A Guide to Dog-Friendly Northern Michigan
There’s no denying Northern Michigan is one of the most uniquely beautiful places in the USA. With dog-friendly adventure available year round, it’s a must add travel destination that should be on everyone’s vacation bucket list! While this is just skimming the top of all of the places we love to enjoy with our dogs in tow, here’s a few of our favorite Northern Michigan cities and a few places to stay or things to check out in each of them!
Port Austin, Michigan
Located on the tip of Michigan’s thumb, Port Austin is one of the lesser known gems in the entire state, and it happens to be pretty dog-friendly, too! With over 3 miles of sandy beach located at the nearby Port Crescent State Park, you can spend your day wading in the clear blue water, or hike on over 18 miles of wooded trails that open up over dunes to stunning views of the water.
Dogs are allowed on a section of shoreline available near the mouth of the Pinnebog River, accessible via the steel bridge that connects to the hiking trails closest to the campground. Pets must remain on leash and it’s important to remember to clean up after your pet as well!
One of our favorite dog-friendly patios, Pak’s Backyard, is also right in Port Austin, too! They have a great selection of Michigan craft beers, great bar food, and an awesome vibe. They frequently have live music, so you can enjoy your dinner and a drink right on the water with your pack after a long day at the beach!
Tawas Point, Michigan
Just a few hours further up the Lake Huron coast is another one of our favorite stops, Tawas Point! This dog beach is one of the only in Michigan that is actually enclosed by fencing, where dogs can run freely off leash in the designated area. The campground is also dog friendly, so you can bring your dog up for a weekend of summer fun!
The Boathouse Beer Co. & Boozery is another great stop where you can dine on the patio with your pets. Located in downtown Tawas, they have great food and drinks, and are right across the street from another small park that is also dog-friendly!
Mackinac Island, Michigan
If you’re looking for a unique experience you can enjoy with your dog in Michigan, Mackinac Island is IT. Board one of the dog-friendly ferry rides–Star Line or Shepler’s–to travel over to the carless island–a unique experience in itself! Once there, you can explore over 70 miles of trails and viewpoints, dine at one of the many local dog-friendly restaurants, and even explore the historic Fort Holmes with your dog. Many of the shops downtown also allow four-legged visitors–watch for the “Dogs Welcome” sign!
Mackinac Island also has three dog-friendly hotels available, including the Park Place Suites, Sunset Condos, and our favorite, Mission Point Resort, which also has an amazing dog friendly patio!
Home to the famous Pictured Rocks National Park, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Manistee is another Northern Michigan gem, and yes, you can bring your dogs! There is a fairly large number of places that allow dogs in the park, including Sand Point Beaches, Munising Falls Trail, Miners Falls Trail, Miners Beach, Lake Superior Overlook and Beach, and Sable Falls Trail and Beach.
While the North Country Scenic Trail and all Backcountry Campgrounds/Campsites are unfortunately closed to pets, all three drive-in campgrounds in the area, including Little Beaver Lake, Twelvemile Beach, and Hurricane River Campgrounds allow dogs to stay.
Marquette, also located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is one of my favorite places on earth, and definitely a place you should put on your bucket list to explore with your dog. Located right on the shores of Lake Superior with rolling hills and stunning views, there’s plenty of hidden gems to see.
When we visit, we stay right at the Staybridge Inn and Suites, located right downtown. The rooms are large with pet friendly amenities, and the dogs love being pampered for a change instead of our usual camping adventures. Staybridge Inn and Suites is a great hotel chain to watch for in other towns, too–we’ve stayed in multiple while on the road and it’s always a treat!
Hike to one of the many waterfalls in the area, and if you’re brave enough, you can even jump in at Dead River Falls, a moderate but short 1.7 mile round trip. If you’re looking for views of the water from up above, check out Sugarloaf Mountain or Hogback Mountain, both moderate climbs, but well worth it once you make it to the top!
After a day of hiking, check out the Ore Dock Brewing dog-friendly patio. They have an array of in-house brews, and last year when we visited, also had some seltzers that were amazing, too! If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the Dia De Los Tacos parked outside–these tacos are so good we chase this food truck around to wherever it’s at for the day!
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City has been named one of the top small towns in the U.S., and it definitely lives up to the hype. It’s also very dog-friendly, and we make it a point to visit at least once a year! The Greater Traverse City area is one of the primary wine regions in Michigan, with over 40 different wineries located throughout the peninsulas. Head up for a day of wine tasting, and bring your dog along to a few of our favorites, like Mari Vineyards, Left Foot Charley, and Bonobo, who all accommodate canine visitors!
If you’re looking for a bite, check out The Filling Station downtown for some of the best pizza we’ve ever had, or The Little Fleet, a Food Truck Lot that welcomes dogs inside. They also have amazing craft cocktails in the main building!
If you’re looking to hike or check out some of the famous blue water beaches, Good Harbor Bay Trail and Beach is pet-friendly and won’t disappoint! It’s a 2.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail that leads out to a serene sandy beach. Leashed dogs are welcome on the loop and beach, as long as they are cleaned up after.
If you’re looking to explore along the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National park, be sure to check out Beulah and the surrounding area! Dogs are sadly not allowed on certain trails during the summer due to the Lakeshore’s endangered Piping Plovers, but from December 1 to March 31, more trails in the park become accessible.
Leashed pets are allowed at a few of the serene beaches year round, including Elberta Beach, which is usually less busy as it’s maintained by Mother Nature herself, and Peterson Road beach, which is known for its epic views of Empire Bluff, Sleeping Bear Point, and even South Manitou Island on clear days.
Leashed pets are also allowed in many of the campgrounds near the park, but be sure to confirm before you go if you’re visiting Sleeping Bear NPS!
One of our other favorite spots in the area is Iron Fish Distillery. The property is beautiful and there’s a handful of things to do and try, including their own Maple Syrup, Spirit flights, and my favorite, their wood fire pizza!
Looking for even more to do in Michigan?
Be sure to ask the locals for their favorite spots when you go! From Michigan’s thumb, to the U.P., to the West Coast and in-between, there’s so much to explore–and yes, you should bring the dogs!
In the area? Check out our dog-friendly guide to hikes in Michigan and our dog-friendly guide to Cleveland!