Lake Michigan’s beaches are beautiful in autumn!
Discover the best fall beach destinations in Southwest Michigan
Summer isn’t the only time to visit Lake Michigan’s beaches in Southwest Michigan. Fall days and lake temperatures are often warm from September until early October. Then from October through November, pull on a sweater, fleece, or jacket and enjoy the wilder Big Lake waves and less-crowded beaches from golden sunrise to star-studded night. For many, fall is their favorite beach season. Come see why.
Visit nine Lake Michigan beach towns
If you’re planning an autumn getaway, solo retreat, or fall color tour along the lakeshore, add these Lake Michigan beach towns and their beaches to your itinerary.
Grand Mere State Park | 7337 Thornton Drive
Grand Mere boasts sweeping dunes, deep blowouts, a mile-long sandy beach, and hikes beneath canopies of colorful leaves.
Silver Beach County Park | 101 Broad St.
This is one of Southwest Michigan’s most popular year-round beaches with its 2,450 feet of shoreline from the mouth of the St. Joseph River to Park Street. The park gives you access to the South Pier, and you can walk to the beach from downtown St. Joseph.
Tiscornia Beach Park | 80 Ridgeway St.
Great place to watch freighters, sailboats, and surfers in the fall. Best of all, you can park and walk out onto the North Pier to St. Joseph’s historic lighthouses.
Jean Klock Park | Jean Klock Boulevard, Benton Harbor
This is one of the most beautiful, lesser-used beaches in Southwest Michigan. It is also a trailhead for a 10-mile natural and urban fitness hiking and biking adventure — the trees are autumn showpieces along the way.
Rocky Gap Park | 1100 Rocky Gap Road, Benton Harbor
You will love the panoramic views of Lake Michigan, especially at sunset. This is also a popular rockhounding site due to all the rocks that wash ashore.
Hagar Park | 5440 M-63, Coloma
Enjoy a picnic beneath red and yellow leaves, toss a Frisbee, or send a kite soaring on the beach. Dogs are welcome.
Roadside Park | 6930 Bluestar Highway, Coloma
Small, quiet, dog and kayak-friendly beach in the colorful forested dunes.
New Buffalo Public Beach & Lakefront Park | 200 Marquette Drive
800 feet of sandy beach near the public boat launch and downtown.
Warren Dunes State Park | 12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer
Three miles of beach frontage, including a separate dog-friendly beach. A top pick for its giant dunes and beautiful fall foliage.
Weko Beach | 5237 Lake St., Bridgman
Nestled among 42 acres of wooded dunes, it has 960 feet of sandy beach with some of the area’s favorite fall foliage and water vistas.
Seven favorite fall things to do at our beaches
There are so many ways to fill several fall days in Southwest Michigan. Here are locals’ and visitors’ top picks from high adventures to total relaxation.
Take a fall color tour
Follow the West Michigan Pike routes in this guide. Along the way, visit our pick-your-own and farm markets to gather just-harvested fruits and vegetables, plus bread, jams, desserts, and more for your fall beach picnic. This is also one of the best times of year to look for colorful rocks, beach glass, and fossils along the water’s edge.
Paddle along the shoreline
Most beaches offer easy access to take your canoe, kayak, or SUP from the parking lot to the shoreline. Several also have launch areas on scenic rivers that empty into the big lake. Shoreline paddles give you gorgeous views of fall foliage along the bluffs and across the dunes.
Watch for migratory birds on their Lake Michigan flight path
The migration flight path along Lake Michigan’s shoreline is almost as ancient as the dunes. Fall is a peak time for birdwatching, seeing everything from songbirds and shorebirds to raptors.
Be captivated by Great Lakes freighters and barges
It’s hard not to be drawn to the St. Joseph River and harbor when the big freighters and barges arrive or depart from St. Joseph. Watching these big ships navigate past the railroad swing bridge is especially enthralling. We hope you will also see the big ships at night easing through the channel by spotlight or their lights reflecting in the still harbor waters — it will take your breath away. Fall is the last season to be awed before the gales of November stop the shipping traffic on Lake Michigan until the next spring.
Reel in the big ones from our piers, rivers, and the Big Lake
Pier fishing for feisty salmon, trout, and steelhead is a thrill in Southwest Michigan. You can easily access some of our favorite fishing spots from New Buffalo Public Beach, Silver Beach County Park, Tiscornia Beach, and South Haven’s South Beach.
Go surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving
Many people are surprised to learn that you can surf, snorkel and scuba dive off the coast of Lake Michigan. Calmer days on the Big Lake are best for the latter two watersports, but frequent north and south winds make for surfable waves in the fall. You can often spot surfers from the shore at Lions Park, Silver Beach County Park, and Tiscornia Beach — or go out and ride the waves on your board!
See the best sunsets
It’s a daily ritual to head to any of our beaches to watch the sun sink below Lake Michigan’s horizon in a swath of peach, yellow, lavender, and scarlet colors brightening the evening sky. Even on overcast evenings, you will still find colors and a peaceful ending to your day on our shore.
Stay over at near-the-beach lodgings
Lodgings in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and Stevensville are just minutes from our beaches, resort town shopping, dining, fall festivals, and attractions. It’s a great time of year to get the hotel rate and amenities you want, especially on weekdays.