10 Best Little Beach Towns on the Great Lakes
Lake Erie Wine Country
Take a detour from nearby Niagara Falls to explore the charming town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Within handsome redbrick buildings you’ll discover the posh century-old Prince of Wales Inn, fine antiques, Lake Erie-inspired art, and bottles of the Riesling and Pinot Noir you see covering the surrounding hillsides. Visit between April and October for award-winning theatre at the annual Shaw Festival.
Grand Haven, Michigan
Beach volleyball and surfing, kite-boarding and swimming—Grand Haven’s sugar sand beaches teem with action. A 2-mile boardwalk connects the Lake Michigan shore and its brilliant red lighthouse to an attractive downtown with beachy boutiques and sidewalk dining. After the sherbet-hued sunset fades to black, check out the Musical Fountain. Its technicolor spray has been dancing to popular music since 1962.
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Lake Michigan Vistas and Door County Feasts
Sunsets are spectacular at this beach town on the western edge of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula. Tiny galleries and public parks all seem placed for optimal views of Lake Michigan. Expect plenty of flaky, fresh-caught whitefish on Egg Harbor menus. You won’t want to miss a fish boil at the nearby White Gull Inn, capped off with a slice of Door County cherry pie.
Two Harbors, Minnesota
Victorian-era cottages and emerald green golf courses distinguish this northern Lake Michigan community where Ernest Hemingway wiled away his boyhood summers. Michiganders love to comb Magnus Park beach for Petoskey stones, pale gray with white starbursts, a fossilized freshwater coral found only in northern Michigan.
Culture and Charm
Since 1874, Lakeside has been Ohio’s answer to New York’s Chautauqua. Tidy 19th-century summer cottages remain the heart of this quiet beach town. Stroll the village’s Lakefront Path, overflowing beds of hollyhocks and black-eyed Susans to one side and the lapping Lake Erie surf to the other, before an evening of live music and author readings.
Art Lovers' Mecca
Long a favorite with Chicago’s cottagers, Saugatuck springs to life with the warmth of summer. After a long day splashing in Lake Michigan, browse the Great Lakes-themed artworks at galleries like Armstrong De Graaf and Amazwi Contemporary Art before settling in with a glass of local Riesling from Tabor Hill.
Sackets Harbor, New York
History and Beer
The War of 1812 looms large in this Lake Ontario port: The village battlefield still evokes images of the town’s former military significance. But these days Sackets Harbor promises a stress-free getaway. Its quaint 200 year-old wood-frame and brick buildings house antique shops, boutiques and craft breweries like Sackets Harbor Brewing Company and The Hops Spot.
Grand Marais, Michigan
Pictured Rocks and Lighthouses
Set on the shores of Lake Superior, Grand Marais serves as an entry point to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Spend your days hiking the rocky shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake and learning about lighthouse keepers at the Lighthouse Keepers Museum or the Au Sable Light Station. Looking for something quirky? Check out the Pickle Barrel House Museum, a circa 1926 pickle barrel-shaped summer cottage.