The Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Northern Michigan

by | Sep 5, 2017 | Vacationing in Northern Michigan

Sunsets over Lake Michigan can't be beat. Here are some of the best spots to enjoy the clouds exploding into color at sunset in northern Michigan.
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Do you love to see a beautiful sunset? Then northern Michigan’s “Sunset Coast” is definitely the place to do it. Here in Emmet County, MI we are blessed with 68 miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline which translates into some of the best places to experience the most gorgeous sunsets in the state. As soon as you experience one of our magical sunsets, you will understand why the phrase “Million Dollar Sunset” has been used to describe dusk in our area. On your next up north vacation, visit one of these locations for a truly breathtaking evening watching the sun fade into the horizon.

Here Are Our Favorite Places to Watch the Sunset in Emmet County:


Sunset Park

Sunset over Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey, MI

Sunset over Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey, MI

Aptly named for the magnificent sunset views over Little Traverse Bay, Sunset Park offers its visitors. It is located on the north side of US-31 on a bluff overlooking Bayfront Park and the harbor. This is the perfect place to watch the colors of the evening shift and change as the sky turns from shades of blues and purples to oranges and pinks, and finally midnight blues. Pack a picnic and make it a special evening. (Connected to Bayfront Park by stairs.)

Bayfront Park

Sunset at Bayfront Park in Petoskey, Michigan

Sunset over the pier along the Little Traverse Wheelway near Bayfront Park in Petoskey (Photo by Jeremy Hammond)

This long park in Petoskey follows the harbor, from the lighthouse almost to Bay View. Bayfront Park is home to Petoskey Marina, the lighthouse and break wall, Little Traverse History Museum, a children’s park, Ed White Field (baseball diamonds), and plenty of grass, benches, and picnic tables to sit and enjoy an afternoon or evening. Bayfront Park offers almost the same sunset views as Sunset Park, but from a lower vantage point. Choose a bench on the pier or stay closer to the shore and you are sure to enjoy a magnificent northern Michigan sunset. (Connected to Sunset Park by stairs.)

Petoskey State Park

Beautiful Sunset view from Petoskey State Park,

Beautiful Sunset view from Petoskey State Park, Photo credit:

Petoskey State Park is located northeast of downtown Petoskey, off of M-119. The large, sandy beach on the beautiful blue water of Little Traverse Bay is truly picturesque and is a favorite among the locals. The view of the bay is supurb and you are sure to enjoy the rainbow colors swirl in the sky as the sun sets over the glistening waters of Lake Michigan.

East Park

Sunset view from East Park, Petoskey, MI. Photo Credit: Tori Hankins

Sunset view from East Park, Petoskey, MI. Photo Credit: Tori Hankins

Located near Bay Harbor, enjoy breathtaking views on high ground, then follow the path toward the shore and have an unobstructed view of the sun setting over Little Traverse Bay. The quiet and seclusion of this picturesque park make this an excellent place to take in a spectacular sunset.

Harbor Springs and Cross Village

The Bluff

Clouds exploding in color near Cross Village, Michigan

The clouds explode into color at sunset near Cross Village, with the Skillagalee Island lighthouse visible along the horizon. (Photo by Jeremy Hammond)

Sunset over Lake Michigan in Cross Village

Lake Michigan just after sunset viewed from the bluff near Cross Village (Photo by Jeremy Hammond)

Along the scenic “Tunnel of Trees” route from Harbor Springs to Cross Village, there are numerous overlooks of Lake Michigan from atop the bluff where you can view the clouds bursting with color at sunset. With the changing colors of the sky framed by trees, you are bound have a memorable sunset experience.

Sturgeon Bay

Beach, waterfront, and lakeview vacation rentals in northern Michigan

Kayakers paddling after sunset near Sturgeon Bay

Driving north along the lakeshore from Cross Village, you’ll come to the Sturgeon Bay beach area, where you can enjoy the sunset from atop a sand dune or while strolling a secluded stretch of sandy shoreline. Or put your kayak in the water and enjoy the sunset while paddling in the calm of the evening!

Mackinac Area

Sunset Cruise

Sunset/Moon Rise in the Straits of Mackinac

Sunset/Moon Rise in the Straits of Mackinac, The Mackinac Bridge in the foreground

Both the Sheppler’s and Star Line ferry’s have sunset cruises available during the summer months. Spend a relaxing evening on the Straits of Mackinac while taking in a breathtaking sunset and/or moon rise. Both ferry line’s offer narrated tours, so you will also learn a lot about the history and nature of our area. For more information, visit: and

Headlands International Dark Sky Park

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City, MI

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City, MI,

Take watching the sun set to the next level at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, and stay to see the stars shine brighter than they ever have. The grounds, trails, and viewing areas at Headlands are open 24 hours a day, every day, at no charge. Visitors are welcomed to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities (camping units like tents and campers are not permitted; the Headlands is not intended as an overnight sleeping destination but a place to stay awake and view the stars!). You may bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food, beverages, etc. Plan accordingly and dress for temperatures 10 degrees below what you expect.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Bridge at sunset

The view of the Mackinac Bridge at sunset on the ferry departing Mackinac Island (Photo by Jeremy Hammond)

Mackinac Island has so many beautiful places to enjoy watching a northern Michigan Sunset. Choose a spot along the shore, a restaurant patio, or somewhere near the marina, and you are bound to have an excellent view. Watching the sun fall below the horizon from Mackinac Island has the added bonus of seeing many boats travel through the Straits, and seeing the Bridge slowly begin to glow.

Alan R. Hammond is the founder and Managing Director of Holiday Vacation Rentals and Birchwood Property Management. He has served as a Director, Officer, and Treasurer of the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) and holds the Certificated Vacation Rental Manager (CVRM) designation. A recognized industry leader, Alan is featured in the book The Rental Game: Winning with a Professional Vacation Rental Team by Maureen Regan. Read more....

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