From Atop The Dunes Series: Families at the Dunes - Think Dunes - Silver Lake Sand Dunes

From Atop The Dunes Series: Families at the Dunes

ThinkDunes|March 2nd, 2017

familiesondunes015_5638442187_oYoung families often get creative for vacations. Cost, travel, planning itineraries, and the short attention span of children are all factors in creating that summer getaway. When you are thinking about travel for your family, think dunes.

Along Lake Michigan’s sweeping shoreline are 2,000 acres ever-changing sand dunes nearly 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. Nestled between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes are split into three parts: The northern is reserved for off-road vehicles, where you can bring your own or rent to traverse the dunes; the center region is for hiking, sandboarding, and accessing the beach; and, the southern end is home to Mac Woods Dune Rides. It’s here where Shelby Olsen, third-generation manager of Mac Woods, has seen countless families pour through summer after summer.

“It’s become a tradition for many families,” she says. “There are many returning families, and they come in bigger groups year after year.”

Mac Woods Dune Rides began in 1930, having since grown into a large attraction and a tradition for numerous families. The ride, which is 7 miles and 40 minutes long, offers the thrills of the dunes but is tame enough for young children. Shelby says many bring their babies along for the ride even. Throughout the open-air ride, guests are treated to stories about the dunes, splashes along the Lake Michigan’s shore, steep hills that make you put your hands in the air like a rollercoaster, and more.

Shelby says while many families make it a stop on the way up north, an abundance of families, both young and old, are making the dunes a focal point in elongated getaways. Mac Woods Dune Rides typically provides a family’s proper introduction to the multifarious fun the dunes, and the surrounding area, offers.

Plentiful hotels and campgrounds allow families to stay a stone’s throw away from the dunes for easy access. The dunes can offer amusement for an entire day, by riding, exploring, climbing, and sandboarding. Shelby says one of the most popular activities of all however is posting up at the beach on the dunes. People either bring or rent their own watercraft and post up for the day to enjoy the refreshing water and thrills of climbing up and down the dunes.

“When you look out from our place, the whole shoreline is packed with boats,” she says. “Families are swimming, on wave runners, hiking, and paddleboarding all day.”

All the fun isn’t solely reserved for the dunes and the water, though. In the immediate area, families flock to Craig’s Cruisers for mini-golf and go-karts, Lewis Farm Market to pet animals and play countless games, and Rainbow Ranch for horseback riding. There’s even the Michigan’s Adventure theme park just 30 minutes away from the dunes.

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes area offers condensed fun that captivates the little ones’ attention, and yours, for days at a time. Shelby says the fun-for-the-whole-family area is getting busier and busier every year as more discover the affordable, sheer joy of the dunes.

Learn more at

Explore the Visitors Guide

View Now
Explore the
Visitors Guide