There is a little known secret camping destination that apparently we weren’t aware of until recently. Who knew the best state for summer camping was Michigan?
Can we just talk about the weather for a second? No, I’m not referring to awkward small talk where you really just want to run the other way… I mean the weather for real.
I knew they had bad winters up north that’s not a secret, but what I didn’t know is the summer weather was out of this world. I’m talking 70-80 degrees max most of the season.
They have weather that southern campers only dream about during July & August and that my friend is why I believe Michigan is the best state for summer camping.
The Best Campgrounds in Michigan
We did a lot of research and were only able to stay in 2 State Parks in Michigan this summer. They are totally booked at 6 months out and for good reason.
The entire state seems to go camping during the summer months. In fact, I haven’t seen a more dedicated crowd of locals to their State Parks.
We stayed in two different State Parks and they were great. Crowded but great nonetheless.
We suggest if you do not have reservations to go ahead and pull into the campground. The locals booking months out often don’t show up and you can score a site for the night if they can squeeze you in. It worked for us!
Wilderness State Park
This place was right near Mackinaw City near the Upper Peninsula. They are right on the coast of Lake Michigan and have a lot of campsites to grab if you can get your hands on one.
We suggest opting for the non-full hookups if you are going to stay a few days max. We recommend going back to the pines area if you can further away from the beaches.
There’s more cover and space to spread out and you won’t feel so crammed in.
Since we are a young couple with kids in a big motorhome we have a lot of people stopping to talk to us wherever we stay.
While we were in Wilderness State Park this really sweet couple stopped to compliment us on our Jeep. They were fellow Jeep owners and camping lovers. We talked for nearly 30 minutes about our travel adventures and the State Parks that Michigan offers.
Tracy & Lori made the park sound even more magical than what we were witnessing first hand.
They had been camping in this same state park for nearly 30 years with their two daughters. What better way to make family memories than to make a tradition out of camping each year. Their daughters learned to ride bikes and walk in this same place we were now staying.
The way they talked about the park and the way it had brought their family closer over the years made us want to stay in more parks throughout our travels in Michigan.
Wildnerness serves as a great launching pad to discovering Lake Michigan and Mackinaw City.
Traverse City State Park
Believe it or not, this is a State Park in the middle of the city. It’s a stone throw away from everything but once you get inside you are whisked away to a feeling of camping in the woods.
This park is right across the street from Grand Traverse Bay which is just as blue and magical as waterfront Lake Michigan. Our kids really enjoyed looking at all of the rocks on the banks of the crystal blue lake.
We chose site 52 with ample space to spread out and it near a water source. The trees provided great cover and we ended up spending nearly 2 whole days outside watching the black squirrels chase each other.
There is a reason why this is the best state for summer camping! We weren’t bothered by mosquitos here and were able to sit outside and enjoy not melting in August.
We also celebrated Nat’s 9th birthday in this campground which was delightful. We ate chocolate cake for dinner and had smores for dessert. Every kid’s dream!
Must-Visit Coastal Towns in Michigan
Now that we have the camping out of the way it’s time to gush over the charming coastal towns we drove through.
When my husband was talking about the little towns he had researched I couldn’t envision them.
Driving through these coastal towns brought this sense of small-town America.
Each town we passed through had little festivals, community farmers markets, flea markets and more going on.
I couldn’t believe how many little events we passed on our drive from Mackinaw City to Traverse City.
The houses were gorgeous with landscaping just perfectly planned and executed and in the background was the lake where you could spot sailboats racing through the wind.
It was whimsical for this southern girl to witness. I have dreamed of these little towns with antiques and book stores on the corners of the main streets.
Not only does Petoskey have a State Park you can camp in but their little town is so charming. Their population comes in right around 5600 which is tiny compared to the towns we’ve lived in in the past.
They have plenty of hiking, biking, bird watching and of course water sports to fill your activity calendar during the summer months.
They have a lavender farm nearby as well as wineries and breweries you can tour while you’re in the area.
The Victorian era houses that pepper the streets are what I loved the most as we drove through town. The porch swings made me want to pull up and read a book while enjoying the summer breeze.
And if shopping is your thing they have the Gaslight District which is their downtown shopping area. There are plenty of places right within walking distance that you can pop in and out of to grab a drink or lunch with the family.
With a population clocking in at 2500 people, this town is small but mighty.
This little town has yet another State Park to discover as well as access to both Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix.
There are several historic places that you can visit if you’re an Ernest Hemingway fan. He actually married his wife at Lake Charlevoix.
Apparently, there is even a castle in this charming town that you can visit which we didn’t see as we drove through. If you’re a castle fan it looks neat in pictures online.
And of course, they have plenty of outdoor activities as well as water sports if you’re into that.
Traverse City, MI
This was our ultimate destination on our camping trip through Michigan.
From Traverse City, we have headed out of Michigan altogether with a few short stops near Lake Huron.
Traverse City though reminds me of a small Boulder, Colorado town. They have that same vibe going on with their shopping, dining, pubs, and breweries.
Also, Traverse City has a fetish with bakeries. Our girls really enjoyed the city park we found off the beaten path.
There was a bakery with coffee on nearly every corner.
Their city parks are adorable and of course, they are right on the water.
Our time in Traverse City included a few Harvest Host stays at wineries since it was tough to find camping.
If you’re having issues finding camping like we did read our post about the best free RV camping app we wrote.
Things To Do in Traverse City
We didn’t do much as far as activities inside Traverse City but we did drive up to Leland and watch the sunset over the lake.
We also made a pitstop in Suttons Bay to pick up fudge and walk around the marina and drool over sailboats. This little town is yet another charming town right on the water.
You can’t visit Traverse City without visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes. This place is incredible with the sweeping soft mountains of sand. The girls really enjoyed racing through the sand and crawling around like bears. They giggled watching other little kids run down the big dune super fast.
We were utterly surprised by how charming Michigan is and have officially declared it the best state for summer camping. I haven’t even mentioned the dreamy red barns, sunflower farms and roadside stands with cherries that are everywhere you turn.
So are you ready to pack up and head to Michigan yet?