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Torch Lake Camping: Michigan's Version of a Caribbean Getaway

Torch Lake Camping
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Here is one of the most unique camping trips in Michigan.

Looking for a tropical-style vacation with beautiful beaches and clear waters but can't afford an expensive cruise or flight? There is a more budget-friendly option and it's located right here in the United States.

Today we'll tell you a little about the area, where to camp and some other fun activities that can be found in the area.

This year is your chance to find out why Torch Lake, Michigan is often referred to as the "Caribbean of the North."

Crystal-clear waters

Torch Lake is Michigan's largest inland lake and sits connected to Grand Traverse Bay and, subsequently, Lake Michigan. It's located about 20 miles northeast of Traverse City in Antrim County.

The lake gets the "Caribbean of the North" moniker from its sandbars and crystal-clear waters. The lake was something of a local hidden gem for a while. But in recent years, it has become a party hotspot with hundreds of boats converging on the sandbars in the summer months.

More people began to discover this northern Michigan lake in recent years after photos and videos of the wild sandbar parties went viral on the internet. For one Fourth of July party, local officials estimated there was around 10,000 people in attendance.

Things have cooled down a little bit in recent years, as law enforcement has stepped up their presence at these parties to keep them from getting too wild. But if partying like this isn't for you, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the Torch Lake area.

Area attractions

If the sandbars aren't your thing, just to the south of Torch Lake is Traverse City State Forest. This area is marked with miles and miles of two-tracks and off-roading trails. There are also some camping options in this area for someone who wants to get away from the crowds after a day on the lake.

Torch lake offers some excellent fishing. One of the most popular species to target is the big lake trout that lurk in the depths. But it also has popular fish like large and smallmouth bass, the usual panfish, lake sturgeon, Atlantic salmon, northern pike and muskie. It's worth noting the muskie get pretty big in Torch Lake. A 50-pounder, the lake record, was caught there in 2009.

The lake does see some ice fishing in the winter months, but mostly this is a spring and summer fishing destination. If you just want to get away from the crowds, a nice paddle down the Torch River might be more your style.

Camping options

There are plenty of places to set up a tent or RV near Torch Lake. The closest campground to the lake's popular south end sandbars is Torch Grove Campground. Although you should note I've read they're exclusively an RV park now.

Site rates for peak times of year (including the Fourth of July) are $75 a night, but that price drops to $40 a night on weeknights during less busy times of year. This campground is located right across the street from the public access if you want to get on the water fast every day.

If you don't mind travelling a little bit, Chain O'Lakes Campground is located about 10 miles to the north and charges less, about $28 a night for tents and popups. If you're looking for full hook-ups for an RV, they have a rate of $35-41 a night listed on their website.

They also advertise themselves as a family campground, so this is a good option to get away from the partying crowds that enjoy the lake around the holidays.

A bit more budget-friendly option is located on the north side of the lake. Barnes Park Campground is owned by the county and charges $31 a night for electrical and $27 a night for rustic sites. Barnes Park has excellent online reviews and allows you to sit at the picnic tables and enjoy the beautiful views of Grand Traverse Bay.

Yet another option is to rent cabins or cottages directly on the lake. You'll have your own private picnic area and easier access to the water. Just be aware these places are going to charge significantly more a night. One cottage I found online rents by the week and charges $3,000 plus a $500 security deposit. Other cottages rent for around $160 a night.

An outdoor lover's paradise

Torch Lake is an excellent option for anyone looking for that tropical feel without the extreme price a vacation like that usually brings.

But even better, northern Michigan is an absolute outdoor lover's paradise. It doesn't matter whether you like fishing, camping, kayaing or just hanging with friends, you'll probably find something fun to do in the Torch Lake area this summer.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis Youtube channels

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Torch Lake Camping: Michigan's Version of a Caribbean Getaway