Top swimming spots: Places to take a dip in Metro Detroit's natural waters

A few year ago we ran this story on natural swimming spots around Metro Detroit. Readers loved it. Stunning swimming spots reconnect us with nature and allow us to appreciate living in the Great Lakes region, so we thought we'd update the list so you can make the most of your summer.

Here are 10 to consider paddling in before the season ends, each with a different range of splash pads, playgrounds, trails, and boat docks attached (it's also always worth checking park entry fees and if lifeguards are on duty). There are plenty more too, feel free to drop your favorite in the comments below (if you're willing to share, that is).

Lakeside Beach  
3870 Gratoit Ave, Port Huron

Port Huron maintains two main beaches, and Lakeside is a great option. With sandy shores, the location is a prime spot for swimming, volleyball, and BBQs (there are grills available). Two pavilions, Kate's Kabana concession stand, and a playground add to the facilities, but it's the splash pad that really brings the family fun. A beach pass is required to park at the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day (it's free for Port Huron residents and $5 for St. Clair County residents). 

The Quadzilla Slide at Eastwood beach in Stony Creek Metropark.

Stony Creek Metropark
4300 Main Park Road, Shelby Township, MI 48316

One of those havens that families return to year after year, this extensive park includes two places to swim in Stony Creek Lake (Baypoint and Eastwood beaches). Eastwood often has a massive four-lane inflatable water slide available ($10 for an all-day pass). Fishing is popular here too, and the scenic sprawl across Oakland and Macomb counties offers boating, a nature center, trails for hiking and biking, and several sports fields. The daily fee is $10, or you can buy an annual pass for Huron-Clinton Metroparks.

Pontiac Lake Recreation Area
7800 Gale Road, Waterford

This park features the longest beach in southeast Michigan (just over half a mile), but also boasts a model airplane flying field, a modern and rustic equestrian campground, an expansive picnic area, and an off-leash, fenced area for dogs. If you want to work up a sweat before swimming, the Oakland County space has an 11-mile mountain bike trail that ranks as one of the best in the country. As a state park area, it requires the Recreation Passport for vehicle entry.

Belle Isle
99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit

Belle Isle Park, a 985-acre island park located in the Detroit River, is worth a visit whether you are prepared to don a swimsuit or not. With views of Detroit and Canada, it’s home to the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and the Ralph Wilson Gateway (the official southern trailhead for Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail). When we aren't paddling in the designated swim beach, you can find us marveling at the jellyfish in the Belle Isle Aquarium. The island requires the Recreation Passport to enter with a vehicle.

Pinckney Recreational Area. Photo supplied.

Halfmoon Lake Beach
8555 Silver Hill Road, Pinckney

Known for its multiple fishing lakes, this spot feels a world away from it all. Perfect for backpackers, mountain bikers, and anglers, Pinckney is known for its extensive trail system. With remote campsites, you can combine a swimming trip with an overnighter for a true backcountry experience (note that there's no alcohol allowed for most of the year). It's also a short drive from the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center. The Recreation Passport is required.

Lakeshore Park
601 S. Lake Drive, Novi

This swimming beach (on Walled Lake, the largest lake in the city) doesn't have lifeguards on duty but does have well-maintained mountain biking and walking trails, and two play structures. Three picnic shelters are available for community use, and can be reserved. Pavilion Shore Park is only a short walk (0.2 miles) from the Lakeshore Park entrance and has more lakefront seating, pathways, and fishing. There's no entry fee for Novi residents.

Walter and Mary Burke Park
36300 Front Street, New Baltimore

North of Lake St. Clair, the beach here is a beautiful area for swimming. A boardwalk with benches offers sunset-watching opportunities over Anchor Bay. The park also contains play structures, volleyball, and a 190-foot dock extending into the lake. An outdoor and an enclosed pavilion offer shelter (parties over 10 should book).

A runner at Lake St. Clair Metropark. Photo: Steve Koss.

Lake St. Clair Metropark
31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045

Near Mt Clemens, this beach spot also hosts bird-watching, windsurfing, kiteboarding, boating, and cycling. You can swim in the lake or the Olympic-sized swimming pool, featuring waterslides and a spray ground. There's even an Adventure golf course. The daily fee is $10 without an annual pass.

Kensington Metropark 
4570 Huron River Parkway, Milford

If you've bought a Metropark pass, you can also hit up this popular spot (if the construction on I-96 doesn't slow you down too much to get there). There are two swimming beaches (Martindale or Maple) and a Splash ‘n’ Blast water park (up to $7 entry). Kent Lake boasts some pretty sunrise and sunset views, and you can also take a boat tour of the water on the Island Queen. The park includes hiking and biking trails, golf and disc courses, a nature center, and a farm center, which even has a farmers market on Saturdays. The daily fee is $10 without an annual pass.

Independence Oaks
9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston

Hidden Springs Beach has a cozier feel (if you prefer smaller bodies of water), and is part of Oakland County's largest park. Take a pedal boat out on the larger Crooked Lake for some fun, or check out the 12 miles of trails, the Wint Nature Center, the archery range, or play a bit of volleyball. There's a boat launch too. Part of the Oakland County Parks system, residents can buy a daily pass ($5) or an annual permit ($30). Entry is $12 for non-residents.  

Stony Creek Metropark. Photo Supplied.
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at