Is West Michigan a Good Place to Live?

Is West Michigan a Good Place to Live?

Let’s get this out of the way right from the beginning. The short answer from a Michigan Native: yes! While I grew up in the southeast portion of Michigan, just outside of Detroit, and I love the area I live in today, the west side of Michigan is my absolute favorite place to be. Why? Well, Lake Michigan and its beautiful shoreline are, that’s why!

When my mom was a teenager, her favorite and closest cousins moved out of the City to be farmers in a little town outside of Kalamazoo called Battle Creek. My great-grandmother (Grammy) was best cousins with my mom’s cousins’ mother, Aunt Ginny (I know it’s a lot for us to keep track of). They both came over from Sicily to the United States around the same time and remained close all their lives. So, when Aunt Ginny moved out to Battle Creek, my Grammy would bring her grandchildren (my mom and her siblings) to the west side to spend the summer with family.

They all helped with the farming, cooking, sales at the produce stand, and the dreaded chore of dumping the outhouse pot. My mom’s older cousins did not adjust to the Kalamazoo farming life very well, so they got married and moved back to Detroit. But the rest of the gang stayed out there and retired on the west side of Michigan, where they enjoyed a peaceful yet active retirement. So, if you were to ask my Saputo cousins whether or not the west side of Michigan was a good place to live, they would most emphatically say yes.

But where is the west side of Michigan anyway? If you ask southeast Detroiters, we would say anything along the Lake Michigan shoreline. But it also includes the up north territory as well. Some of my favorite places to vacation up north happen to be on the west side. However, I do enjoy all parts of our beautiful peninsula. Let’s see what else we have to offer.

Up north Michigan places to visit

From the time I was two months old (or so I have been told), I have experienced camping all over the state of Michigan, in private campgrounds, State Parks, and National Forest land. As an adult, I have taken my sons camping since they were only a few months old as well. We have camped primarily in State Parks and National Parks across Michigan. I’m not necessarily a fan of private campgrounds as they don’t have the same standards held at the state and national levels.

Below are some of my favorite State and National Parks in “up north” Michigan to visit:

  • Huron Manistee forest in Oscoda, on the Au Sable River
  • Manistee National Forest, Manistee, footsteps from Lake Michigan
  • Ludington State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan
  • Lakeport State Park, on the shores of Lake Huron
  • Proud Lake State Park, on the Huron River (close to home)
  • Seven Lakes State Park, for Halloween camping (close to home)
  • Algonac State Park, on the shores of Lake Huron (great pier fishing)
  • Burt Lake State Park, on Burt Lake (which connects to the Indian River, connecting to Mullet Lake, which feeds into the Cheboygan River, which leads to Lake Michigan) Great boating and swimming
  • Mears State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan, minutes away from world-renowned Sleep Bear Dunes

I am so excited about this summer’s up north plans as we get to go camping in Mears. We’re planning to ride the dunes one day, see the magnificent Lake Michigan sunset each night, and enjoy some touristy attractions in downtown Mears. This will be the first time I have taken them camping on my own since the divorce from their father. It will be an adventure for sure! Thank goodness they are both older teenagers who are strong and capable of helping their mom.

Why is Sleeping Bear Dunes famous?

Here are a few facts about Sleeping Bear Dunes:

  • Sixty-five miles of sand beach
  • Bluffs that tower 450’ above Lake Michigan
  • Lush forests
  • Crystal-clear inland lakes
  • Spring-fed ponds throughout the dunes (you have to do some exploring!)
  • Unique flora and fauna make up the natural world of Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • High dunes afford spectacular views across the lake
  • An island lighthouse
  • US Life-Saving Service stations

In addition, there are coastal villages and picturesque farmsteads that reflect the park’s rich maritime, agricultural, and recreational history.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore gets its name from one dune in particular—the Mother Bear. Perched along the edge of the large dune that towers about Lake Michigan, this dune, at one time, resembled a sleeping bear. The Ashininaabek used the Mother Bear as a landmark and tell a story about how she came to be there.

Two different versions of the story are commonly told. These stories are an Anishinaabe (Odawa/Ottawa, Ojibway/Chippewa and Potawatomi) oral tradition of a sacred place within their homelands in the Great Lakes,” said the National Park Service (NPS).

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Mears State Park is one of my all-time favorite spots to vacation in Michigan. However, even as a resident, it is hard to get reservations or find a decent site because it books up so fast. Rules are that you can start booking your State Park reservations precisely six months ahead of time – no sooner.

There have been many times when I was sitting at the computer at 11:59 pm, sites chosen, cued up, and ready to hit “Book now” as soon as the clock turned midnight to plan a trip for me and my sons; I have won some and lost some. That’s ok because here’s a secret…in the Manistee National Forest, there are first come, first serve, rustic, and very primitive sites that are free. The only requirement is to pack out what you packed in, take only pictures, and leave only footprints.

Is West Michigan a good place to live?

Of course, as a Michigander who never plans to leave the state, I am absolutely going to say that any part of Michigan is an excellent place to live. But more specifically, the west side of Michigan offers stunning shorelines, lush forests, and tight-knit communities, making it a genuinely wonderful place to live.

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