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Top Things to Do in Traverse City in the Summer

Top Things to Do in Traverse City in the Summer

things to do in Traverse City in the summer

Traverse City in Northern Michigan, renowned for its exquisite cherries and breathtaking shoreline, truly comes alive in the hotter months, making it a perfect summer getaway destination. As temperatures rise and the days grow longer, a myriad of opportunities unfold under the vibrant Michigan sun – from sun-drenched beach lounging to thrilling water-based activities, and serene twilight strolls by the waterfront. This article uncovers the diverse array of things to do in Traverse City in the summer, ensuring you make the most out of your visit to this charming summertime hotspot.

“No locals, just cherries” is a common adage amongst residents here, but that doesn’t mean Traverse City lacks in engaging summer activities for visitors. Far from it! Whether you’re an adventurer seeking adrenaline-fueled exploits, a family looking for wholesome entertainment, or a couple desiring a serene escape – this location has something for everyone. Let us dive into the countless things to do in Traverse City in the summer, uncovering adventures waiting around every corner, and experiences that will fill your photo albums with unforgettable memories.

Top Beaches to Visit in Traverse City  

Traverse City, located in Northern Michigan, is a charming destination known for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. During the summer months, the city comes alive as tourists and locals alike flock to the shores to enjoy the sun, sand, and water activities. If you’re planning a trip to Traverse City and wondering about the best beaches to visit, look no further! Here are the top beaches you should add to your itinerary.

1. Clinch Park Beach
Clinch Park Beach is a popular spot located right in downtown Traverse City. This picturesque beach offers soft, sandy shores and beautiful views of Grand Traverse Bay. Visitors can relax on the beach, take a refreshing dip in the clear waters, or rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the bay. The beach is also close to amenities such as picnic areas, playgrounds, and food vendors, making it a great spot for families.

2. Bryant Park Beach
Bryant Park Beach is another fantastic beach located near downtown Traverse City. This tranquil beach features a long sandy shoreline and shallow waters, perfect for swimming and wading. Visitors can spread out a blanket, soak up the sun, or enjoy a leisurely stroll along the water’s edge. Bryant Park Beach is known for its peaceful atmosphere and stunning sunsets, making it an ideal spot to unwind and relax.

3. Old Mission Peninsula Beaches
For those seeking a more secluded beach experience, the Old Mission Peninsula offers several hidden gems waiting to be discovered. With its calm waters and pristine sandy beaches, Old Mission Peninsula is a paradise for beach lovers. Whether you choose to visit Haserot Beach, the Old Mission Lighthouse Beach, or one of the many other secluded spots along the peninsula, you’re sure to find a peaceful slice of paradise away from the crowds.

4. West End Beach
Located at the west end of Traverse City’s waterfront, West End Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. This sandy beach offers panoramic views of the bay and the city skyline, creating a perfect backdrop for a day of relaxation and fun. Visitors can swim, sunbathe, play beach volleyball, or simply enjoy a picnic with friends and family. The beach is also just a short walk from downtown Traverse City, making it easily accessible for those exploring the city.

Best Hiking Trails in the Area  

Traverse City in the summer is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its crystal-clear lakes, lush forests, and picturesque landscapes. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this region is by exploring its numerous hiking trails. From beginner-friendly paths to challenging treks, there is a trail for every level of hiker in Northern Michigan. Here are two of the top hiking trails to add to your summer adventure itinerary:

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Located just a short drive from Traverse City, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers some of the most breathtaking views in the Midwest. The extensive trail system here caters to hikers of all abilities, with routes ranging from easy strolls to more strenuous climbs. One of the must-visit trails is the Empire Bluff Trail, a moderate 1.5-mile hike that rewards you with panoramic vistas of Lake Michigan and the iconic dunes below. For a more challenging trek, tackle the Dune Climb Trail, a steep ascent up the towering sand dunes that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping.

2. Hickory Meadows: For a quieter and laid-back hiking experience, head to Hickory Meadows in Traverse City. This nature preserve boasts a network of peaceful trails that wind through meadows, wetlands, and forests, providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The 3-mile loop trail is perfect for leisurely walks or birdwatching, allowing you to fully appreciate the serenity of the natural surroundings. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, including deer, songbirds, and maybe even a glimpse of a majestic bald eagle soaring overhead.

In addition to these top hiking trails, Traverse City offers a multitude of outdoor activities to enjoy during the summer months, from kayaking and paddleboarding on the crystal-clear waters of Grand Traverse Bay to exploring the charming downtown area with its boutique shops and farm-to-table restaurants. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or just looking for a scenic stroll, Northern Michigan has something to offer every outdoor enthusiast. So lace up your hiking boots, pack plenty of water and snacks, and get ready to discover the best that Traverse City has to offer on foot.

