Planning a Beach Day in Southwest Michigan | Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council

Planning a Beach Day in Southwest Michigan

children running on the dunes of Tiscornia Beach

Sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand – it's an iconic image of summer. No summer feels complete without at least one beach day (at least to me). If you're looking to spend a day at the beach in Southwest Michigan, consider these tips while planning your trip.

Choose your Beach Carefully 

Beaches and parks dot the Lake Michigan coastline in Southwest Michigan, each with its unique personality to suit different beachgoers. Here are several options to choose from:

Silver Beach County Park | 101 Broad Street St. Joseph, MI

Silver Beach is the busiest of beaches and for good reason. With more than 20 beach volleyball courts, playground equipment, and lifeguards on duty during the summer, it suits those who are most interested in being active on their beach day. If you choose Silver Beach, plan a walk to the pier for a little relaxation mid-day; it offers a great view of the North Pier Lighthouses. 

Silver Beach is located within walking distance of many of St. Joseph’s top attractions. Take the kids to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain to splash in the water jets or enjoy a ride on the Silver Beach Carousel and explore the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone at Silver Beach Center. Silver Beach can easily fill a full day of fun for even the most finicky beachgoers.

A barrier-free walkway extends from the parking lot along the beachfront and throughout the park. This walkway provides access to the Dunes Pavilion, ideal for picnics, the Shadowland Pavilion, a popular venue for entertainment and weddings, and the South Pier. During the summer, beachgoers can reserve a beach wheelchair for free at the office next to the restrooms (first-come, first-serve), making it easier to reach the water.

two families enjoying Tiscornia Beach on a sunny summer day

Warren Dunes State Park | 12032 Red Arrow Highway Sawyer, MI

For the nature-loving beachgoer, Warren Dunes provides a beautiful beach filled with unmatched views of Lake Michigan and the towering sand dunes. Plan some time to hike the trails throughout the park – they run anywhere from 0.2 miles to 6.0 miles and offer views from all levels of the dunes and beach.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore. Hike the large sand dune and look out over the coastline for a unique view. Walk along the stream and find the clay pit. If you’re an adventurer, try skimboarding – the breeze is refreshing! They have several food trucks on-site during the summer, and entry is free with a Michigan recreation passport.

Warren Dunes is a more natural environment than many beaches, so there are many species to observe. 

In the summer, guests with accessibility needs can take advantage of the park’s two complimentary beach wheelchairs or the new track chair to enjoy its 3 miles of sandy shoreline. You can also explore some of the 6 miles of scenic nature trails. A highlight of this park is its dog beach, accessible from the northernmost parking lot. Make sure to keep your pet on a leash no longer than six feet while visiting.

Warren Dunes busy summer day full of beachgoers

Jean Klock Park | Jean Klock Boulevard Benton Harbor, MI

Jean Klock Park is a jewel located in the city of Benton Harbor. With parking so close to the shoreline, it’s a great spot if you only have a short period to enjoy the beach (or a full day, too!). To get to the beach, you’ll walk through a dune grass trail that will give you that feeling of awe and wonder that any beach trip should.

Crafters will love Jean Klock Park as it’s a local favorite for finding crinoids and beach glass. Amateur photographers will love it too with a gorgeous view of the North Pier Lighthouses, framed by beautiful dune grass.

Plan for a Full Day

Any amount of time at the beach is refreshing, but a full day can leave you feeling revitalized and ready to take on the world. From the peaceful sound of seagulls in the morning to the spectacular sunsets at night, few things can calm the soul like a beach day.  Arrive early to enjoy the cool morning breeze and the serene environment before the crowd builds up. Spend the afternoon soaking up the sun, playing beach games, or exploring the shoreline. As evening approaches, find a comfortable spot to watch the sunset and unwind. Take in as much as you possibly can for full benefits and you'll leave feeling completely rejuvenated.

Don’t Forget the Food

Prepare yourself for a long day of sun. Whether you pack a cooler full of snacks and sandwiches or plan to buy some food throughout the day, don’t let the day pass without filling your belly.

Fresh Michigan fruit from one of our local farms makes for a great beach snack – refreshing and keeps the blood sugar up! And if you don’t feel like making yourself a bagged lunch or you just plain forgot, Jimmy John’s delivers to Silver Beach. Just call in your order and meet the delivery person at the flag poles.

If you're near Silver Beach, consider these local food spots:

  • Silver Beach Pizza: Located below the bluff right by Silver Beach, this iconic pizza place is voted the best pizza in Southwest Michigan. Try their specialty pizzas and refreshing drinks in a frosty schooner. It's a great spot to relax and enjoy a meal with a view of the lake or order takeout pizza for a beach picnic.
  • The Buck: This eatery is known for its tasty American fare, including burgers, sandwiches, and more. It's a casual spot perfect for a post-beach meal. An industrial-chic setting featuring the original bar, loft seating, and two outdoor decks with views of Lake Michigan.

For those spending the day at Warren Dunes:

  • Haymarket Taproom: This taproom offers a variety of pizzas, craft beers, and other beverages. It's a great place to unwind and refuel after a day at the dunes.
  • Lake Street Eats: A local favorite, Lake Street Eats boasts a diverse menu with options ranging from seafood to burgers. Their laid-back atmosphere makes it a great spot for beachgoers.

If you find yourself at Jean Klock Park:

  • bread+bar: Enjoy a mix of delicious dishes with a waterfront view. Their menu features a range of options, including seafood, salads, and sandwiches.
  • Plank's Tavern on the Water: Perfect for a meal with a view of the water, Plank's Tavern offers a variety of dishes, from steaks to seafood, in a scenic setting.

Multiple examples of the delicious food that is served at plank

With these options, you're sure to find something tasty to keep you fueled for your beach day!

Water Safety Tips

Lake Michigan is more than just a lake — it’s an inland sea with powerful currents and ever-changing conditions. Understanding and respecting its forces is crucial for a safe and enjoyable beach experience. It's important to note the potential dangers; Lake Michigan can be deadly when its power is underestimated, making awareness and caution critical. Here are some tips:

Beach Flag Warning System

Before heading into the water, familiarize yourself with the beach flag warning system:

  • RED FLAG: Stop. Stay on the beach. Do NOT enter the water; swimming is not advised. Ignoring red flags and entering Lake Michigan waters can result in fines.
  • YELLOW FLAG: Exercise caution. Be vigilant for dangerous currents and high waves.
  • GREEN FLAG: Go ahead! Enter the water and have fun, but stay alert to any changes in conditions.

Additional Tips for Safe Beach Fun

  • Swimming Skills: Ensure everyone in your group knows how to swim and never swim alone.
  • Child Supervision: Keep a close watch on children at all times near the water.
  • Sun Protection: Protect your skin from sun exposure with sunscreen and appropriate clothing.
  • High Waves Caution: When waves are high, stay dry on the shore. Waves can create dangerous currents.
  • Structures Awareness: Avoid swimming near structures like the South Pier to prevent accidents from strong currents or submerged objects.
  • Life-Saving Water Safety Resources: Educate yourself on essential water safety techniques, including how to escape drowning and effectively maneuver if caught in a rip current.

a hammock between trees at silver beach park with the lighthouse in the background

By following these water safety tips, you can fully enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan while prioritizing your safety and that of your loved ones. Stay informed, stay safe, and have a fantastic time at the beach!


Plan your ultimate beach day adventure in Southwest Michigan today! Whether you're seeking family fun, scenic hikes, or simply a relaxing day by the water, book your stay now

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