It’s August, and our warm summer days are numbered. Before they’re over, why not look beyond the pool and take a refreshing dip in one of the many natural bodies of water you can enjoy in metro Detroit? There’s something especially calming about swimming in a pool that nature made—it’s good for you, and you might deepen your appreciation of the Great Lakes state’s many lakes and rivers.
Great Lakes, great times, indeed! On the shore of Lake Huron in Port Huron, Lakeside Park’s sandy beaches are a prime spot for swimming and beach volleyball. On weekends, boaters anchor offshore to swim there. The park also contains playground facilities and picnic areas. City residents can pay $5 for unlimited entrance for a year; St. Clair County Residents can pay $35 for the year or $5 for the day, and out-of-county residents pay a $15 daily entrance fee per vehicle.
You can swim in the Detroit River, with a view of the Detroit skyline, from Belle Isle’s beach. The island, which sits right on the river in between the United States and Canada, became Michigan's 102nd state park in 2014 as part of a lease agreement with the City of Detroit. The 982-acre park houses many other attractions as well, including a Great Lakes museum and a conservatory. Belle Isle and other Michigan state parks require the Recreation Passport ($11 for Michigan vehicles and $5 for Michigan motorcycles) to enter with a vehicle.
At Waterford’s Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, you can swim and explore 3,745 acres. They contain marshes, ponds, heavy forests, and old farm fields, which support a wide variety of animals. The recreation area also has trails designated for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. As a state park area, it requires the Recreation Passport for vehicle entry.
If you really want to feel like you’re escaping, head to Halfmoon Lake Beach, which is part of the vast, 11,000-acre Pinckney Recreation Area. There’s also a boat launch, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, and playground at the beach. Pinckney Recreation Area is known for its extensive trails—more than 40 miles of them—and chain of fishing lakes. The park also contains remote campsites, in case you want to combine lake swimming with an overnight trip. The Recreation Passport is required.
Take a dip in Walled Lake, the City of Novi’s largest lake, at Lakeshore Park. The park offers picnic areas, play structures, and well-maintained mountain bike and walking trails. Pavilion Shore Park is a short walk from the Lakeshore Park entrance, and it offers lake-front seating. There’s a $5 fee for nonresidents of Novi, or $30 for an annual pass.
On Anchor Bay, the beach at Walter & Mary Burke Park is a beautiful area for swimming and for watching the sun set over the lake. A boardwalk with benches offers post-swim lake-watching opportunities. The park also contains play structures, bocce ball courts, fishing docks, transient boat docks, and a non-motorized boat launch.
Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township includes two places to swim in the 500-acre Stony Creek Lake: Baypoint and Eastwood beaches. The lake is also a haven for fishing. The park’s 4,461 scenic acres extend across Oakland and Macomb counties and offer many other recreational activities, including boating; a nature center; trails for hiking and biking through woodlands, wetlands, and tallgrass prairies; and several sports fields. The daily fee is $10, or you can buy an annual pass for Huron-Clinton Metroparks.
At Lake St. Clair Metropark, near Mt. Clemens, you can go for a swim in Lake St. Clair from the sandy beach as well as in the nearby Olympic-sized pool, which has waterslides. The 770-acre park also has the Squirt Zone Spray Ground, a boardwalk and paved trail that runs along the one-mile shoreline, and boating, fishing, and bird-watching opportunities. The daily fee is $10 without an annual pass.
In Milford, take a plunge into Kent Lake at one of two beaches: Martindale or Maple. Pre- or post-swim, the 1,200-acre Kent Lake boasts good sunrise and sunset views, and you can also take a boat tour of the lake. Kensington Metropark includes 4,486 acres of wooded, hilly terrain, hiking and biking trails, golf and disc courses, a nature center, and a farm center, which even has a farmers market on Saturdays—a good option for post-swim refueling. The daily fee is $10 without an annual pass.
If you’re more comfortable swimming in smaller bodies of water, you can head to Clarkston’s Hidden Springs Beach, which is part of the 1,286-acre Independence Oaks—the largest Oakland County Park. You can also play volleyball; rent a rowboat, canoe, kayak, or pedal boat on the larger Crooked Lake; or explore the park’s more than 12 miles of trails.