There is something about being on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world that is like a balm to the soul. I try to spend time, year-round, on the beach of Lake Michigan. My time is spent primarily at Van’s in Leland, but other great beaches can be found in Empire, Glen Arbor and Good Harbor beach. Van’s is not only just a bike ride away; it is where my parents used to take me before I was even aware of how fortunate we were to live in such a magnificent place. As a consequence, it is my favorite.
In the middle of summer, the beaches are packed with both tourists and locals alike. Parking can be difficult (thus the bicycle), but the water is warm and perfect for swimming. For me, Lake Michigan is like the fountain of youth. What I mean by that is that I turn into a ten-year-old boy again, playing in the waves, building sandcastles and exclaiming, “I’m bored” when laying on a towel.
I may be in the minority for my age group. What I have noticed over the years is that it is a small percentage of people that choose to swim, while the rest sit comfortably on a blanket or chair in the sand. I hope I will always remain in the former group, but either way I will be happy at the beach.
So why visit only in the summer? The autumn may be the best time to go to the beach, especially if you are not a swimmer. The crowds are non-existent. The sounds of the waves lapping on shore are every bit as calming, and parking couldn’t be easier. A walk on the beach is both pleasant and restorative. The sand is warm from the sun and shoes are not necessary.
The sun sets earlier this time of year, so you can watch the magic happen AND still be in bed at a reasonable hour. This happens every night… for free. Don’t worry about a little cloud cover as you may get lucky and have a break in the clouds just as the sun goes beyond the horizon, which makes for a spectacular view. Some of the best sunsets are those with clouds to capture the light and color of the sun in retreat.
Feel free to bring a picnic and a sweater or a blanket. The evening temps dip down to a bit of a chill and most beaches don’t permit bonfires.
While others are going to wineries for harvest tours and tastings or leaf peepers are going on a drive to see the colors of the season, you will see me at the beach. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.