So, it’s the first day of fall. Some of you may be thinking there’s no such thing as a season in between rays of sunshine and snow showers – at least not in Michigan. While others of you are feening for pumpkin spice lattes, Ugg boots, and color changing leaves to post on Instagram. Summer may be over, but camping season lives on.
Some of you may be thinking “brrrrrr” and the thought of camping is long gone, if it ever even crosses your mind. But, there are still a few BEAUTIFUL AND PERFECT WEATHER weeks left in Michigan for camp vibes.
This just in: I can’t hold it in any longer. I’m going to share a little secret spot with you. (You may have to time it right – CHECK THE WEATHER!) I’ve had a couple people ask me “what’s that one beach spot you camped right on the beach of Lake Michigan?” Well, keep reading.
Elberta, Michigan. Population: 370. Located on the upper west side of the Lower Peninsula along beautiful Lake Michigan, just south of Frankfort, MI and the Betsie Bay. Elberta is not really considered a part of the Sleeping Bear National Dunes Park, but you’d be mistaken. Going through the town, you’d never guess what beauty it holds right around the twists and turns of the infamous M-22.
Elberta in relation to Kalamazoo, MI
Here’s a couple fun facts for you:
- Ever heard of hang gliding?……C’mon, you’ve seen Jurassic Park. Since the 1930s, the Elberta/Frankfort area has been known as the “soaring mecca” because of the Frankfort Sailplane Company and has hosted numerous glider competitions. It is still a popular activity in the area to this day! (I don’t have the guts to try it, but if you do, please let me know how it goes)
- Here’s my favorite one. Up until a certain point, Elberta Beach is owned by obviously, Elberta or the state. (One of the two. I will never understand this concept). But if you keep traveling south on Bye Street, you will come across a dirt trail. This leads to a “NO TRESPASSING” area. You’ll feel like a criminal, but you’re not trespassing. This portion of the beach is owned by a glass company. For years, this company has been posting no trespassing signs, but rascals keep pulling them out. Their misfortune has turned in to a campers dream – one of the very last places along Lake Michigan where you can camp on the beach for……FREE!
My adventure partner and I came across this place via recommendation of his coworker. We had no idea what we were getting into; we just wanted to camp. To our surprise, we found something that not even pictures or my rambling post could put into words. Here’s a (short) glimpse:
Ruff Camping Days ft. Luna – Photo by McKenzie Decker
Things you need to know:
- You are NOT trespassing, that is unless you are acting foolishly. Police officers will patrol this area because they do receive noise complaints every now and then. We actually spoke to an officer one of the times we camped here – he assured us camping is welcomed in a responsible manner.
- Bring long and durable tent stakes. The wind can and will change directions. You want to be sure that your tent is secure before dark. Don’t make this mistake or else you’ll end up having to pack up camp at 2 A.M. when you’ve had too much whiskey and have to sleep in your car. Take my advice.
- If you have a paddle board or kayak, bring it. You have miles of open access. Again, be sure to watch the way the wind and ways the tides change. My advice is to paddle towards the light house and coast back to your campsite.
- Do NOT park your car on the beach. Park along the dirt path. You’ll see from my picture we parked on the beach. This is the only issue we ran into with the officer – he just asked us kindly to move it to the path. This is not Silver Lake Sand Dunes.
- Bring your dog! This is a dog friendly beach.
- Pick up your trash. This is one of the cleanest beaches I have seen in a long time; please keep it that way.
- If you head west on M-115 and turn south on M-22, buy campfire wood from the white farm house with a big garden on your left hand side. He has a story to tell, great fire wood, and will more than likely cut you a deal. Moral of the story: BYOW (Bring Your Own Wood).
- Other important things to bring: chairs, sweatshirt, bottles of water, and as my adventure partner would say a “good attitude.”
Okay, now you must be wondering…..Where and how can I find this spot?????????????
It’s quite simple actually, especially if you have a smart phone or GPS. Just type in Bye St, Elberta OR Frankfort, MI, whichever your phone prefers. You will find Bye St (although you’ll never want to leave) just off of M-22. This steep paved road will then turn into a mile or two, give or take, dirt trail, which will take you along the beach. This can be found as Lakeside Boulevard. Below you can find a closer look of your destination.
It’s Wednesday; you have two days until Friday. Group text your best pals, map your safest and quickest route, and pack your bags. So, with that being said, I challenge and encourage you to get out there one last time before you torture yourself by replacing your swimsuits with snowsuits and flip flops with boots.
Making your way to Elberta? PLEASE share your pictures from your camp adventures at firstname.lastname@example.org ; if you have any questions regarding how to get there, feel free to email me as well.
And as always, CAMP ON!
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