25+ Best Inland Lakes in Michigan: Boating & Fishing

Summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy Michigan’s incredible natural resources. With over 11,000 miles of shoreline, Michigan is home to many different lakes that offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. From fishing and swimming on Torch Lake to kayaking and canoeing on Lake Charlevoix, Michigan lakes have something for everyone.

best lakes in michigan

The Great Lakes real estate makes up most of Michigan’s lakefront property, but the state also has thousands of smaller inland lakes. Many of these lakes were created by glaciers during the last ice age. They are now considered some of the best Michigan vacations, and they are now popular destinations for fishing, swimming, and boating.

In addition to their recreational value, lakes also play an essential role in the state’s ecosystem. They serve as a home for fish, and other aquatic species, as well as help, regulate the climate. As a result, Michigan’s lakes are an essential part of the state’s natural landscape.

Best Inland Lakes in Michigan for Boating & Swimming

Multiple inland lakes with beautiful sandy beaches and warm, clean water are great for swimming and boating. Some of the most popular inland lakes in Michigan are below.

1. Torch Lake in Antrim County

Torch Lake is located in Northern Michigan and is one of the clearest inland lakes in Michigan. It’s also the deepest inland lake in Michigan (over 285 feet) and was formed from glacial lakes. Torch Lake is wildly popular, especially its sandbar, a must-see when visiting. It’s the closest you will get to the Caribbean Sea in Michigan, as far as blue water and white sand.

Best Lakes in Michigan

Some of Michigan’s elite have houses on Torch Lake, including Eminem, Kid Rock, and Michael Moore.

2. Lake Charlevoix in Charlevoix County

Lake Charlevoix was named one of the most beautiful lakes in America by USA Today, and for a good reason. It’s one of the cleanest inland lakes and is perfect for swimming and boating. Check out Young State Park, a beach on Lake Charlevoix that can’t be missed.

There’s also a pier where you can enjoy the incredible views. There are also downtown coffee shops that overlook lake Charlevoix as well making this lake a perfect spot to spend the day with your partner in Northern Michigan.

3. Lake Leelanau in Leelanau County

Lake Leelanau is one of the most popular inland lakes in Michigan in the Traverse City vicinity. It’s separated into two different parts, North and South Lake Leelanau. The smaller North Lake is where you’ll find the sandy beaches and quaint village shops and wineries. Let’s not forget about the best Leelanau peninsula wineries in case you need more convincing. You can even boat up to some of the wineries.

4. Elk Lake in Antrim County

There’s something so alluring about a freshwater lake on a hot summer day. The water is cool and refreshing, the perfect place to take a swim, paddle a canoe, or go for a leisurely boat ride. And in Michigan, we’re lucky to have thousands of Michigan lakes to choose from. Antrim County is located in Northern Michigan.

5. Glen Lakes in Leelanau County

Big Glen Lake and Little Glen Lake are popular lakes in Michigan. The sparkling water and sandy beaches make it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors. M-22 actually goes right between these two lakes.

If you are looking for adventure, make sure to check out The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore which is nearby. Check out the sand dunes climb at the national lakeshore right across the street for amazing, one-of-a-kind, breathtaking views. You can see Glen Lakes from atop the dune climb.

6. Lake Bellaire in Antrim County

Lake Bellaire is one of the busiest lakes in Michigan during the summer. It’s located near some of the best golf courses, wineries, and breweries in Northern Michigan.

Here’s something many people aren’t aware of:

You can go boating from Lake Bellaire to Torch Lake. The beautiful Clam River flows through both Bellaire and Torch Lake, making for an ideal day trip. You can rent boats at either location or take your own vessel to explore this wonderful expanse of the waterway.

Here’s a local option for boat rentals: Northaire Resort

7. Burt Lake in Cheboygan County

One of the most popular lakes for avid boaters and swimmers in Michigan is this one. Burt Lake got its name from William Burt, who was part of a federal survey team during 1840-1843. Burt Lake is over 20,000 acres with plenty of room to explore. It’s a great place to swim, enjoy day-kayaking, and canoe until your arms are sore. There are also several sandbars that are perfect for picnicking or just hanging out with friends. There’s also the Burt Lake State Park which has a beach, campground, and hiking trails.

Don’t just visit Burt Lake during the summer months. It’s also a beautiful place to visit in the fall when the leaves are changing color.

8. Mullett Lake in Cheboygan County

Mullett Lake is another large lake in Michigan that’s a popular tourist destination for summer recreational opportunities. Its basin consists of 200 billion gallons of water.

Mullett Lake has been noted for its various names. The lake takes its current name from John Mullet, who worked with William A Burt on the federal survey team making this area visible to developers and settlers starting around the 1840s until 1843.

9. Houghton Lake in Roscommon County

Houghton Lake is Michigan’s largest inland lake, with 20,044 acres of water and 102 miles of shoreline. Visitors can enjoy boating, water skiing, tubing, and swimming. There’s camping at Houghton Lake State Park, which offers more than 1,000 campsites.

