ADJACENT TO BENTON HARBOR: Just north of Benton Harbor’s Jean Klock Beach is Berrien County’s quiet Rocky Gap Beach, with an overlook and 1,100 feet of lake frontage. Directly south of Jean Klock is St. Joe’s Tiscornia Park, with sand dunes, a 16-acre park, and the North Pier Lighthouse, authorized at the same time Chicago’s lighthouse was in 1907.

JUST SOUTH OF BENTON HARBOR: A little further south stands St. Joe’s Lions Park Beach and Township Beach, both charming. Continuing south, just off I-94, lies Grand Mere State Park’s beach. This mile-long, sweeping beach has big dunes, deep sand blowouts, and a boat launch, all fronting a 985-acre state park with three inland lakes, lots of trails, and picnic areas. Not only is it undeveloped and sparsely populated even on the nicest days, it’s also one of the few southwest Michigan beaches that officially allows dogs. But getting to the waterfront is no—ahem—walk on the beach: be ready for at least a half-mile trail hike and then another half-mile trek over steep sandy dunes. Once there, though, the magnificent strand is worth the effort.

Still further south lies Warren Dunes State Park beach. In addition to being gorgeous, the spacious park offers respite for beachgoers weary of the bigger summer crowds at the closer-to-Chicago Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Warren Dunes sports two and a half miles of beach backed by 1,900 acres of dunes, wetlands, and trails. Enjoy the sprawling beach, or climb a dune and sit back and listen to the singing sands as Shaun White wannabees sandboard downhill. Then chuckle while you reflect on the fact that you paid a $5 entry fee while the schmucks paid $20 to get into the Hoosier dune enclave.

BETWEEN WARREN DUNES AND THE INDIANA BORDER: There are also smaller municipal, township, and county beaches stretching from the Indiana border to Warren Dunes: Cherry Beach, Union Pier, New Buffalo, Lincoln Township and Harbert are some. But watch where you drop your towel—many of these lesser-known beaches abut private ones, and people are possessive. While it’s OK to walk along the water’s edge, it’s illegal to hike beyond the high-water line without permission; be prepared to hear howls of “Get off my beach!” if you stray.