10 Best Reasons Why You Must Visit Torch Lake, Michigan


Modified: August 18, 2021

by Ashley Phillips

Colorful boats dotting the legendary sandbar of Torch Lake, Michigan
©Photo by Mark Cameron from Flickr

Torch Lake offers a piece of the Caribbean in Michigan, and it’s hard to argue why. Its incredibly clear waters are known to change from green to fiery gold to deep turquoise. Additionally, the gorgeous sunsets and stunning views across the lake are a sight to behold. For partygoers and social butterflies, the parties here, in particular, the 4th of July party at Torch Lake Sandbar, can rival those on Caribbean beaches. There are also plenty of fun things to do in the area from water activities like swimming, boating, and snorkeling, to other outdoor activities like camping and hiking.


Indeed, Torch Lake is more than just a beautiful lake tucked between the towns of Northern Michigan. To give you a little more convincing, here are 10 reasons why you must visit this lake.

10 Reasons to Visit Torch Lake

1. It Is One of the Most Beautiful Lakes in the World

Drone view of the beautiful and crystal clear waters of Torch Lake in Michigan

Photo by Mark Cameron from Flickr

How can you say no to one of the clearest lakes in the world? Torch Lake is blessed with crystal clear waters that change into shades of blue and green. Its waters are incredibly clear, which is why it is often comparable to the Caribbean. There’s probably no other lake as pristine as this.


The lake is so beautiful that, in fact, National Geographic once named it the third-most beautiful lake in the world. This Michigan lake has become a favorite place for a weekend with family and friends for many other reasons. Swim the crystal waters, ride a kayak, or set up a beach tent near the lake. There are simply many fun and exciting things to enjoy in and around this beautiful lake.

2. It Is a Playground for Water Sports Enthusiasts

A couple of guys enjoying a jet ski ride on Lake Torch Michigan

Photo by Mark Cameron from Flickr

Torch Lake is more than just its pretty sights and lively parties. This piece of paradise is home to plenty of activities to keep you busy. Swimming and snorkeling in the waters are among the best experiences here. How can you not enjoy crystal clear waters with stunning views? The water quality here is so incredible you can see your toes!


Meanwhile, adventure seekers would be happy to know that motorized sports are popular here. From ski boats to jet skis, get ready to enjoy some splash and waves. Canoeing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, or kayaking are other great options for those who prefer a more relaxed way of cruising along the pristine waters. Beginners can also join sailing lessons to acquaint themselves and learn how to sail in a safe environment guided by experts. There are many boat rentals around Torch Lake, so you can also rent a boat or bring your own since you can find a nearby boat dock or boat launch around the lake.


If you want to fish, you won’t be disappointed. Being the deepest inland lake in Michigan, this crystal clear lake makes for a perfect fishing spot. Anglers can feast on trout, pike, wide-mouth bass, whitefish, and more.

3. It Has an Awesome Sandbar

Colorful boats are anchored around the famous Torch Lake sandbar

Photo by Mark Cameron from Flickr

Apart from its turquoise waters, Torch Lake Michigan is most famous for its two-mile sandbar. The shallow sandbars at the south end are a favorite location for raucous summer parties. During summer, the sandbar is surrounded by colorful boats and flocks of tourists. In addition, Fourth of July parties are some of the most awaited (and often wild) events at Torch Lake Sandbar where both tourists and locals spend the whole day out in the sun. A breathtaking fireworks show concludes the annual festivities.


And besides partying, the sandbar is a great starting point for boating, water skiing, and other water sports. The depth falls steeply from the sandbar, turning the water into a beautiful deep blue.

4. It Is a Great Place to Camp

photo of the Lush dockside of Torch Lake on a very cloudy day

Photo by Mark Cameron from Flickr

Fancy sleeping beside a lake? The lake lets you fall asleep under the stars and wake up to the gentle sound of lapping waves and the sunrise. Whether you like to set up a tent, camp on the boat, or do it RV style, prepare your camping gear as Torch Lake camping is one of the most fun activities to do here.


Torch Grove Campground is the closest spot to the popular south-end sandbars. This campground offers 54 spacious full hook-up sites complete with Wi-Fi and cable access. There is also a bathhouse with five toilets and seven showers for your convenience. Other noteworthy campgrounds include Barnes Park Campground, Honcho Rest Campground, and Rapid River Campground among others.


For day picnics, you can rent cabins or cottages directly near the lake. This lets you enjoy some privacy and easy access to the water.