Houghton Lake is a busy lake for boating and summer vacationers looking to jet ski, windsurf, and paddle board.

10. Higgins Lake in Roscommon County

Higgins Lake is one of the most stunning locations in the state of Michigan. The lake is nearly 10 miles long and has a maximum depth of 195 feet. South Higgins State Park offers campsites for those looking to go camping on their visit. Higgins Lake is also one of the clearest lakes in Michigan, with an average clarity of 22 feet. It has crystal blue waters and is surrounded by forests.

11. Crystal Lake in Benzie County

Crystal Lake is located in northwest Michigan and is one of the clearest lakes in Michigan. There are several public beaches on Crystal Lake, as well as a number of private resorts with private beaches for their guests.

best inland lakes in Michigan for boating

12. Silver Lake in Oceana County

Silver Lake is a popular spot for swimming and boating. There is beach access and plenty of nightlife restaurants to quench your palate in the vicinity. You can also hike the sand dunes that partially surround Silver Lake.

Silver Lake State Park is also close by that offers biking trails and picnicking areas.

13. Orchard Lake in Oakland County

Another one of the top best lakes in Michigan is located right in southeast Michigan. Orchard Lake is the third biggest lake in Oakland County, with 788 acres of beautiful water that is popular for fishing and boating. The lake is also home to a number of private schools, including the Cranbrook Educational Community.

There are boat launches and beaches on Orchard Lake, as well as a marina.

14. Cass Lake in Oakland County

This is the largest lake in Oakland County, with 1280 acres of water. The lake is great for ice fishing in the winter. During the summer months, you can boat to nearby restaurants in Oakland County that line the lake. Oakland County is one of the wealthiest counties in the State of Michigan, so you’ll be sure to see some mega-mansions on your boating excursions.

15. Long Lake in Oakland County

Long Lake in Oakland County may not be one of the biggest lakes in the County, but it does boast 146 acres of beautiful water. The lake is busy during weekends in the summer as people come to enjoy the sun and water. Many executives live on this lake which makes it a great lake to do some sightseeing.

16. Crooked Lake in Emmet County

Crooked Lake in Emmet County is considered one of the starting points of the Inland Waterway that extends from Petoskey and Crooked Lake all the way to Lake Huron through a 40-mile stretch of lakes and streams. The waterway is very popular and can become congested in the summertime.

17. Kent Lake in Oakland County

The second biggest lake in Oakland County, Kent Lake, is 1200 acres of beautiful water. The Kensington Metropark is located on the shores of Kent Lake and is a popular spot in the summer for not just families but work picnics. Many local businesses hold corporate events there on the grounds and pavilion. There are public beaches on Kent Lake and also a waterpark.

18. Loon Lake in Oakland County

Loon Lake is a small 243-acre lake located in Waterford. The lake is surrounded by neighborhoods and houses with private beach access.

best lakes in Michigan for swimming

Why Are These the Best Inland Lakes for Boating & Swimming?

When most people think of Michigan, they think of the Great Lakes. And while the Great Lakes is certainly a major part of what makes Michigan such a great state, they are not the only lakes that the state has to offer. Inland lakes offer a different but equally enjoyable experience. Here are just a few reasons why inland lakes in Michigan are the best for boating and swimming.

Inland Lakes in Michigan are Less Populated

Inland lakes are typically much less crowded than the Great Lakes. This means that you can enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere without having to worry about large waves or other boats. 

Inland Lake Water is Warmer

Inland lakes are also typically much warmer than the Great Lakes. This is because they are not as deep, so they absorb less heat from the sun. This makes them perfect for swimming and enjoying other water activities.

  • The average temperature of inland lakes in Michigan is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average temperature of the Great Lakes is only about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Inland Lakes in Michigan are More Shallow

One of the reasons that inland lakes are warmer is that they are more shallow. This also makes them safer for swimming, as there are no sudden drop-offs. In addition, shallow water warms up more quickly in the sun, so you can enjoy swimming earlier in the season.

best inland lakes in Michigan for fishing

Best Inland Lakes in Michigan for Fishing

1. Lake Gogebic in Ontonagon County

Lake Gogebic is as rural as it gets for beautiful scenery. It’s located in the upper peninsula and is in two different time zones. It’s the largest lake in the upper peninsula, with over 13,300 acres of great fishing. While it may be a little out of the way, it’s well worth the drive for those looking for a true north woods experience.

2. Round Lake in Antrim County

Round Lake is another clear inland lake that’s great for swimming with a sandy bottom. It’s also a popular lake for fishing because of the variety of fish that call Round Lake home, including Bass, Northern Pike, and Walleye.

