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Camping in Northern Michigan – Our Thoughts on 5 Campgrounds
Camping in Northern Michigan – Our Thoughts on 5 Campgrounds

Camping in Northern Michigan – Our Thoughts on 5 Campgrounds

Camping in Northern Michigan – Our Thoughts on 5 Campgrounds

While waiting on our hot water heater to arrive and figuring out our own electricity source, we stuck to camping at campgrounds. Camping in Northern Michigan provides lots of options as you travel the coast of Lake Michigan. We stayed at 5 different campgrounds on our first trip. In our opinion, these are the pros and cons of each destination.

Table of Contents

Initial Custom Van Build Design
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Relaxing in our newly renovated custom van

Holland State Park

Camping in Northern Michigan - Holland State Park Campground
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Holland State Park Campground

Pros

  • Right on the beach (prepare for sand)
  • Clean restrooms and showers
  • Paved sites (easy for van parking, not great for tents)
  • OneWheels and bikes are allowed
  • Dogs are allowed
  • Picnic tables at each site
  • Power Available

Cons

  • No shade (very open)
  • No individual fire-pits (have to bring your own or use one of the community pits)
  • Long wait to get into the campground on summer afternoons (same entrance as the beach)
  • Very busy
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beach
  • Alcohol is prohibited

Overall, we didn’t enjoy Holland State Park as much as we thought we would. Honey wasn’t able to join us on the beach and all boards were not permitted in the water. That means no paddle boarding, kiteboarding, surfing, or skim boarding. This wasn’t the place for us.

Ludington State Park

Camping in Northern Michigan - Ludington State Park Sunset
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Ludington State Park

Pros

  • Clean restrooms and showers
  • Alcohol is permitted
  • OneWheels and bikes allowed
  • Dogs are allowed
  • You can park and swim anywhere along the road leading out to the state park
  • Lots of hiking trails
  • Firepits and picnic tables at each site
  • Power Available

Cons

  • Very busy
  • 2-mile hike to the light house
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beach

After just one night in Ludington, we would like to spend a little more time exploring the hiking trails and beach near the light house. Although Honey wasn’t allowed on the beach in the park, she was allowed on a beach south of town, so we might be back for some more exploring in the near future.

Empire Township Campground

Camping in Northern Michigan - Empire Township Campground
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Pros

  • Extremely quiet
  • Very large campsites
  • Firepits and picnic tables at each site
  • Dogs are allowed at the campground
  • Right next to the airport (great if you love airplanes like Andrew)
  • Power Available
  • Lots of shade and places to hang hammocks and clothlines

Cons

  • Pit toilettes (relatively clean)
  • Coin showers (a bit rustic)

This was our favorite campground on our trip up the west coast of Michigan. We loved the little town of Empire. It is also a great location for kiteboarding, cycling, and hiking. We will definitely be back for many more adventures.

Leelanau State Park

Camping in Northern Michigan - Leelanau State Park Campground
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Leelanau State Park Campground

Pros

  • Beautiful views of Lake Michigan (right next to the lake)
  • Very quiet
  • Large campsites
  • Fire pits and Picnic tables at each site
  • Lots of shade
  • Dogs are allowed at the campground and on the beach
  • Very close to Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Cons

  • Pit Toilettes (very dirty, no locks, super disgusting)
  • No Showers
  • No Power

Although the toilettes were extremely disgusting and there were only primitive campsites, we would definitely like to return to Leelanau State Park. The beauty of each campsite and the small coastal town of Newport makes it a desirable place to return to.

Traverse City State Park

Traverse City State Park at Sunrise
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Traverse City State Park Sunrise

Pros

  • Clean restrooms and showers
  • Close to the beach
  • OneWheels and Bikes are allowed
  • Direct connection to the TART (Traverse Area Recreation Trail)
  • Fire pits and picnic tables at each site
  • Lots of shade
  • Power Available
  • Dogs are allowed at the Campground
  • A short drive or ride to Old Mission Point

Cons

  • Very loud
  • Directly next to the highway (the beach is on the other side)
  • Very busy
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beach

In comparison to the rest of the campgrounds on this trip, Traverse City State Park was similar to Holland State Park. We really wanted to like it, but we just didn’t. Although it is situated directly on the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay, it is across a busy high way and the campground is very large and crowded. If you are looking to get away, this is not the place to do it.

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Final Thoughts After Our First Trip

After our first trip, we were in love with the freedom that JoVanna provided. Jade cycled from campground to campground, while Andrew drove to the next kiteboarding spot and scouted new destinations. However as you can see in the picture above, we are in need of some storage solutions. After 7 days on the road, it was hard to keep our food and clothing from going everywhere.

Since our initial trip camping in Northern Michigan in July of 2020, JoVanna has been through many remodels, check out her transformation and thanks for following. ~KiteBikeVan

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Holland to Harbor Springs – Jo"Van"Na

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