It only took me six years but I finally camped by the shores of the all five Great Lakes: Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. Surprisingly, I camped in just two states to achieve that bucket list item: Michigan and New York. And, no, I really can’t pick a favorite Great Lake, that’s asking way too much of me, a person who has a deep devotion to any body of water bigger than a rain puddle.
2016: Lake Michigan
My first Great Lake was nabbed at McLain State Park on the Keweenaw Peninsula, up there on the UP of Michigan. I met my friends Rhea and Dave there, who showed me a lot of useful camping tips, since I was a two-week old vagabond at this point. You can probably guess that by the fact that Breeze isn’t exactly level in that site!
The lake was beautiful, and right across that road, so a perfect introduction to Great Lakes camping. And the Keweenaw is a gorgeously wild place to visit, with waterfalls and coastline and lighthouses.
2017: Lake Ontario
Ah, Four Mile State Park in New York, not too far from Niagara Falls. Weird name, but my site wasn’t weird at all. It was kind of in the middle of a field, with four of us figuring out how to distance ourselves simply by using the power poles as site guidelines. I backed up as close as I could safely get to the edge of Lake Ontario.
On a clear day, yes, you can see Toronto across the lake, but it has to be really, really clear. I like this photo better because I can pretend there is no civilization out there beyond the water, just endless blue water and blue skies. You really don’t get how BIG the Great Lakes are until you stand next to them and try to spot the other side.
2017: Lake Superior
My first time at the Porcupine Mountains State Park campground, I got lucky with a waterfront site and it was my birthday, so win/win there. Watching the sunrise and sunset on the water were the highlights of each day and I will admit I kind of cried leaving this sweet little spot.
I came back to Porcupine in 2021, with friends, and while it was earlier in the year (July instead of October), it was still gorgeous and those sunsets were still beautiful.
2020: Lake Huron
I have to give all credit for this awesome lakefront side to my friend, Karen, who did the research and then got me to agree that a dry (no electricity) site would be worth it for the view. She was definitely right! Straits State Park is right at the edge of Lake Huron where it meets up with Lake Michigan and our views of it were spectacular.
There was a little beach just below our sites and I loved hearing the water lapping the shore at night. And one day, I took the ferry out to Mackinac Island, just so I could say I’d been on the waters of Lake Huron.
2021: Lake Erie
The last great lake was waiting for me last week when I pulled into Lake Erie State Park, tired from a week of hot and humid weather in eastern Ohio. The lake welcomed me with a steady, cool breeze that lasted two days and cooled down the nights below 70F. Ah, heaven in a campground.
Every night, I watched the sunset from my chair (moved around to the back of the Alto) or from inside, reclining on the back couch. What a show the lake put on, with deep blues and purples finally fading to black just in time to let the fireflies show their bright bulbs flashing in the trees around me.
I had not expected that much of this campground, and it turns out I really underestimated it. The loop closest to the lake was small so quiet and half the sights, mine included, have a good view of the water. But, that’s not all, folks. It has a beach. And the beach had beach glass! One of my favorite things is to wander the shoreline of any beach, looking for weathered glass. My first day, I found this chunk of light blue glass and even did a little happy dance after I picked it up and saw how beautiful it was. Few things in life make me happier than finding a good piece of beach glass.
Astute campers might notice that every single camping spot was at a state park, not a KOA or a private campground. State parks are some of the best bargains around, both in terms of location and price. I recommend all five of the state parks mentioned here because they are the cheapest way to camp lakeside and see beautiful sights without going broke.
A normal lake is knowable. A Great Lake can hold all the mysteries of an ocean, and then some.