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You don’t have to go to California or Florida this summer to soak in sun and sand. The Wolverine State boasts an impressive 3,288 miles of shoreline—second only to Alaska’s—and the longest freshwater coastline in the United States. Michigan is loaded with lakes, sandy beaches, quaint lighthouses, majestic waterfalls and even historic shipwrecks.

So before you book your next beach vacation, check out what Michigan’s epic coastlines have to offer—you might find that a Great Lakes road trip is in order. Here are five destinations you won’t want to miss along the way.

RELATED: 5 awesome island vacations—in the Midwest!

Lake Huron shipwreck

Lake Huron shipwreck

Shipwrecks at Lake Huron

The lake that forms Michigan’s mitten shape is also the fifth largest freshwater lake on Earth. While Lake Huron is known for its beautiful scenery and lighthouses, what gives the area a mysterious edge is what lies beneath the surface. Hundreds of century-old shipwrecks, considered protected historical sites, litter the floor of the lake, and are accessible to snorkelers and kayakers. Thunder Bay is a great jump-off point for wreck-diving; its Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary includes about 200 historic shipwrecks, many of which are meticulously preserved, thanks to the lake’s cold, fresh water.

Sleeping Bear Point

 Sleeping Bear Point at Sleeping Bear Dunes  

This spot on Lake Michigan’s coast, less than three hours north of Grand Rapid,s has been called the “most beautiful spot in America” by Good Morning America, and was named one of National Geographic’s 21 best beaches in the world. So why all the acclaim? Simple: Sleeping Bear‘s 450-foot cascading sand dunes offer the lucky traveler a sweeping view of the glassy lake. Punctuated with hiking trails, the area also features a maritime museum to satisfy your history fix.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Michigan

Spray Falls at Pictured Rocks

The entire Pictured Rocks area on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (aka “The UP”) could fill a feature of its own, but its crowning jewel is Spray Falls. In an area thundering with waterfalls, Spray Falls features 70 feet of white, misty water that cascades right into Lake Superior. Although it can be seen from trails nearby, the best vantage is arguably right in the water. And if that’s not enough to “float your boat” (so to speak), directly under the waterfall is the  gravesite of  steam boat Superior, a famed 1856 shipwreck.

Grand Haven South Pierhead Inner Light, Lake Michigan

The Lighthouse at Grand Haven

With more lighthouses than any other state, Michigan is a dream for poets and beachcombers alike. But if you only visit one, the lighthouse at Grand Haven is a pretty good bet. Built in 1893, it sits at the end of a long pier stretching into Lake Michigan and is said to be one of the most photographed lighthouses in the Midwest. With lights stretching the length of the pier, it’s a great spot for an evening stroll and a magnificent view of this Great Lake’s watery horizon.

Turnip Rock at Lake Huron  

Layers of prehistoric limestone mark Lake Huron’s scenic coast, but this otherworldly wedge-shaped rock formation is the piece de resistance. Looking a bit like an upended portico, the remote mini-island near the town of Port Austin was formed by thousands of years of erosion. It sits near Thumbnail Point, another dramatic formation jutting out from the rocky coastline. Both are accessible only by kayak – and both, as visitors will tell you, are worth the journey.

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Of course, there’s much more to see. If you’re crazy for lighthouses, there’s a myriad to choose from. The floating White Shoal Lighthouse in Mackinaw city sports fetching red stripes, and the brick-laden Eagle Harbor Lighthouse offers front-row seats to see the Northern Lights.

Pack your car and hit the open road in one of our nation’s most beautiful states. No matter which way you turn, Michigan will not disappoint.

Tagged: Michigan, Midwest

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Chris Keilman

Chris Keilman

Chris is a copywriter at esurance, where he specializes in blog content that’s helpful and insightful. As part of the editorial staff for more than two years, he’s researched and written about a myriad of driving and travel-related topics, from road-tripping in Michigan to travel insurance to traffic laws.
Chris Keilman

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