Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan

Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

Looking for a short road trip, during the Memorial Day weekend? A quick Memorial Day weekend getaway perhaps? What with all that is going on in the world around us, we haven’t had a chance to get out much this year.The Covid-19 outbreak has kept us all indoors for months now.

With the weather getting warmer, all of us are certainly wishing we could be out and about. However, deciding which destination to travel to can be daunting when one only has a weekend to spend.More so now with the existing conditions, and social distancing in place.

 If you are planning for a short Memorial Day weekend getaway and you are looking for places to visit in and around Chicago, you definitely need to check out the Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan. With miles and miles of shoreline and hiking trails, this State park is an easy drive from the city of Chicago.

Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan
Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

Read all about our visit to this beautiful state park a few years ago, in my post below.

The much awaited long weekend was finally here, flags adorned every household in the neighborhood……

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……backyards were getting ready for the weekend celebrations……

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….the ache to go on a road trip was strong. The weather finally had started to look up, just on time for the Memorial Day weekend getaway, so off we went on a road trip.If you are looking for places in and around Chicago to visit on a day trip or a weekend getaway, this one needs to be on your list!

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Ideally, it was meant to be a two hour drive to where we were headed, but this being the Memorial Day weekend, it took us longer.There was a lot of traffic on the road, it took a little longer than anticipated. We were in no hurry , it was a scenic drive along the Lake Michigan taking in the sun and the breeze from the lake, we drove slowly .It was a beautiful warm day. Amidst cars, bikers and trucks we finally reached our destination.

“Warren Dunes State Park is a 1,952-acre (7.90 km2) Michigan State Park, located along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Berrien County. The park’s large sand dunes and lakeshore beaches make it one of the most popular of Michigan’s state parks with an average of about one million visitors annually.” ( source : Wikipedia )

The park has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round.

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We bought our tickets at the park entry, and drove down the beautiful woods, to the beach. A few campers were cycling ahead of us, the cool shade of the trees and the sunlight dancing in-between the leaves was a welcome change from the crowded city.

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Our path wound around a scenic route, as we headed towards the lake, we saw glimpses of the lake reflecting silver light along the serpentine road we took to reach the shoreline. Were we closer to the lake, now? Was that cool breeze we feel  coming from the lake? Perhaps we are getting closer…..

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Nothing prepared us for the sight we witnessed, there beneath the curving pathway stretched the vast expanse of the golden beach for miles together.

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The water glistened silver in that bright sunlight, the vast sky stretched like a  blue blanket over the horizon with white wool thrown in for good measure.

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One is awestruck at the beautiful sight of the vast lake making you feel like “a kid in a candy store” not really knowing which direction to go first to get the best possible view (to even to park your car!).

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Finally you park your car and turn around…what do you see across the vast shoreline ? Mighty sand dunes raising 260 feet above the water level. This one is called the Tower Hill, the most significant of the many sand dunes found here.

People appear as little toys as they trek up hill on those dunes, little kids excitedly are sand boarding the slopes. The rugged dunes also provide an excellent spot for hang gliding we heard.

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We couldn’t decide………should we climb the dunes first or run into the water?

Water wins any day!

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So we move towards the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan.

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Canoes are lined up for the more adventurous one’s, life jackets beside them in a make shift tent for the doubtful ones !

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Paddling into the deep blue….Pure Michigan, it is ! Oh, to be out in the open breathing in all the sunshine, sand and fresh air…..Pure Bliss !!

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The vast shoreline stretched along even as the park ranger paddled the waters offering help to those who needed it.

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Ah! weekends are meant to be like this, shouldn’t they ? Aren’t you glad summer is almost here, I sure am !

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The shoreline stretches for miles and for those of us with pets, the part of the beach that says “Dog beach” almost feels like a private beach. There were people vacationing yet it was not too crowded to call it uncomfortable.Kids and pets alike enjoyed splashing in the waves.

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Leading from the beach to the wooded area, is a path across the dunes to the campsites, which almost is dreamlike ( believe me, this time I was sure the creator was a designer to start with, how else could  he have made this connection from the sea to the land through the woods ? Honestly! )

It sure feels like a walk in the clouds !

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Then the land suddenly opens into this wooded area, almost like the lake and the dunes never happened and there is a whole new world to explore.

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The registration office greets each visitor, who has booked a campsite or will do so in future. The friendly staff at the front desk , guide us on the whereabouts of the campsite asking us to park right outside the registration office and not to drive through the campsites as there are too many little kids biking without restraint. We abide by the rules and set on foot….

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We are greeted by the General store at the entry of the campsite where campers could pick their necessities and knick knacks while camping, the closest store on range.

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Walking further along, the road divided into two, I took the one less travelled for the joy it always brings. The campsites were marked with sign posts along the way.

Warren Dunes is in the top 5 most popular camping destinations in the state of Michigan. The park contains 2 main campgrounds: Warren Dunes Modern and Warren Dunes Semi-Modern.

Warren Dunes Modern has almost 200 campsites and is on the inland side of the dunes so the beach is just a short walk. Warren Dunes Semi-Modern is rustic and much smaller (only about 30 campsites). It has a variety of sites—some with high levels of privacy and others that are fairly close together. Both campgrounds are immensely popular and normally at full capacity in July and August.” ( source : Wikipedia )

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It was  a special moment for me walking along the path , hearing the birds chirp, the rustle of the leaves, the forest sounds, the creaking of my shoes on the twigs beneath my feet.

