Lake houses in Torch Lake

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Popular amenities for Torch Lake places to stay

Your guide to Torch Lake

All About Torch Lake

One of the most picturesque lakes in Michigan — which is saying something, considering it’s next to Lake Michigan — Torch Lake is beloved for turquoise water so clear you can see the bottom. Some even compare it to the Caribbean. The shoreline of this 19-mile-long body of water, the biggest of 14 in the Elk River chain of lakes, is ringed by evergreen trees and pricey lakefront homes. Most visitors come here to spend their days in and on the water, whether in a fishing boat or on jet skis, innertubes, or paddleboards.

During the summer months, boats and rafts cluster along the shallow two-mile sandbar at the lake’s south end, resembling a floating party. But it’s easy to drift away from the festivities to a spot where you can relax and soak in the beauty of Northern Michigan, or placidly fish for trout and wide-mouth bass. Off the water, small resort towns such as Elk Rapids, Alden, and Bellaire promise distraction in the form of restaurants and shops, and the cultural draws of Traverse City are just 30 miles away.

The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Torch Lake

Given Torch Lake’s location in northern Lower Michigan, it may not be a surprise that peak season here is June through August, when the temperatures hang between the 60s and 80s Fahrenheit. While sunny days are frequent in summer, so are rainy ones, especially in August and September, so bring waterproof jackets along with your swimsuits and sunblock. Both spring (April-May) and fall (October-November) are gorgeous in Michigan, with cool temperatures and plenty of color in the wildflowers and trees. Although the lake does not freeze in winter, below-freezing temperatures and snowfall are common. Bundle up!

Top things to do in Torch Lake


A number of companies rent out pontoons or small boats for an afternoon or a few days. You can stay on the lake — after all, there’s quite a bit of it to peruse — or, if you have a smaller boat, travel along the river to the connected Elk Lake and Clam Lake.


Located just 20 miles from the northern tip of Torch Lake, picturesque Charlevoix is worth a day trip to browse through the craft shops and wander around the century-old Castle Farms. Charlevoix’s most eye-opening feature: 26 stone-and-thatch cottages known as “mushroom houses.”

Grass River Natural Area

With Grand Traverse Bay to the west and Torch Lake to the east, your options for shoreline walks are many, and there are bike trails aplenty as well. Dedicated hikers will enjoy exploring the forests and meadows of the 1,500-acre Grass River Nature Preserve in Bellaire, as well as a 1.5-mile-long boardwalk that leads through the wetlands.

Torch Lake Tour

Northeastern Michigan’s wineries, cideries, and breweries have flourished over the past decade, and the Torch Lake Tour directs you to 10 of them, a loop that circles the lake. You can find your own way around the tour or hire a driver to guide you.

Destinations to explore

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  4. Antrim County
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