The solution for how to get
from the picnic area to the beach inspired the name of this Ottawa
County park: a tunnel
through the dune. The unique passageway allows you to access Lake
Michigan with far fewer steps than the stairway climbing over it.
But the east side’s designated “dune climb” is
still a favorite children and adults alike love to run wildly down.
Platte River Point, Benzie County. This
park, a cooperated effort by Lake Township and the National Park
Service, is one of the most popular beaches in Northwest Michigan.
Along with picnic facilities and spectacular views of Sleeping
Bear Dunes, the park features a long sandy spit with Lake Michigan
on one side and knee-deep Platte River on the other.
The favorite activity here is to float in an inner
tube by hiking a few hundred yards up the spit and then letting
Platte River give you a free ride downstream to Lake Michigan.
Nearby on M-22 are Platte River Campground (231-325-5881; www.nps.gov/slbe)
and Riverside Canoes (231-325-5622; www.canoemichigan.com), where
Bird Creek County Park, Port Austin. Here
at the very tip of Michigan’s Thumb, this seven-acre Huron
County Park features a wide, sandy beach, picnic grounds with
a pavilion, playground and even a concessionaire that rents paddle
boats and water cycles. But the most remarkable aspect of Bird
Creek is its watery location between Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay.
From the quarter-mile-long boardwalk along the beach you can
enjoy the sunrise and a spectacular sunset. (989-269-6404; www.huroncountyparks.com)
P.H. Hoeft State Park, five miles north
of Rogers City. Only the 14th state park when it was
created in 1922, Hoeft features a mile-long, ideal stretch
of sand for beachcombing and Lake Huron freighter-watching.
The day-use facility has a shelter overlooking this Great Lake
and pine forest picnic area with well-separated tables and
grills. Passing through is the Huron Sunrise Trail, a 12-mile-long,
paved rail-trail that hugs Lake Huron. Bring the bikes and
you can work off Aunt Ruth’s famous double-fudge brownies
by riding to historic Forty Mile Point Lighthouse. (989-734-2543;
Lake Michigan Campground, 18 miles west
of St. Ignace. This recreation area in the U.P.’s
Hiawatha Nat ional Forest lies in the middle of a beautiful
but rarely crowded eight-mile stretch of Lake Michigan beach.
The picnic area features bluff-side tables and stairways leading
down to the beach. Sunsets from this spot can be spectacular,
and campsites can be reserved in advance. And, just in case
the nephews – or uncles – get bored with the waves,
the Mystery Spot is just 10 miles east towards St. Ignace.
Jim DuFresne is a Clarkston-based travel writer and the main contributor