5. It Has Plenty of Exciting Outdoor Activities

The scenic view of A-Ga-Ming golf club in Torch Lake, Michigan

Photo by Rachel Kramer from Flickr

The activities to enjoy in Torch Lake Michigan go beyond its waters. There are plenty of outdoor sports that you can enjoy at the lake park along with the surrounding spectacular views.


Biking: Ride a bike and explore this side of town on lightly traveled roads with scenic views of farms and orchards. The lake has beautiful and easy bike trails surrounded by rolling hills and lush forests. If you need to refuel, there are great food stop options along the way. For bike rentals, Wheels and Revolution Bike Shop both have a variety available.

Hiking: To enjoy nature more, walk and hike the various trails around Torch Lake. From easy trails to more vigorous paths, there’s a perfect trail to suit your skills. For the best spot, visit the Grass River Nature Area that boasts 1,100 acres of forest, lakes, rivers, and open meadows.

Horseback Riding: Want to give horseback riding a try? Sandy’s Stables has you covered! Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, people at Sandy’s will make sure you have a grand time. This 18-acre land of lush pastures and riding trails offers pony rides for young riders under 8 years old. There are also lessons for juniors ages 5-8.

Skydiving: For the more adventurous souls, skydive at 120 mph with Skydive Charlevoix. This experience will give you amazing views of Lake Michigan above the sky.

6. The Dining Experience Is Divine 

Chicken wings with French Fries from the table of Torch Lake Cafe

Photo from Torch Lake Cafe’s official Facebook account

Dining with overlooking views of Torch Lake’s pristine waters? It sounds like a tempting offer! Torch Lake Cafe is among the popular spots to enjoy good food and an inviting atmosphere. Offering fresh meals from breakfast, lunch to dinner, the cafe is a crowd favorite for many reasons.


On the other hand, if you want to enjoy cocktails with live and vibrant music, head to the Deep Blue bar. This rooftop bar promises to make your nights fun with good food and drinks.


If you’re imagining waking up to fresh and homemade breakfasts, guests at Torch Lake Bed and Breakfast are in for a treat. This B&B serves hot and delicious food, making sure every guest enjoys an unforgettable experience.


For a memorable dining experience, try The Dockside. This is a famous boat-to-dinner restaurant located at the mouth of Clam River has one of the best spots to catch the breathtaking sunset in the area. Boaters can simply pull right up to The Dockside and grab something to eat.


Other excellent dining options include Blue Pelican, Shorts Brewery, The Rowe Inn, Stafford’s Weathervane, Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, and others.

7. There’s Fun Shopping to Do 

Handmade crafts and bags on sale at Adams Madams

Photo from Adams Madams official Facebook page

When visiting this Michigan lake, make sure to bring home some souvenir items to remember the experience. Adams Madams is a great shopping option for some local artworks, handmade crafts, bags, books, and other fun items. Whether you’re looking for trendy items or unique antique pieces, Torch Lake is home to a variety of shops for your pleasure.


If you’re visiting with the family, make sure to swing by Brownwood Acres. Famous for dried cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and other cherry-related items, Brownwood is a great stop for families. Aside from that, there’s a tea room where you can enjoy a light lunch overlooking a porch. On Sundays, there is a flea market for everyone to enjoy and shop for locally made goods. On top of that, there’s a candy counter for kids and those with a sweet tooth!


Meanwhile, the King Orchards Farmer’s Market is the place to see for some fresh produce shopping. From seasonal products, cheese items, a selection of wine, and fresh seafood, you’ll be happy to spend hours here.


Aside from that, you’ll be happy to know that Torch Lake Michigan is home to several malls and department stores. Get all your department store needs at Grand Traverse Mall. To get there, head to the south end of Traverse City. Other great shopping centers and boutiques are The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, The Pear Tree, Bachmann’s Store, and Stuff & Such among others.


8. It Is Huge and Long—Plenty of Space for Different Activities

The long and deep Torch Lake in Michigan

Photo by Notorious4life from Wikimedia Commons

Stretching 19 miles long, Torch Lake is the longest inland lake in Michigan. Aside from that, it is also the second-largest inland lake with approximately 18,770 acres of vast land. Going as deep as nearly 300 feet, the famous lake in Michigan is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. This makes it perfect for wakeboarding, waterskiing, jet skiing, and other sports. There are plenty of Torch Lake rentals that offer paddleboards, jet skis, pontoon boats, and even fat-tire bikes.


