Many people know that the Keweenaw Peninsula is legendary for the amount of lake-effect snow it receives each winter. Lesser known but equally impressive is that the same lake that dispenses buckets of snowfall is responsible for the Keweenaw Peninsula’s miles of pristine coastline.
The meeting of Lake Superior and the Copper Island coastline has created an array of diverse beaches. Rocky, sandy, remote, close to town, you name it—the Upper Peninsula has it.
WHITE CITY BEACH
White City Beach sits at the southern entry of the Portage Canal, a 40-minute drive from Houghton. Moreover, White City sits with its “back” to the northwesterly winds, protected by the ridge of the Keweenaw Peninsula. This provides calm water and a perfect pocket for swimming. White City features a half-mile break wall at the end of which a steel lighthouse stands sentinel serving as an active beacon light for boaters. The break wall is a great place to walk and see the beach and expansive Lake Superior views from a new vantage point. With fine, white sand, a view of the Huron Mountains, a gradually deepening swim area, and lots to explore, it is the perfect place to bring the family for a day at the beach.
RAY KESTNER WATERFRONT PARK
Close to the heart of Houghton is Ray Kestner Waterfront Park, lovingly named by locals as “Chutes and Ladders.” Kestner Park boasts a variety of things to do, including paddle sport rentals, a concession stand, a large playground, volleyball courts, a picnic area, and a protected swim area. Even though it’s close to town, you can still experience as much adventure here as you like. This park also plays host to many of Houghton, Michigan’s outdoor events and festivals like the much-lauded Bridgefest each June.
Bete Grise tops the list of best beaches in the Upper Peninsula with soft white sand beaches surrounded by rugged Keweenaw coastline. The Bete Grise’s crescent shape creates a safe harbor for boaters, protected from the quick-tempered Lake Superior. It is also a haven for paddlers who can explore the area’s many channels. Bete Grise sits an hour north of Houghton and a half-hour south of Copper Harbor on the eastern shore. Its remoteness makes it a great spot to spend the day picnicking far from crowds. The sand on this beach also holds a little magic. Visitors who swirl their hands around in the sand report a faint singing sound, which is said to be that of a Native American woman singing to her love who was lost in the Lake.
MCLAIN STATE PARK
McLain State Park sits just across the North Entry of the Portage Canal from Breakers (officially known as North Canal Township Park). Because these beaches are sisters across the channel, you might think they would hold similar experiences. But where Breakers is wide open with dark sands, McLain offers shady trees, pavilions to gather under, and light, fine sand. McLain State Park is located midway between the small Michigan communities of Hancock and Calumet. With cozy campsites, it is a great place to spend a night as you tour the Keweenaw.
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EXPLORE MORE BEACHES
The beaches along Lake Superior are an exceptional place to visit during your trip to the Upper Peninsula. After days of hiking, mountain biking, shopping, and exploring, be sure to slow it down and soak up your memories. Take a day to agate hunt on the western shore, play in the endless waves, watch the sunset sink down behind Lake Superior, and make some sticky s’mores to close out a beach barbeque.