Michigan State Parks Centennial: Grand Haven State Park

Two people on the pier at Grand Haven State Park

Grand Haven State Park is a quintessential West Michigan state park. Its large sandy beach is the main attraction and the reason so many visitors flock there annually.

On the whole, Grand Haven State Park is on the smaller side, only 48 acres, but pretty much the sole purpose of visiting the park is the beach, which encompasses the majority of the park.

The rest of the park consists of a very crowded campground and large day-use parking lot. Nearby are the famous Grand Haven Lighthouse and the Musical Fountain.

Camping on the beach

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a campground (at least not by most people’s campground definition), but there is camping available at Grand Haven State Park. The campground is essentially a paved parking lot surrounded by sand.

Trailers parked by the beach at Grand Haven State Park
Sites with a view of Lake Michigan and the lighthouse

Each of the 174 sites is paved and many now have 50-amp service. The park accommodates rigs of all sizes. Note that the sites, while deep, are pretty narrow, so maneuvering in and out around slides and vehicles could be challenging depending on your vehicle’s turning radius.

A few prime camping sites have direct beach access and views of Lake Michigan, while the rest of the sites are snugged in between the beach and the road. Be warned, there is sand everywhere! Not a speck of grass can be seen, and there are only 5 or 6 trees. This is a great park if you have solar.

Picnic tables for each site are provided, but we only saw a handful of fire rings.

It is not a quiet campground by any means between the beachgoers, waves, traffic, boats, and general city noise. However, if the beach is your thing, this is the perfect place to hang out.

Trailers parked along the beach at Grand Haven State Park
Don’t forget to bring a broom!

Park Amenities

Grand Haven State Park provides a number of amenities for both day users and campers. Both the campground and the beach area have modern playscapes, and you will find many volleyball nets, picnic tables, grills, and a nice bathhouse.

On summer weekends, there are four or five food trucks to grab lunch or a snack. We suggest bringing money for the food trucks or your own food since you won’t want to leave the park and lose your parking spot.

Looking at the Grand Haven State Park from the pier
View of Grand Haven State Park from the pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse

On the pier separating the park from the channel is the historic Grand Haven Lighthouse constructed in 1839. It is one of the most famous and well-photographed lighthouses.

While the pier is open to the public to walk out to the lighthouse, you do so at your own risk and need to be extremely mindful of the weather. The waves and water are constantly crashing on the pier, and it doesn’t take much to make it slippery. Unfortunately, some careless visitors who have tried to walk the pier in unsafe conditions lost their lives.

Grand Haven Lighthouse and channel

Location, Location, Location

Grand Haven State Park is trapped between Lake Michigan, private houses, and the channel that empties the Grand River into Lake Michigan. This location is both a blessing and a curse.

On the positive side, it is conveniently located within walking or biking distance of many attractions in the town of Grand Haven. A boardwalk runs alongside the channel near the park which provides a path to the Lighthouse or the downtown shopping district. From the park, you can watch the many fishing vessels and pleasure boats go by in the channel or out on the lake.

Vehicles lined up to enter Grand Haven State Park
Cars waiting to enter the park

Unfortunately, the landlocked location means there is no room for expansion to accommodate the increasing attendance records. The road leading to Grand Haven State Park is very narrow, and the parking lot is not large enough for the thousands of daily visitors on summer weekends. Often the lot is full, with cars lined up out of the park or turned away until someone leaves. Be prepared to arrive very early or circle the local neighborhoods looking for street parking.

On summer evenings, make times to see Grand Haven’s famous musical fountain, just down the road from the park. Or check out the annual Coast Guard Festival.


We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a video about Grand Haven State Park here. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see our progress as we visit each park on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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