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travel

Lake Expectations

Summer shouldn’t be so complicated. Look to the Great Lakes state for easy-going day trips, laid-back weekend getaways, and a place to stretch out on the sand. Here are our favorite Michigan beach towns. Just lake your pick.

Saugatuck
Welcome to the Art Coast of Michigan. This quaint beach town is home to scores of galleries, dockside boutiques, and picturesque beaches.
Shore Spot: Bordered by the Kalamazoo River en route to Lake Michigan, Saugatuck’s beaches rank among the best in the Midwest. Oval Beach — towering sand dunes, serene shoreline — is the perfect place to unpack a picnic.
Stay: Lounge in plush robes after a soak in your claw-foot tub or cozy up with a book on the wraparound veranda at Beechwood Manor Inn & Cottage, a quick walk from the downtown action.
Play: Don’t confuse the flashing marquee lights of Phil’s Bar & Grille (215 Butler Street; 269-857-1555) for a vintage movie theater — it’s actually where the in-the-know fuel up after the sun sets. Paper-covered tables and dimmed lighting lend a romantic feel to the joint.

water, water, everywhere!

Traverse City
The self-proclaimed cherry capital of the world is dotted with vineyards, wineries, and two beautiful bays. Key up the water sports and recovery activities.
Shore Spot: Take a drive off the beaten path at Haserot Beach on Old Mission Road for a super-private place to park your beach towel. Those wanting to be seen on the shore can wiggle their toes around at West End, the spot for the younger set.
Stay: Water babies will love the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa for the private beach, pools, and jet ski and paddleboat rentals. Not ready to get wet? Check into a luxury-appointed Tower suite and book a green tea- and bamboo-infused mani/pedi at the spa.
Play: Wine — don’t whine — if clouds spoil your beach day. Head to Chateau Chantal for tours and tastings of riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. Sitting high atop Old Mission Peninsula, the views will match your grapest expectations. If the sun didn’t zap all your energy, head to TC’s only rooftop bar at Cafe Habana for salsa dancing and live music (now closed).

charming!

Grand Haven
Rev your engines: Surfing, sailing, and sunbathing await at the buzzing beach town an hour up the coast from Saugatuck.
Shore Spot: Get off your blanket and make waves at Grand Haven State Park: fly a kite, cruise the strip, play some volleyball. Nature types will love the dunes, trails, and camping at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park.
Stay: Watch ambling beachcombers from a wicker chair on the screened-in porch at the Victorian Harbor House Inn.
Play: Your trashy novel and sunblock aren’t going to cut it in GH. Kit up before you hit the beach with boogie boards, kites, and windsocks at Mackinaw Kites & Toys. When the sun sets, settle down with more subdued evening activities, like the killer house-made sangria and shoreside views at Snug Harbor.

And lake it all in.