21 BEAUTIFUL Michigan Lakes (That Aren’t the Great Lakes)

Michigan is full of amazing lakes. So much that it’s even known as the “Great Lakes State.” Of course, the Great Lakes are fantastic lakes in Michigan to enjoy, but there are so many more bodies of water that offer plenty of fun in the sun!

From Lake St. Clair to Lake Charlevoix, we’re breaking down some of the most beautiful lakes in Michigan to visit (that are not the Great Lakes!).

The Most Beautiful Michigan Lakes to Visit

Crooked Lake

Crooked Lake
Crooked Lake / Best Lakes in Michigan

Crooked Lake, which is situated in Oakland County, is much smaller than any of the Great Lakes but large enough to be a popular recreational area in all seasons. During the warmer months, visitors enjoy hiking and biking trails around the lake and a variety of activities, including kayaking and swimming at the small beach that can be found along the U.S. 131 highway.

Anglers come to the lake to try their luck at reeling in a variety of fish, including bluegill, crappie, and catfish. In autumn, people come to view and photograph the spectacular fall colors against the blue waters of the lake. Even the winter months draw visitors who come for ice skating and ice fishing.

Bass Lake

Bass Lake
Bass Lake / Best Lakes in Michigan

Located in the Long Lake Township of Grand Traverse County, Bass Lake is a beautiful lake popular with boaters and anglers. As the name suggests, bass is often caught in the lake, but walleye and northern pike are also commonly reeled in.

Adventurous kayakers and canoeists paddle to the two largest islands on the lake, Long Island and Darien Island while other thrill-seekers take to waterskiing.

The lake is also great for swimming and the best place to wade into the lake is at the Falls Beach and Recreation Point. If you’d like to spend the night on the lake and enjoy the views some more, there are hotels situated along its shores.

Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair
Lake St. Clair / Best Lakes in Michigan

Located near the border of Canada and the United States in Harrison Township, Lake St. Clair is another area around the lake that is quiet where you can relax on the shore without the crowds. However, if you’re seeking adventure, boating, water skiing, and tubing are popular activities on the lake.

If you think the clear, blue waters look inviting enough to go for a swim, you’d be right! There are several Michigan beaches along the shores including Mitchell’s Bay Beach, New Baltimore, Marine City Beach and Belle Isle Beach. Lake St. Clair Metropark is where you’ll find a scenic boardwalk, picnic area, nature center, hiking trails, and a swimming pool with a water slide.

Care to do some fishing? No shortage of species to reel in here. Muskie, catfish, carp, yellow perch, and bass are just a few.

Manistique Lake

Manistique Lake

Big Manistique Lake, as locals call it, is one of the largest Michigan lakes in the Upper Peninsula, just outside the small town of Curtis. The lake is a popular one for nature and outdoor lovers. In the winter it’s a popular place for ice fishing, while in the summer you’ll find all kinds of life here. Fishermen come seeking Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass to bring home, and jetskiers, paddleboarders and kayakers head here for a bit of sun and fun.

Big Glen Lake

Big Glen Lake
Image by Jamesdisher, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As one of the cleanest lakes in Michigan, you can bet that Big Glen Lake near Glen Arbor is a popular destination for nature lovers seeking a pristine place to kayak, swim, or just enjoy the pretty surroundings.

The lake has some of the clearest waters in the state too so you can see straight to the bottom in some places. In the right conditions, the water takes on a beautiful blue color that makes it even more picturesque. Not that it isn’t always beautiful, since after all, it’s said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world!

Take a dip in the refreshing waters near Old Settlers Park, take a hike, go fishing, or simply enjoy the views from Inspiration Point.

Lake Leelanau

Lake Leelanau
Lake Leelanau / Best Michigan Lakes

Lake Leelanau, otherwise known as Carp Lake, is the largest lake in the region of the Leelanau Peninsula. The area around the lake is also known as Michigan’s Wine Country so the many vineyards make the lake and its surrounding area all that much more beautiful. This 8,320-acre lake has 40 miles of shoreline so it’s great for boating, fishing, and swimming.

Burt Lake

Burt Lake
Image by Notorious4life, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

At 17,120 acres, Burt Lake is a fairly large and scenic lake located on the northern Lower Peninsula near Cheboygan. While the entire area around this lake features beautiful scenery, it’s best enjoyed at Burt Lake State Park, where you’ll find over 2,000 feet of sandy coastline with clear waters suitable for swimming.

