delivered to your location||(231) 944-3339|
call or text
|Dewitt’s Marine Inc.|
6509 Crystal Springs Rd Bellaire, MI 49615
|Captain for hire, pontoon boat rentals, Tritoon rentals.||(231) 377-6611|
|Torch River Marine|
12906 Cherry Ave Rapid City, MI 49676
|Pontoon boat rentals, tritoon boat rentals, ski boat rentals||(231) 322-4495|
|Luhrs Landing Marina|
13707 Torch River Road
Rapid City, MI 49676
|Full-service marina with gas, food, boat rentals, public launch, repairs. Including pontoon Boat Rentals, kayak rentals||(231) 322-2868|
115 West Cayuga Street
Bellaire, MI 49615
|Pontoon rentals, small boat rentals, kayak rentals, canoe rentals, fishing gear.||(231) 533-8559|
|Northaire Pontoon Rental |
Clam Lake, Near Dockside, and Bellaire
-Northaire Resort – Clam Lake Location Pontoon rentals
-Northaire Torch Lake Location 6349 Old Torch Lake Dr
– 204 W Cayuga St, Bellaire, MI 49615
|Dockside Torch Lake|
6340 Old Torch Lake Dr Bellaire, MI 49615
|Located on Torch Lake at the mouth of the Clam River|
Pontoon & Wave Runner Rentals
|M&K Marine||Pontoon boat rentals delivered to your location. Kayak& Tube rental by request.||(231) 620-8783|
|Bellaire Pontoon Rental|
204 W Cayuga Street, Bellaire, MI 49615
|Pontoon boat rentals, E bike rentals.|
Hourly and Daily parking rates at boat docks on Intermediate River in Bellaire, MI.
|Butch’s Tackle & Marine|
6235 Crystal Springs Rd. Bellaire, MI 49615
|Pontoon boat rentals, speedboat rentals, jet ski & waverunner rentals, fishing boat rentals, kayak rentals, towable tube rentals, SUP paddleboard rentals, Water carpet rentals.||(231) 377-6787|
11988 SE Torch Lake Dr. Alden MI 49612
|Rentals for Kayaks, Stand Up Paddle Boards, and a Pontoon. Launch point is on the SW end of Torch Lake within 5-minute paddle from the SANDBAR. WE TRANSPORT TO ACCESS SITE while you drive your own car and call when finished for pick-up.||(231) 331-6245|
Torch Lake Beaches
Torch Lake is known for it’s sandy spots like the sandbar – but the these spots aren’t found on the Torch Lake beaches.
Rather, it’s the lake bottom itself that is sandy in many places – once you get past the rocky shoreline.
Most of the Torch Lake beaches and public access points are either rocky or grassy and water shoes are recommended.
If you’re looking for a sandy beach to lay out on, your better bet is a visit to nearby Lake Michigan or Grand Traverse Bay.
Here’s a helpful map of the swimming beaches located around Torch Lake, MI.
Places listed below offer public swimming beaches on Torch Lake.
Torch Lake Township Day Park
Torch Lake Township Day Park, 12201 Pub Dock Road, Kewadin, MI 49648
Torch Lake Township Day Park is one of the few Torch Lake public beaches where you may find a sandy beach (depending on how high the water level is) to play on. It’s also the location of the Torch Lake Township Boat Ramp.
In addition to the beach and boat launch, this park has a basketball court, a nice playground, restrooms, and two pavilions.
The water here is crystal clear, and depending on the time of year you visit and how warm the summer has been, may be quite cold.
Water shoes are helpful when swimming here – the area close to shore is rocky for about 5-10 feet out. After that, you’ll hit the sand and the swimming area is quite large. The beach area is shaded and mostly grassy.
Alden Torch Lake Swimming
There aren’t sandy beaches in Alden, but you can make your way to the water from one of several public access points. The Train Depot Park, the Ballfield, and the public access at the boat docks all provide Torch Lake access points.
If you’re looking to launch a kayak or SUP, these places are ideal. If you’re looking for a place to lay on the beach, you’ll want to choose another spot.
Forest Home Township Family Park
Forest Home Family Day Park, Bellaire, MI 49615
Forest Home Township Family Park (aka Family Day Park) is a park on the upper northeast side of Torch Lake.
This small, secluded, peaceful little park is open for day use only with picnic tables, grills, a portable toilet, parking area, and stairs down to the lake for 103 feet Torch Lake Public Beach access.
The park also has a carry-in boat launch as well as a dock. The walk-in trail to the beach/boat launch is windy and is suitable for small boats such as kayaks and canoes.
The beach here is rocky – it’s a good place to go rock hunting. You’ll want water shoes or sandals. There’s no sand here for laying out.
Torch Lake Public Access
Torch Lake Public Access points are quite numerous, but most of them are located at the end of a street and do not have beaches.
Torch Lake 4th of July
Few places celebrate Independence Day like Torch Lake.