Visit the Historic Lighthouses  

Traverse City in the summer offers a myriad of activities for locals and visitors alike, with its breathtaking natural beauty and rich history. One of the must-do experiences in this charming town is exploring the historic lighthouses that dot the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay.

1. Mission Point Lighthouse
Located on the Old Mission Peninsula just a short drive from downtown Traverse City, the Mission Point Lighthouse stands as a beacon of the area’s maritime past. Visitors can explore the lighthouse grounds, learn about its history, and enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan.

2. Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Situated at the northern tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse is another iconic landmark worth visiting. Dating back to the mid-19th century, this lighthouse offers guided tours, a museum showcasing maritime artifacts, and panoramic vistas of Lake Michigan.

3. Point Betsie Lighthouse
A short drive from Traverse City, Point Betsie Lighthouse is one of Michigan’s most photographed lighthouses. Nestled along the Lake Michigan shoreline, this historic structure is open for tours during the summer months, allowing visitors to step back in time and appreciate its architectural beauty.

4. South Manitou Island Lighthouse
For those seeking a more adventurous excursion, a trip to South Manitou Island Lighthouse is a must. Accessible by ferry or private boat, this remote lighthouse offers a glimpse into the life of a lighthouse keeper and the chance to explore the rugged beauty of the island.

5. Old Pier Lighthouse
Located at the end of the Clinch Park Marina in downtown Traverse City, the Old Pier Lighthouse is a charming reminder of the town’s maritime heritage. Stroll along the pier, take in the views of Grand Traverse Bay, and snap some photos of this iconic structure.

6. Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse
While technically not in Traverse City, the Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse is a short drive away and well worth the visit. Walk along the breakwater to reach this picturesque lighthouse, set against the backdrop of Lake Michigan, and soak in the serenity of its surroundings.

7. South Fox Island Lighthouse
For a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, consider visiting the South Fox Island Lighthouse. Accessible only by boat or plane, this remote lighthouse offers a glimpse into the secluded beauty of Michigan’s northern islands and the opportunity to witness nature at its most pristine.

Exploring the historic lighthouses in and around Traverse City is a captivating way to immerse yourself in the region’s maritime history and natural splendor. Whether you’re a history buff, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a unique adventure, a lighthouse tour is a summer activity not to be missed.

Paddleboarding and Watersports on Grand Traverse Bay  

Paddleboarding and other watersports are popular activities on Grand Traverse Bay, offering a perfect way to enjoy the stunning scenery and cool waters during the summer months in Traverse City, Michigan.

1. Paddleboarding: Traverse City is known for its calm and turquoise waters, making it an ideal spot for paddleboarding. Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn or an experienced paddler seeking adventure, paddleboarding on Grand Traverse Bay provides a unique experience. The bay’s clear waters offer views of the surrounding landscape, including the picturesque coastline and possibly even some wildlife like ducks or fish.

2. Kayaking: Another fantastic way to explore the bay is by kayaking. Paddle along the shoreline, venture out to the open waters, or explore the nearby coves and inlets. Kayaking allows you to get up close to nature and enjoy the tranquility of the bay. You may even spot some local birds or catch a glimpse of a passing sailboat.

3. Canoeing: For a more leisurely experience, consider canoeing on Grand Traverse Bay. Paddle at your own pace, taking in the sights and sounds of the surrounding beauty. Canoeing provides a great way to relax and unwind while still enjoying the water.

4. Jet Skiing: If you’re looking for a thrilling watersport experience, consider jet skiing on the bay. Feel the adrenaline rush as you speed across the water, enjoying the wind in your hair and the spray of the waves. Jet skiing is a popular activity for those seeking a bit more excitement on the water.

5. Fishing: Grand Traverse Bay is also a great spot for fishing enthusiasts. Cast your line and try your luck at catching a variety of fish species that inhabit the bay. Whether you’re a novice angler or a seasoned pro, fishing on the bay offers a rewarding experience for all.

6. Sailing: For a more relaxed and scenic experience, consider sailing on Grand Traverse Bay. Traverse City’s gentle breezes and clear waters make it an excellent destination for sailing enthusiasts. Take a leisurely cruise or participate in a sailing tour to fully appreciate the beauty of the bay from a different perspective.


In conclusion, Traverse City in the summer offers a plethora of exciting water sports activities for enthusiasts of all levels. From paddleboarding and kayaking on the crystal-clear waters of Grand Traverse Bay to sailing and jet skiing for those seeking a thrill, there is no shortage of things to do in this scenic destination. Whether you are a beginner looking to try something new or a seasoned water sport pro, Traverse City provides the perfect backdrop for a summer filled with adventure and fun on the water. Make the most of your summer by exploring the endless opportunities for aquatic enjoyment in this beautiful Northern Michigan gem.

Dive into Adventure on
Northern Lake Michigan!