Tuscarora Township Park is also a great place to take a dip or enjoy a picnic, and Maple Bay County Campground is where you can spend the night with access to another lovely beach.

Lake Charlevoix

Lake Charlevoix
Lake Charlevoix / One of the Best Michigan Lakes

Once voted in the top five best lakes in the United States, it’s no wonder why so many people flock to the shores of Lake Charlevoix. The lake is known for its natural beauty and is one of the clearest lakes in Michigan.

The lake has waters that are warmer than many of the other lakes in the region so swimming at area beaches, including Depot Beach and Ferry Beach, is something that draws many people to the lake.

As the third-largest lake in Michigan, you’ll find so many things to do, including visiting Fisherman’s Island State Park and Young State Park. Kayaking, sailing, and fishing are also popular on the lake. After your lake time, make sure to head to one of the best Michigan breweries!

Crystal Lake

Image by Hgjudd, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s some logic behind Crystal Lake’s name. Just one look at that sparkling, crystal-clear water, and you’ll know immediately! Situated in Benzie County near Frankfort, the lake is a popular retreat for outdoor lovers and adventurers. Frankfort is already one of the most romantic places to visit in Michigan, and spending time on the lake is bound to be enjoyable!

Whether you want to enjoy swimming, boating, kayaking, waterskiing, fishing, or snorkeling, you can do all of these things and more at this beautiful lake. The Betsie Valley Trail is a 22-mile trail around the lake suitable for hiking and biking.

Upper Herring Lake

Upper Herring Lake
Image by Gpwitteveen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Upper Herring Lake is a 540-acre lake situated in Benzie County. Many people escape to this serene lakeshore surrounded by pristine natural surroundings. Others come to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. While fishing, you might snag yourself a rock bass, northern pike, yellow perch, or trout.

While hiking the two-kilometer Upper Herring Lake Trail, you’ll spot a variety of birds, and pass by marsh habitats. While kayaking or canoeing, you’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery from the lake’s calm water.

Elk Lake

Elk Lake
Elk Lake / Beautiful Lakes in Michigan

Situated near Elk Rapids in Northern Michigan, Elk Lake is surrounded by nature and pretty scenery. It’s also a popular place for visitors wishing to participate in a range of outdoor activities both on land and in the water.

Fishing is one of the more popular activities and trout, bass, perch, ciscoes and whitefish are some of the fish species that thrive in the lake. Kayaking, tubing, wakeboarding, water skiing, and sailing are just some of the exciting activities that await.

Gull Lake

Gull Lake
Gull Lake

While the super-clear waters of Gull Lake make it a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving, this 2030-acre lake, which is situated near Kalamazoo, is also a popular spot for swimming, sailing, kayaking and fishing.

A number of parks are also located around the lake. If you happen to be there in early summer, you’ll notice that the water turns a lovely emerald color.

Higgins Lake

Higgins Lake
Higgins Lake / Beautiful Michigan Lakes

Higgins Lake is another Michigan lake that is often said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. With crystal clear waters, sandy stretches of shoreline, and pristine wilderness all around, this 9,900-acre lake is the perfect place to escape for a day. Swimming, boating, picnicking, and fishing are popular activities at the day-use area.

If a day at this lake isn’t long enough, camping is available at South Higgins Lake State Park and North Higgins State Lake Park.

Torch Lake

Torch Lake / Best Michigan Lakes

When you think of Michigan, I bet the last thing that comes to your mind is tropical or Caribbean. Well, welcome to Torch Lake, Caribbean of the North and one of the best places to visit in Michigan. It’s true; one glance at this sprawling lake with clear, sparkling, turquoise water and you’ll think you were on a Caribbean island.

Torch Lake is also famous for its sandbars, for being the deepest inland lake in Michigan and for being voted the third most beautiful lake in the world.

This lake has everything needed for a perfect lakeside vacation including swimming areas and access to many activities including hiking, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, and fishing. This stunning outdoor lovers paradise is only a short distance away from Traverse City.

Spider Lake

Spider Lake
photo courtesy of traversecity.com / Spider Lake

There are many lakes in Michigan that have a reputation for being good fishing spots, but Spider Lake near Traverse City has an exceptionally good reputation for fishing! With 450 acres of clear, deep water combined with a surrounding of deep woods and 29 miles of scenic shoreline, a relaxing day on the lake is what you can expect.