The Torch Lake Fireworks, funded by donors, are always on July 3rd.
The fireworks are shot off from the south end of Torch Lake near the sand bar at dusk, which is around 10:30 pm.
The following day, the Fourth of July, is the biggest sand bar day, drawing lots of people in pontoon boats ready for fun.
Take a look at the sand bar this past year:
Things to Do Near Torch Lake
Everything in Northern Michigan is spread out and you will generally need a car to get from one place to another.
This is a list of some of the more popular places to visit and things to do near Torch Lake.
Alden is a small town located on the east side of Torch Lake.
If you’re visiting via boat, they have a Safe Harbor with docks that you can use for daytime docking so you can shop and have lunch in Alden. (They do not allow overnight docking but there is no limit for daytime docking.)
The main street through Alden is lined with unique little shops and adorable white picket fences covered with bright, colorful flowers. Oh, so pretty.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Alden, be sure to stop at the general store for ice cream and then walk down to the boat dock to enjoy your treats, relax, and soak in the lake sights.
After ice cream, the playground is a great place to send the kids to run and play.
And be sure to save some time to shop at The Alden Mill House for their proprietary spice blends. These spices are perfect for summer grilling and gifts. (Miracle Blend and Bavarian seasoning are the best!)
Alden is where you’ll find the Inn at Torch Lake, too, as well as the Torch Lake Beer Co.
A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort
Play a round of golf on the Torch Course for sweeping lake views. Or, stop in to the clubhouse, perched high above the lake, and have a drink on the patio. It’s the perfect vantage point!
|A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort|
627 A-Ga-Ming Dr, Kewadin, MI 49648
Central Lake, MI
Central Lake is part of the Chain of Lakes and is located on Intermediate Lake.
The little village is a great stop. Central Lake’s Thurston Park has a sandy beach and is a great place to launch kayaks or SUP’s as well as motorized boats. There is a small campground here with several waterfront sites as well!
Be sure to stop into Brownwood Acres (2473 North East Torch Lake Drive Central Lake, MI 49622) early on Sunday morning (check their FB page and go with cash in hand) for amazing donuts.
Mammoth Distilling’s original tasting room is in Central Lake, too. Visit for cocktails (and tours when things reopen.)
Grass River Natural Area
Seven miles of trails & boardwalks, open year-round from dawn to dusk.
The Grass River Center is open 10 am-4 pm Sat and Sun November through April, and 10 am-4 pm 7 days a week from May through October.
They offer ski rentals, snowshoe rentals, and kayak rentals as well as kayak tour, pontoon cruises, and guided river walks.
|Grass River Natural Area|
6500 Alden Hwy Bellaire, MI 49615
Antrim Creek Natural Area
With 156 acres, 2.3 miles of hiking trails, Antrim Creek, and one mile of primitive Lake Michigan shoreline, it’s hard to believe that this place is off the beaten path, but it is!
If you’re at Torch Lake, you’re close to Antrim Creek Natural Area.
|Antrim Creek Natural Area|
9890 Old Dixie Hwy, Ellsworth, MI 49729
Bellaire is a small village in Antrim county and if you stop by, be sure to take a look at the historic courthouse here.
There are several fun shops along the main street, as well as the famous Short’s Brewing Company.
The Intermediate River (part of the Chain of Lakes) runs through downtown Bellaire and is the stunning backdrop for Stone Waters Inn.
Bellaire is also home to Shanty Creek Resort for golf, ski, and other resort year-round fun.
Elk Rapids, MI
Elk Rapids is at the end of the Chain of Lakes. This small harbor town packs a huge punch when it comes to charm.
The small main street is filled with shops and restaurants and an old-fashioned movie theater.
Down the road, you’ll find a large park with an excellent beach on Grand Traverse Bay.
Elk Rapids has a large harbor and marina, as well as a small golf course.
For a great meal, visit Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen in Elk Rapids. There is ALWAYS a wait but it is worth it.
A dam separates Grand Traverse Bay from the Elk River. If you want to enter the Chain of Lakes here, you’ll need to do it from the Elk River.
Torch Lake Tour – Winery & Spirits Trail
Torch Lake Tour is Northern Michigan’s brewery, cidery, distillery, meadery and winery tour/trail. Visit the craft breweries, fresh-from-the-farm cideries, grain-to-glass distilleries, buzz worthy meaderies, and boutique wineries that surround the breathtaking waters of Torch Lake.
There are 3 separate trails and each one takes 4-5 hours to complete.
Torch Lake Michigan Rentals – Cabins, Vacation Rentals & Other Lodging Options
If you want to stay ON Torch Lake in the summertime, book as early as possible. Many rentals are scooped up a year in advance, for example. Also, know that the shores of Torch Lake are filled with million-dollar homes that have been slowly replacing the tiny vacation cottages of the old days.
Torch Lake Rentals are hard to come by in the prime months of July and August as summer gets closer because demand is sky-high. For waterfront rentals, expect to pay premium rates.