On the other hand, for those who prefer staying on land, there are other sightseeing and activity opportunities in the area. Go golfing with a view or hike at the trails around the lake itself to see its beautiful waters from a different perspective. Feeling lucky? Head to the casinos and hit the tables!


Torch Lake is so deep that even in the summer it stays quite cold. Despite that, it usually doesn’t freeze in the winter, allowing you to enjoy its waters year-round. The nearby Shanty Creek Resort also provides different winter activities like skiing, sledding, and snowboarding. In autumn, the beautiful fall color of the foliage surrounding the lake brings out the beauty of its turquoise waters.

9. It Has Many Public Access Points

A crowd of visitors having a grand time at the sandbar

Photo by Mark Cameron from Flickr

Is Torch Lake Michigan publicly accessible? Yes! For such a beautiful and famous lake, it is easily accessible to the public. Take note that owning property around this Michigan lake is very expensive. Prices of homes on the “sunset side” are said to be ridiculously high, which can deter some tourists into thinking that one has to spend so much to see this gorgeous body of water.


Luckily, anyone can enjoy the natural beauty of this gem even if you’re not a property holder! In fact, there are 48 public access points along its 41-mile shoreline, most of which are street ends. So whether you’re coming from Eastport in Antrim County or Forest Home Township, getting to the lake should be a breeze.

10. It Is Very Safe and Family-Friendly

The gorgeous sunset reflecting on the clear waters

Photo by Deb Nystrom from Flickr

Torch Lake may be a popular party spot, but don’t let this put you off. The lake may be an excellent host to sandbar parties but it is also an ideal place for family trips. The surrounding towns are not just beautiful but more importantly, they are safe. You can bring your kids and enjoy walking around the streets or stop by great restaurants and cafes after swimming!


The neighborhood and people in Torch Lake are very warm and welcoming to visitors. They also celebrate a summer festival every year, which makes this an excellent time to visit. Enjoy delicious food, street games, and magic shows. Meanwhile, every 4th of July, there’s a massive fireworks show over at the south end of the lake. This should make a 4th of July family getaway more special and fun!

Where To Stay In Torch Lake Michigan

They say spending a day in Torch Lake is a good idea, but staying for the night is better. For the best hotels and vacation rentals around this lake, here are your options:

  • The Torch Lake Bed and Breakfast (Price starts at 378 USD): This is a famous beachfront bed and breakfast in Central Lake, Michigan. Torch Lake B&B offers cozy and comfortable rooms with free WiFi, upgraded amenities, and parking. Aside from complimentary breakfast, there’s a host of activities to enjoy here. To name a few, you can try kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and fishing.

  • The Legend Cottage Inn (Price starts at 216 USD): The inn has clean and comfortable rooms with two queen-sized beds, a private bathroom, and extras like a flat-screen TV, mini-fridge, and a microwave. Its location is a favorite among travelers who want to enjoy the lake and the nearby golf course and ski resorts like Shanty Creek.

  • Grand Victorian B&B Inn (Price starts at 149 USD): A beautiful Victorian-style B&B nestled in a garden? Yes, please! The Grand Victorian B&B has interiors that make you feel like you’re in a period film and a terrace that opens up to a lush garden. Here, guests will wake up to relaxing mornings complete with a full English or Irish breakfast. For fun activities, head to the lake, go golfing, or explore downtown Bellaire.

  • Torch Lake Home (Price starts at 1,368 USD): If you’re looking for vacation rentals in Torch Lake, this one offers 116 feet of private blue water access. This accommodation offers four spacious bedrooms, a kitchen, a laundry area, and a wide lawn that overlooks the lake. It is the perfect choice for families and large groups who want a bigger and more private space that doesn’t lack fun activities and picturesque views.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where Is Torch Lake Located?

This beautiful lake is nestled in the township of Antrim County in Michigan, USA, just around 27 kilometers northeast from Traverse City. Surrounded by several townships, including Central Lake, Forest Home, Helena, and Milton, Torch Lake is among the gems of Michigan.

How Do You Get to Torch Lake?

If you’re heading to Detroit for the week or a couple of days, visiting this lake makes for a good day trip. With a 357-kilometer distance from the capital, there are plenty of ways to reach this famous lake in Michigan.


