10 Things to Know About Visiting Torch Lake in Michigan

Torch Lake
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After I made the move to Chicago, one thing that I was desperately searching for were quick weekend getaways.  I was telling a girlfriend at work about my dilemma, as I couldn’t find anything that I deemed “good” enough.  (That’s the thing about being a travel nurse, you experience so many incredible places, you get quite picky).  She had asked me if I had ever been to Michigan, and when I told her “no”, she told me that I absolutely needed to visit Torch Lake as soon as possible.  So I rented a car, packed my bags, and set off to see what all the fuss was about.  And let me tell you – Michigan is every bit as impressive as any other state I’ve traveled to.


10 Things to Know About Visiting Torch Lake

As I started to plan my trip to Michigan to visit Torch Lake, (I also visited Traverse City which you can read about here), I had a hard time finding any useful information about the lake.  Below you’ll find everything that I wish I had known and useful information to make your trip to Torch Lake the best trip imaginable.

Because Torch Lake can be a destination for a relaxing weekend or a fun day party destination, some of these questions will/won’t apply to you depending on what kind of trip you’re planning to take.  Overall, I’ve tried to keep in mind that people will be visiting for different reasons and have hopefully answered your question, but this post is more tailored to people who are visiting Torch Lake for a day trip or “party” vibe, and less for people looking for a relaxing weekend away.  As always, if I’ve missed anything, please leave a comment and let me know!


1.  What’s So Special About Torch Lake Anyways?

With no shortage of incredible lakes across the US, especially in Michigan where the Great Lakes are, why should you make it a priority to visit Torch Lake?

Torch Lake is 19 miles long, making it Michigan’s longest inland lake and overall second largest inland lake after Houghton Lake.  The water is a beautiful crystal clear blue, and the white sand beaches are the icing on the cake (can you say Caribbean vibes?).  Aside from the beauty of Torch Lake, it’s also an incredibly fun place to visit!  Most uniquely, there’s a part of the lake where you can walk out onto a sandbar in the middle of the lake, and lounge all day with drinks, games, and food!  I’ve never been to or seen a lake that has this type of atmosphere so it was incredible to experience first hand!


2.  Where is Torch Lake?

Torch Lake is located in Northern Michigan, just east of Traverse City and Grand Traverse Bay.  It’s near the Canadian border, but doesn’t touch the Canadian border.  The closest Great Lake is Lake Michigan.


3.  What’s the Best Time to Visit Torch Lake?

Because Northern Michigan experiences all four seasons, including extreme winters; the best time to visit Torch Lake is in the summer.  Preferably July/August, but the swimming season lasts until September.  The average temperature of Torch Lake in the summer is around 64 F (in July the average is 68 F).

If you’re looking for a cozy weekend getaway and you’re not interested in swimming in the lake, then I urge you to rent a cabin on the lake and visit sometime in the fall or winter.  Even if the lake is iced over, it’s not recommended to skate or venture out on the ice due to it being too thin and breaking.


4.  What Should You Bring to Torch Lake?

If you’re planning a day trip to Torch Lake to experience the party on the sandbar (like me), you don’t need much!  There isn’t a place to store your things safely, so everything you bring will either need to stay in the car or stay left alone on the beach.  I urge you to bring a waterproof phone covering to take your phone and credit card out onto the lake.  You’ll want to bring flip flops to wear from the car to the beach (make sure these aren’t valuable as you’ll be leaving them on the beach), or you can wear water shoes and not take them off – although this isn’t necessary as the sand is fine.  Aside from that, all you’ll need is a swimsuit, sunglasses, koozies if you plan to drink, floaties (noodles, etc), and sunscreen!  You can even bring a football or frisbee to toss around or any other water games you want to play.  I’d also bring a cover up and a towel, but plan to leave them in the car.


5.  How Long Should I Stay at Torch Lake?

If you plan to day trip to Torch Lake from Chicago or other nearby cities, you don’t need more than a few hours.  I recommend showing up around 11 am and planning to leave around 4 pm.  If you’d rather make this a relaxing trip, you can stay anywhere from a few days to a week.  The options are endless!


6.  Can I Rent a Boat on Torch Lake?

You can absolutely rent a boat on Torch Lake – and I recommend it!  While you don’t need a boat access the sandbar and hang out with other party goers, it’s definitely useful if you’d like to see more of the lake.  If you’re planning to venture to Torch Lake to be out on the sandbar, then the closest boat rental is Torch Lake Rentals.  Otherwise, I recommend Googling “boat rentals Torch Lake” to see what the closest option to where you’re staying is.


7.  Where Should I Stay on Torch Lake?

If you want to visit Torch Lake for longer than a day, there are tons of rentals along the lake where you can stay.  If you Google, “rentals near Torch Lake” you’ll be given tons of options on where to stay.  Otherwise, you can make the hour drive to Traverse City and stay there instead!  (If you choose to stay in Traverse City, I highly recommend the Old Mission Inn).


8.  Where Do I Park at Torch Lake?

Again, this question applies to those who are looking to walk out to the sandbar and want to park as close as possible.  If you put “12906 Cherry Ave, Rapid City” into your GPS, you’ll be taken to a small parking lot where you can park for free and walk to a public beach by crossing the bridge and heading towards “Lake St” (about a 5-10 min walk).  Or there’s free parking along the street so if you see a spot near “Lake St” (the public beach access), you can snag it to be close by!


9.  What’s the Food Situation Like at Torch Lake?

There are restaurants around Torch Lake, but one of the more unique things about the lake is that there’s a boat that serves food on the lake out on the sandbar!  If you want to eat make sure to bring money with you to order off of the boat and enjoy your meal in the water.


10.  What’s the Alcohol Situation Like at Torch Lake?

If you’re planning to visit the sandbar, you’ll definitely want alcohol!  You can bring your own or stop by a small liquor store (located between the parking lot on Cherry Ave and the bridge you walk over to get to Lake St) where you can purchase alcohol.  If you’re planning an all day event, you may want to consider a floating cooler and put drinks on ice.  Otherwise you can purchase a small waterproof bag and put drinks in it to carry out to the sandbar.  Just remember, no glass!


Torch Lake is a fun and unique experience, one that I hope you get the chance to partake in!  As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment below.


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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  1. Colleen
    August 21, 2022 / 1:39 am

    Stupid question, but can you walk out to the sand bar from this access point? Or you have a big swim? I’m traveling to Torch Lake next week with my kids & really wanted to take them for a quick trip to the sandbar but don’t want to have to rent anything to get to the sandbar. There is very little information and how to get there! Your blog has by far been the most helpful article I’ve come across yet.

    • August 21, 2022 / 7:48 am

      Hi Colleen, thank you for the comment! And I agree with you – when I went I couldn’t find any information about this activity so I’m so glad that you were able to find my page :). So, I’m sure it varies based on the water level, but you can walk out to the sandbar. At times, the water is much higher (waist deep versus ankle deep) so depending on how tall your kids are, you may need to swim at times. The journey is quite short and it isn’t a long swim, but if they are younger you might want to consider floaties. Hope this helps and please let me know if you need anything else!

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