If fishing is not your thing, the water is still shallow enough to maintain a decent temperature for swimming and the wild surroundings are an outdoor lover’s dream. In the warmer months, you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, parasailing, and windsurfing. Come winter, ice fishing is a popular activity on the lake.

Lake Bellaire

Lake Bellaire
Lake Bellaire / Best Lakes in Michigan

Lake Bellaire is another one of the most beautiful lakes in Michigan. At 1,793 acres and with 12 miles of shoreline and ideal conditions, there’s plenty of room to enjoy a wide variety of activities including swimming, boating, kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, sailing and fishing for perch, herring, whitefish, bass, trout and many other species of fish.

The lake is surrounded by stunning wild scenery that includes wetlands, swamps and marshes that are home to many species of plant and animal life. An overnight trip to the lake is made possible with direct access to rustic lakeside cabins, campgrounds, and other accommodations.

Silver Lake

Silver Lake Sun Dunes / Michigan Lakes

Known for its abundance of exciting, family-fun activities, Silver Lake in Golden Township is a popular lakeside getaway for both locals and visitors alike. The most unique thing to do at this beautiful lake revolves around the giant sand dunes.

Some people choose to hike up these dunes but why hike when you can ride them on a specially-made board! Children love running down the dunes to jump in the surprisingly deep water of the shoreline at the bottom.

The sandy shores and clear waters of Perry Public Beach are perfect for swimming. In autumn, it’s the spectacular fall colors that draw people to the lake.

Lake Muskegon

Lake Muskegon
Lake Muskegon / Best Lakes In Michigan

Located in Muskegon County, Muskegon Lake is a 4,150-acre recreational area known for its beautiful scenery and many opportunities to participate in a range of outdoor activities.

Sailing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking and camping are just a few of the activities that are popular on the lake and around its shores. Snug Harbour State Park has picnic areas, grills, hiking trails, and a swimming area.

Paradise Lake

Paradise Lake
Paradise Lake / Stunning Michigan Lakes

Paradise Lake in Emmet County certainly lives up to its name if the great outdoors is your idea of paradise! The lake is fairly small at 1,900 acres, but there’s plenty of room on the water to enjoy a day of fishing for largemouth bass, perch, pike, and rainbow trout.

Along the 10 miles of shoreline is pristine wilderness that gives the lake its remote, middle-of-nowhere feel. Deer, bears, wild turkeys, and eagles are often spotted around the lake. Besides fishing, you can also enjoy swimming in the lake and sailing and kayaking are popular.

Mullett Lake

Mullett Lake
Image via Wikipedia / Best Michigan Lakes

Mullett Lake is a large 16,630-acre lake located in lower Michigan also known for its great fishing. There are sizable populations of many fish species in the lake, including splake, smelt, lake sturgeon, trout, smelt, and muskellunge. Kayaking, canoeing and swimming are also popular at this beautiful lake.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior
Lake Superior / Best Michigan Lakes

When it comes to lakes in Michigan, the grandest of them all is Lake Superior (I know I said I wouldn’t mention the Great Lakes, but I couldn’t resist just one!). As one of the Great Lakes, this lake is huge and it’s beautiful too. Covering 31,700 square miles, it takes four or five days just to drive around it! With a lake this size, you can bet there’s a wide range of diverse ecosystems and scenic viewpoints.

Another thing the lake is known for is its clear waters. Swimming is a popular activity in many areas around the lake but there are many other things to do including fishing, hiking and boating. Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse are just two of the popular attractions you’ll find around Lake Superior.

Michigan Lakes FAQ

What are the five great lakes?

Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. These lakes contain 20% of the world’s surface freshwater. Lake Superior contains half of the water in all the Great Lakes. Michigan borders all the Great Lakes besides Lake Ontario.

Michigan boasts almost 3300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, which means Michigan has the most freshwater coastline of any state!

How many lakes are in Michigan?

We have more than 11,000 inland lakes and they all weigh in at five acres or larger.

Where is the clearest lake in Michigan?

It’s all subjective of course, but most say that either Big Glen Lake, Lake Superior, or Torch Lake are the clearest and cleanest lakes in Michigan.

Which state has the most lakes?

The state with the most lakes is not Michigan. Minnesota is actually referred to as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” though it has nearly 12,000 lakes. Though all that being said, the state with the most lakes is actually Alaska.

Most Beautiful Lakes in Michigan Map


I hope you enjoyed this guide on the best Michigan lakes. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Michigan.

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About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.