Suddenly I was transformed in time to a page from my childhood, where we would walk through the forests of Chinnar , a forest preserve and a wildlife sanctuary (http://chinnar.org/ ) in the South of India where I grew up,  the same sounds, the same peace, an occasional  cry of a wild animal, a tranquility unmatched, which one can only find amidst nature.

Perhaps this is what the Japanese call “forest bathing” I thought as I walked along the path. In my mind I was teleported to a happy place of laughter and sunshine in childhood.

It’s amazing how memories visit you without warning , yet after all these years taking your breath away with the sheer beauty of it.

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Cocooned among those huge trees was a quaint little tent of a camper, for a minute I felt like Goldilocks in the three bears story, the intense desire to jump into the tent and see who lived there was strong. I smiled to myself at the thought and moved on, what is it about the wooded area that makes us want to live in tree houses again ?

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A little further down the path , there was another camping spot with a hammock, it looked so cozy, amidst the woods.Imagine lying in the hammock and gazing at the stars at night or  watching the sunlight peeking through those leaves in the early hours of dawn.

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Some of the campers were already cooking,  smoke rising from their fire pits, something was definitely cooking needless to say the aroma was enticing too.

There certainly has to be some good food after all that swimming in the vast blue waters one ought to be hungry. Right ?

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There is something so beautiful about watching smoke wafting through those camp sites among those tall trees, a picture I will always carry in my mind forever.Talk about going back to the roots and living like cavemen, striking rocks to create a fire among the woods…… there is something very grounding about that!

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Some campers preferred  their tents , some mobile homes… each had their own campsite and much needed privacy  to celebrate the camping experience as they preferred.

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Now I moved on to  fork in the road to the other section, which was the more travelled one, this one was marked for trailer home parking.

Campers had set their trailers next to each other and were having a glorious time, smoking fire pit and all. Something about this warm weather brings out the best in people for sure !

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Moving away from the campsite, we took one last look at the lake…..It was time to return home, the waves still glistened like liquid silver, very few cars were still at the parking lot now.

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Can you tell summer is here ?

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Adios ! Pure Michigan , till we meet again !

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Please let us know in the comments section below, about what you enjoyed most in this travel post. What are your plans for the Memorial Day weekend getaway? Do you enjoy short trips or long ones?

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Ruth Iaela-Pukahi
2 years ago

I LOVED all of your pictures. So so beautiful. It seemed like the perfect long weekend! Beach and camping! It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been able to camp. I’m thinking this summer will be a no camping summer for all on Oahu…

Tara
Tara
2 years ago

I’ve actually heard about this park. What a beautiful place to visit over Memorial weekend! And look at that sand!

Michelle
2 years ago

Some great ideas and beautiful locations.

Cindy
2 years ago

What a gorgeous area for a getaway weekend! I’ll add it to my must visit list!

Tiffany
Tiffany
2 years ago

We have been there and loved it! So much to explore! We are planning a home social distancing BBQ in the backyard. Can’t wait to “see” everyone!

Aice
2 years ago

Your post brought back fond memories of the many times traveled across the U P of Michigan on highway 2. There is more of those beaches and sand dunes along highway 2, only they are not as busy. Thanks for the memories!

Charlene
2 years ago

We’ll be heading over to Lake Michigan area later this summer. Thanks for letting us know about this park!

Kendra
Kendra
2 years ago

This sounds like a perfect weekend getaway! I’ve heard Lake Michigan is awesome, and this definitely confirms that.

Alexis Farmer
2 years ago

I always forget how much Michigan has to offer, beautiful pictures!

Charlene
2 years ago

These pictures are great! You gave me a nice understanding of how things are set up and made me want to hop right on over and visit! Perhaps the next time in up north in the summer! Thanks for sharing!

Santana
2 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

I didn’t even realize it was going to be Memorial Day Weekend already. Time is flying! Hopefully we will just stay home and work on the garden.

Eva Keller
2 years ago

Looks like a great weekend getaway and the scenery is beautiful! I can’t wait for something to open in California so we can take a weekend getaway.

Cathy
2 years ago

Some great ideas! Maybe not this year, or maybe later in the summer? Thanks for sharing! Great photos!

judean
judean
2 years ago

This place looks like a great weekend getaway – pictures are beautiful! Not sure how much we will be able to do this weekend since our state has only started phase 1 reopening just yesterday. We will most likely stay home and as long as the weather is nice, that is A-OK!

Sara - Seek Discover Learn

This looks like a great place to get away for a weekend. We are hoping to get out and travel some this summer and will be looking for places just like this.

Sandi
Sandi
2 years ago

Looks beautiful. I don’t think we will be able to get away on Memorial Day in Massachusetts this year. But soon I hope.

Lisa Manderino
Lisa Manderino
2 years ago

This are great options. Lake Michigan is so cold!

Candy
2 years ago

We’re always looking for weekend getaways! Thanks for the suggestions.

Lisa
Lisa
2 years ago

Excellent post! Thank you for sharing.

Holly
2 years ago

WOW… what a great post! With the holiday coming soon you really have a great list of fun and things to do..Time to plan!

Debbie
2 years ago

Would love to be in Chicago this weekend! It’s getting hot here in Texas!