Beach road trips

BORED? WALK Find lakeside fun at Orchard Beach in Manistee, Michigan.

BORED? WALK Find lakeside fun at Orchard Beach in Manistee, Michigan. Photograph: Julia Borcherts

That cross-country road trip to Big Sur filled with rousing games of Padiddle between stops at 7-Elevens for beef jerky logs and Cheez-Its? With gas prices higher than Tatum O’Neal, your long-distance journey is not so much going to happen this summer. But that doesn’t mean you have to completely curtail a beach-vacation road trip; beautiful shorelines are as close as 50 miles away, in towns just as charming as anything you’ll find out West. These eight sandy, sunny Lake Michigan destinations are easy on the gas tank, while still scratching your itch to get the hell out of Dodge. And by Dodge, we mean soul-crushingly cramped city beaches.

Don't be a brat

Taste the good life on the beaches of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Not your average Joe

St. Joseph's Silver Beach wins the medal for sweetest sand.

Shore looks good

It's nothing but nets, soft sand and infinite blue horizons in Muskegon, Michigan.

I think we're alone now

South Haven's secluded shores lure crowd-weary city-dwellers.

Burgeoning burg

Watch out, Saugatuck: Manistee has the goods to become Michigan's next tourist-clogged beach town.

Built to scale

Wisconsin's Whitefish Dunes is packed to the gills with cliff-side beaches, hikes and cheap eats.

Near, but not dear

Less than a 90-minute trip from the Loop, Michigan's Harbor Country is light on the wallet, heavy on the sun and booze.

Indiana jonesing

Hit the Hoosier state's desertlike Dunes National Lakeshore, a shoreline with multiple personalities.