3. Bass Lake in Grand Traverse County

The beautiful lakes in Michigan are vast in the state. Bass Lake is yet another one of the many gems in Michigan. The chances are good that you’ll find what you are looking for in this 343-acre fishing spot. With 29 feet of depth, there’s plenty of room to cast and catch multiple types of fish species, including bluegills, largemouth basses (including northern pike), rock bass walleye & yellow perch.

4. Portage Lake in Houghton County

Portage Lake is located near Michigan Tech University, which means it’s a popular spot for students during the summer months. If you’re looking for a great place to fish for Lake Sturgeon, head over to the Superior side of things. With easy access across from Lake Superior and tons of feeder streams like the Sturgeon River, you’ll be in good luck.

There are plenty of historical places around as well, including Downtown Houghton, which offers great shopping opportunities when you are done fishing for the day. Tourists will also enjoy themselves here because there are lots going on all year round. This area looks beautiful at night when lit up by lights from shorelines surrounding different islands. It’s one of my favorite lakes.

5. Wakefield Lake in Gogebic County

Wakefield Lake is a popular destination for lake trout fishing. The lake is also home to several resorts and campgrounds. Fishing in the upper peninsula of Michigan, surrounded by forests, makes this lake a must-see for tourists in the area.

6. Manistique Lake in Luce / Mackinac County

Manistique Lake is the seventh largest lake in Michigan, with over 10,000 acres of water. It’s located north of the Mackinac Bridge. It’s very rural, making it a good option for fishing.

7. Black Lake in Cheboygan / Presque Isle County

Black Lake is located in Cheboygan County. In the summer months, the lake is popular for fishing Trout. Black Lake has good water clarity along with easy access for anglers.

Why Are These the Best Inland Lakes in Michigan for Fishing?

Many people don’t know that the Great Lakes aren’t the only place to fish in Michigan. In fact, some of the best fishing spots are inland lakes. Here’s why:

There Are Fewer Crowds on Inland Lakes

Inland lakes tend to be less crowded than lakes located near population centers. This means that you’re more likely to find a spot where the fish are biting. In addition, most inland lakes are located in natural areas that haven’t been developed for recreation, which means the fish aren’t as stressed, and they’re more likely to bite.

Multiple Fishing Locations on Inland Lakes

Another reason to love inland lakes is that they offer a variety of fishing opportunities. You can fish from the shore, from a boat, or even from a kayak or canoe. And if you’re willing to hike a little bit, you can find some truly remote spots where you can enjoy some peace and quiet while you cast your line.

Some Fishing Competitions Held on Inland Lakes in Michigan

Another great reason to go fishing on an inland lake in Michigan is that there are many competitions held throughout the year. These competitions give anglers of all skill levels a chance to test their skills against others and win prizes. If you are looking for a way to improve your fishing skills, competing in one of these competitions is a great way to do it.

You can bring your own gear or rent it from the marina. National fishing competitions now come to Michigan because the state has some of the best fishing in the country. You can use the Michigan Department of Natural Resources searchable database to locate upcoming fishing tournaments.

Variety of Fish Species Available

Finally, the best inland lakes in Michigan offer a variety of fish species, so no matter what your preferred catch is, you’re sure to find it in an inland lake. From bass and pike to trout and salmon, there’s something for everyone.

11 Popular Types of Fish in Michigan Lakes

  1. Lake Trout
  2. Brown Trout
  3. Rainbow Trout
  4. Salmon
  5. Smallmouth Bass
  6. Northern Pike
  7. Largemouth Bass
  8. Muskellunge
  9. Yellow Perch
  10. Walleye
  11. Sturgeon

Related Questions & FAQs:

Can You Boat from One Side of Michigan to the Other?

Yes, you can boat from one side of Michigan to the other. There is a waterway that extends from Petoskey and Crooked Lake all the way to Lake Huron through a 40-mile stretch of water. The Michigan Inland Waterway also goes through the Soo Locks.

Are There Family-Friendly Lakes in Michigan?

are there family friendly lakes in michigan

Yes. All of the lakes mentioned above are family friendly. Kent Lake, Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake, and Lake Leelanau are great family-friendly lakes. Many of them have public beaches and parks that are perfect for a day out with the kids. Kayaking and canoeing are great leisure ways to explore the lakes. You can bring your own gear or rent it from the marinas. Some of the best kayaking in Michigan is located on the lakes mentioned above.

Do I Need a Boating License in Michigan?

Yes, you need a boating license in Michigan if you want to operate a boat. You can get your boating license online or from a variety of locations around the state.

Should I Visit a State Park or a National Park?

If you want to see the Great Lakes, then visiting a state park might be the better option. However, if you’re looking to hike and camp in the woods, then visiting a national park might be a better option. No matter what you decide to do, Michigan has something for everyone. Visit one of these lakes this summer and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

BG Vance

Founder and editor of Inside Michigan, I started this site as a passion project for people who live in or are visiting the state of Michigan. I'm a lifelong resident of Michigan highlighting the best attractions and hidden gems Michigan has to offer. More about me...

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