One of the most breathtaking places we’ve seen in Michigan is Sleeping Bear Dunes. The dunes are amazing as is the lake shore. The first time we saw it, we could not believe that the Caribbean Blue water was actually Lake Michigan. Such a beautiful quiet place to vacation and an absolute MUST SEE!
Climb the dunes. No visit to Sleeping Bear is complete without attempting the 110 foot Dune Climb. Ideally, you should go before the sand gets too hot or on an over cast day. We climbed with the kids to the top of the first dune and they all made it! You can continue the hike to get all the way to the top and over the dunes. The view from there is incredible.
Float the Platte. We loved taking our family on a little Platte River float with Riverside Canoes. We rented tubes ($9) each for the 1 hour lazy float and the kids and adults all had a great time. The river is slow and shallow and easy for the little ones to float with a parent or on their own. Riverside takes care of everything for you from tubes, to paddles (get one!), to life jackets. If you plan on going during a busy time, get reservations. Ideally wear water shoes as the bottom has rough rocks that can cut up little toes. Be aware this is a very slow, leisure float. There are also longer, bigger options with canoes and kayaks. Be prepared with sunscreen and bug spray and know you will have a small hike back with your tubes to the dock.
Marvel at the blue. The first time we saw the water, we were in awe. The Glen Haven Beach is literally one of the most beautiful sights we have ever seen with the sugar sand and aqua water. One tip, the bottom of the lake is full of rocks, so bring water shoes if you are thinking of playing in the water. We also wished we would have had some sand toys!Explore the water. If you have your own tubes, kayak, or canoes, there are lots of great places to float your boat in. Check in at the ranger center for more information.
Bring food. In Sleeping Bear there are few options for food. Plan on bringing your own, including plenty of water.
Hike or bike the Heritage Trail. We did not get a chance to do this, but would love to next time. This 4 mile paved trail is great for hiking, biking, rollerblading or running with spectacular views all the way around.
Play at the beach. If you are looking for more of a “play” beach, we loved our stop in Frankfort; a cute little town about 25 miles outside of Sleeping Bear. The water wasn’t nearly as blue or clear, but it was perfect for a family day. There were port-a-potties, swings, lots of beachfront, a dock, and cool wavy water to dip in with lots of fish keeping us company. We loved the cute little downtown that led to the beach too. One note, there is an awesome pizza place there we were dying to eat at, but the wait was 1.5 hours just to order a pizza. Call ahead!!
Stay the night. If you are planning on sleeping in Sleeping Bear, plan to camp. There are lots of beautiful camp sites you can reserve. If you are thinking of a hotel stay, you will probably want to try Traverse City.
See it all. The brochure in Sleeping Bear also suggests the following that we still need to try: Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Inspiration Point, Port Onieda Historic Farm Tour, Empire Bluff Trail, Alligator Hill Trail, and the Ferry to the Manitou Islands.
If you go.
Buy the park pass. In order enjoy Sleeping Bear you must stop at the visitor’s center or ranger’s station and buy a park pass for $10 per day.
Stop at the Visitor’s Center. 9922 Front Street, Empire, MI 49630