Another option – find a lakefront property to rent on one of the Chain of Lakes and motor over to Torch Lake via the network of rivers and lakes. Popular options include renting on Intermediate Lake, Lake Skegemog, or Elk Lake.
You can also look for nearby non-waterfront lodging if you want to trailer your own boat or rent directly from a marina.
Ask the local marina if you can dock your boat rental at the marina overnight – this may be an option if you are staying nearby but not at a waterfront property.
Airbnb Torch Lake Vacation Rentals
Torch Lake House Rentals can be found on Airbnb.
Here are several that caught our eye:
VRBO Torch Lake Vacation Rentals
VRBO vacation rentals tend to have longer minimum night stay requirements than Airbnb rentals. Many times in the summer months, the houses and cottages rent by the week from Saturday to Saturday.
Look at the map see all available VRBO Torch Lake vacation rentals, or scroll down for a few promising lakefront options.
B&Bs Near Torch Lake Michigan
Torch Lake Michigan Campgrounds
Several campgrounds will get you close to – but not on – Torch Lake Michigan.
Head to Torch Grove RV Campground to get close to the Torch Lake sand bar – just make sure you’re camping in an RV.
Barnes Park is a good option if you can snag a reservation.
Chain O’Lakes Campground is a bit of a drive but puts you near the Grass River Natural area and downtown Bellaire.
|Torch Grove RV Campground|
6815 Crystal Beach Rd NW Rapid City, MI 49676
|Located near the south end of Torch Lake (Sandbar!) |
No tents allowed – only RVs. 32 sites. Located across the road from Torch Lake’s public access.
|Barnes Park Campground|
12298 Barnes Park Road
Eastport, MI 49627
|Antrim County owns and operates Barnes Park Campground. It is close to Torch Lake but is actually located on Grand Traverse Bay. This is a great place to catch a sunset.|
|Chain O’Lakes Campground|
7231 S M 88 Hwy
Bellaire, MI 49615
|Located near Lake Bellaire and Clam Lake, this campground is 7 miles from Torch Lake. Full hookup RV sites, tent sites, and cabins.|
Condos Near Torch Lake
A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort is perched on a bluff overlooking Torch Lake. It offers 1-4 bedroom lodging options, many with lake views.
Mom & Pop Resorts On or Near Torch Lake
|Sunrise Acres Cottages|
889 N. West Torch Lake Dr.
Kewadin, MI 49648
|Sunrise Acres is an 8-acre parcel with four small pet-friendly cottages. Each non-smoking cottage has 2 bedrooms (sleeps 6), a bathroom, living area, and small kitchen. |
In between the cottages and the beach is a large community fire pit (limited wood provided), horseshoes and a playground area. Just off the beach are 4 mooring buoys for boats or personal watercraft (limit 1 per cottage).
12553 S West Torch Lake Drive
Rapid City, MI 49676
|Northwind Resort is situated directly on the spectacular shores of Torch Lake, across from the world renowned “Sandbar” and within view of Torch River.|
Northwind has its own small private beach on which children can play or sunbathe. One free mooring spot per room is available for our guests, and will be assigned at time of check-in.
7067 Crystal Springs Rd.
Bellaire, MI 49615
|Their cottage & cabins are located along the south shores of Clam Lake/Torch Lake in Antrim County. |
They also rent pontoon boats on Torch Lake.
|Torch Bay Inn and Cottages|
4871 US 31
Eastport, MI 49627
|8 rooms and 6 cottages located within a 1/2 mile of Torch Lake|
Torch Lake Restaurants & Food Stops
The following are restaurants and convenience stops you can access by boat from Torch Lake.
|Dockside, Torch Lake|
6340 Old Torch Lake Dr
Bellaire, MI 49615
|If you want to reach a restaurant by boat on Torch Lake, Dockside it is – this is a Torch Lake icon. You can dock your boat here and eat. They also offer pontoon rentals.|
|Mico’s Torch Riviera|
12899 Cherry Avenue Rapid City, MI 49676
|Short walk inland. Italian & American sit-down restaurant located at the mouth of Clam River at Torch Lake. (231) 322-4100|
|Fabiano’s on the River|
7711 Crystal Beach Rd NW
Rapid City, MI 49676
|Riverside convenience store, accessible by boat. Serves pizza, sandwiches, beer. Offers pontoon rentals. (231) 322-4000|
|Clam Shack at DeWitt Marine|
6309 Crystal Springs Rd
Bellaire, MI 49615
|Boating convenience store located at Dewitt Marine on Clam River, Torch Lake. Gas, beer, wine, snacks, boating accessories, apparel, etc.|
|Torch Lake Beer Company|
9149 Helena Rd
Alden, MI 49612
|Short walk, directly across from boat launch in Alden. Pizza, beer, fish & chips and more.|
Vacationing at Torch Lake is a dream come true. Let us know if you have any tips for us to add!