Driving from Detroit to the lake is a better option for budget travelers since it’s cheaper. Take the Interstate 75 from Detroit then exit at Grayling to get to Torch Lake. However, take note that the driving distance is 420 kilometers and travel time takes around four to five hours depending on the traffic condition and season. Additionally, driving to the lake from Detroit will cost about 25 to 40 USD.


On the other hand, the quickest way is by taking a flight from Detroit Airport to Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City. The travel time takes only an hour and flights are around 150 USD. Then from Traverse City, you can simply take a cab which will take another 45 minutes to reach the lake. This may be the more expensive option, but it is perfect for those who want to get there immediately and make the most out of their time.

Why Is Torch Lake So Clear?

This is a common question especially for first-time visitors to Torch Lake. The answer lies in the sediments at the bottom of the lake, which are primarily calcium carbonate. Combine it with the low organic content in the lake and there’s nothing to darken the water’s color. This is what makes the lake water look so crystal clear. Furthermore, most waters in the Caribbean also have the same composition of limestone with low organic content. Can’t imagine how clear the water is? You need to visit soon!

Is It Safe to Swim in Torch Lake?

It is! The clear water quality makes it very easy and safe to swim in and do other activities. Torch Lake is an ideal swimming spot for all ages. Aside from that, the sandbars around the lake provide great areas to relax, play, and wade. As long as guests follow safety precautions, swimming in Torch Lake will be a safe and enjoyable experience.

Does Torch Lake Have a Beach?

Yes, but Torch Lake beaches are not the typical white sand beaches you imagine, rather, these public beaches are rocky and not exactly the best places to swim in. For a more picturesque beach outing, the nearby Lake Michigan might be a better option.

How to Get to Torch Lake Sandbar?

Torch Lake Sandbar is found on the southern edge of Torch Lake, and you have to take a boat to reach the sandbar as it is a few hundred meters away from the main shores of the lake.

How Deep Is Torch Lake in Michigan?

Torch Lake is Michigan’s deepest inland lake with an average depth of 111 feet and a maximum depth of 285 feet.

When is the best time to visit Torch Lake?

If you are a party lover, there is no better time to visit the lake than its annual 4th of July bash at Torch Lake Sandbar. Meanwhile, if you’re planning to head to Torch Lake for a swim, the best time to visit will be from July to Sepember when the waters are warmer.  

Is Torch Lake Part of Lake Michigan?

Torch Lake was once part of the larger Lake Michigan. However, it separated upon the formation of the famous sandbar. Nonetheless, the lake is still part of the Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, a waterway that includes 14 lakes and rivers that empty into Lake Michigan.

Is It Possible To Ride A Boat From Lake Bellaire To Torch Lake?

Sitting on the east of Lake Michigan is Lake Bellaire. If you’re vacationing in Lake Bellaire, you can swing by the lake or other nearby bodies of water. Small boats can and are allowed to navigate the majority of the lakes comprising the Lower Chain. These lakes included in the Lower Chain are Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake, Torch Lake, Lake Skegemog, and Elk Lake near Elk Rapids.

Interesting Trivia About Torch Lake

  • Among the lakes in the Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed, Torch Lake is the biggest and bluest.

  • Its name is derived from the native word “Waswaaganing.” In English, it translates to “lake of the torches.”

  • Torch Lake could have been a part of Lake Michigan. Interestingly, a sandbar formed in between, separating the two.

  • The Chain of Lakes supplies 60% of the surface water of Grand Traverse Bay.

  • The crystal-clear waters of the lake are not just for picturesque views. The pristine waters also help swimming birds, such as the Common Loom, hunt better and easier.

  • The waves in this lake can both be friendly to challenging and surfers would be happy to know that the waves here can reach over four feet high.

  • Torch Lake Michigan is so massive that it doesn’t freeze even during winter. Its vast volume allows it to store a lot of heat.

  • A lot of famous personalities and celebrities adore this lake in Michigan. Singer Kid Rock’s hit song “All Summer Long” describes the lake. The lyrics to the song are said to be describing the lake, especially its sandbar. Other celebrities who call Torch Lake their home include Michael Moore and Eminem.

Time to Enjoy a Slice of Caribbean Paradise!

You don’t need to travel far to experience crystal waters, Torch Lake offers a piece of Caribbean paradise in the country. Imagine pristine and deep waters, amazing sandbars, delicious meals by the dock, and other exciting activities to enjoy. All these and more make Torch Lake a perfect weekend getaway with family and friends!