The 6 Best Beaches near Grand Rapids (Local’s Favorites)

best beaches grand rapids

One of the best parts about living in (or visiting) Grand Rapids is the city’s proximity to some of the most stunningly beautiful freshwater beaches in the world. Warm sunshine, the delightfully cool waters of Lake Michigan, and sugar sand beaches are a magical cocktail.

Put your SPF 45 on. Grab your wayfarers or aviators. You’ll want a beach chair, a water bottle, and a good book, too.

I’m going to give you a rundown on the finest beaches close to Grand Rapids. Lets beat the summer heat.

How close is Grand Rapids to the beach?

Not far, I promise. The closest Lake Michigan beaches are a quick 45-minute drive from the city. And when we talk about “the beach” in West Michigan, we mean beaches on Lake Michigan.

45 minutes barely counts as a road trip, but if you want to treat it as one, live your best life. Grab some gas station candy, a fizzy water, and beef jerky.

*Expert local tip alert* – pop into a Wesco gas station and score some fresh popcorn.

What is the closest beach town to Grand Rapids?

It’s a tie. Grand Haven and Holland are both around a 45-minute drive from metro Grand Rapids. Both towns, and their beaches, are world-class. Keep in mind you’ll need to purchase a recreation passport sticker for your car if you’re parking in any State Park lot (available online, when renewing license plate tabs, and at most State Park entrances).

Summer is also construction season in Michigan, so consult your robot phone to see if there are any orange barrels between you and the beach, and plan accordingly.

Okay, let’s get our toes in the sand.

Map of the Best Beaches near Grand Rapids, MI

My picks for the best beaches near Grand Rapids

Do you like sunsets? Since the sun sets in the West these days, you can watch the sun go down over Lake Michigan.

Grab your boo or your bestie and a blanket, and head to any of the following beaches. You’ll watch the sun melt into the Great Lake, the sky a kaleidoscope of colors. Grab your boo’s hand, their skin warm like sunlight, the air perfumed with suntan lotion, and enjoy a little Michigan magic.

Grand Haven State Park

best beaches grand rapids

Grand Haven State Park has enchanted people with its charm since it was established in 1920. The sandy beach is wide (about 1/2 mile) and seems to stretch forever. You could make the argument that it’s Michigan’s premier beach.

There are a bunch of volleyball nets if you want to channel your inner Tom Cruise/Anthony Edwards in Top Gun. Spikeball is ubiquitous as well, though you’ll have to bring your own or make friends with others if you want to play.

The State Park also has dedicated food truck parking. During peak days and hours, when the trucks are operational, stroll up to one and treat yourself to some fro-yo, a coffee, or a sandwich.

The beach is on the south side of the channel, and so is downtown Grand Haven. The walk to town is a delightful 20-minute stroll along a paved walking path. Grab a Butch’s Beach Burrito and feast as you explore “Coast Guard City USA.”

Note: Grand Haven during the Coast Guard festival is absolutely bonkers and a scene that every West Michigander should check out at least once.

Holland State Park

holland michigan beach

Holland State Park goes toe-to-toe with Grand Haven for the best beach within an hour of Grand Rapids. Like Grand Haven, Holland State Park is massive, so you can always find a plot of sand to set your towel or chair.

Big Red, the lighthouse at the end of the pier in Holland, is iconic. Bring your selfie stick or make friends with a stranger and get your picture taken in front of it.

The parking lot fills up quickly in the summer – be prepared to hike in if you show up later in the day.

Mears State Park (Pentwater)

mears state park in pentwater

I’m a sucker for Mears. It’s a little bit of a drive – about an hour and a half from Grand Rapids. But Pentwater might be my favorite beach town.

If you’re a camper, Mears is one of the finest campgrounds in the state. You’ll camp in the sand, and the beach is a very short walk away.

Stearns Park (Ludington)

Stearns is situated at the mouth of the Pere Marquette river. The beach is vast and fantastic, and it fills up quickly on summer days. There are some volleyball nets (bring a ball). There is also a concession stand that slings out ice cream, hot dogs, and the like.

The first pier I ever jumped off was at Stearns Park (please don’t tell my mom). I did it, but you shouldn’t – pier jumping is dangerous and illegal. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Ludington is around an hour and a half from Grand Rapids, so make sure you and your car have enough fuel to get there.

Note: parking in the lot is free if you can find a spot.

  • Address: 420 N Lakeshore DrLudingtonMI 49431
  • Website: Stearns Park

Pere Marquette Park (Muskegon)

This is a popular beach among the kiteboarding community. You can even rent a board at Pere Marquette and get lessons on how to use it. Just make sure your HSA balance is up to snuff.

Another reason to visit Pere Marquette park is The Deck BBQ, which is a sprawling bbq joint. The Deck serves up some delicious food, as well as picturesque views of Lake Michigan beachfront.

Oval Beach (Saugatuck)

Oval Beach is another great option that’s about an hour from Grand Rapids. The beach is massive, and you can spend your day in the sand constructing sand castles, reading your dog-eared paperback, or burying loved ones in the sand.

If you need a break from the beach, there’s a one-mile hike up Mount Baldhead (known affectionately as Mt. Baldy, and not an actual mountain) that’s not too challenging. And if you’re reasonably quiet, there’s a good chance you’ll spot multiple deer.

Note: Oval Beach is not a State Park, so your recreation passport will not cover parking fees.

  • Address: Perryman St. & Oval Beach Drive, Saugatuck, MI, 49453
  • Website: Oval Beach