Our state’s abundance of lakes and natural resources define what it means to have a “Michigan summer” — we go up north, swim off pontoon boats, and camp under the stars. Though metro Detroiters may need to travel outside of the city to get a decent view of the sky, a starry night isn’t too far away. With so many places for spectacular views, here are six of the top stargazing spots in Michigan that are less than five hours from downtown Detroit.
Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Only four hours north of metro Detroit, this woodland oasis is one of the first International Dark Sky Parks in the world. With this designation, the park is forever protected from light and sky pollution. Though camping is not permitted, visitors are welcome to picnic and stargaze all night long. Headlands offers some of the most stellar views in Michigan: meteor showers, the Northern Lights and multitudes of constellations can be seen without the help of a telescope. Headlands International Dark Sky Park,15675 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City; 231-427-100; midarkskypark.org.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Climb the dunes at night and ascend into the stars. Hosted by National Lakeshore Park rangers and members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, Star Parties at Sleeping Bear Dunes feature a drop-in telescope and information stations for all star-related questions. Depending on the night, guests can view deep space, solar objects, and planets. Dune climbs take place from 9-11 p.m. throughout the summer until mid-October. Access to the party is available at no cost with park admission. Sleeping Bear Dunes; 9922 Front Street, Empire; 231-326-4700; traversecity.com.
Port Crescent State Park Dark Sky Preserve
Located in the Port Crescent State Day Use Park, the Dark Sky Preserve is a unique place designed to keep out all surrounding light. One of just six Dark Sky Preserves in Michigan, this space is perfect for stargazing. Due to the intense reduction of light pollution, the Port Austin Dark Sky Preserve is a great place to see the Northern Lights, meteor showers, stars, and even planets. A popular place to set up for viewing is next to the beach. Park in lot C to get the closest to this area. Port Crescent State Park, 2000 Port Austin Road, Port Austin; 989-738-8663; portaustinarea.com.
Addison Oaks County Park
According to the Oakland County Geographic Information System’s gazing map, Addison Oaks County Park features low levels of light pollution. Rent a cabin on the shore of Buhl Lake and spend the day kayaking, fishing, or hiking the park’s many miles of trails. When night falls, pull out the sleeping bag and enjoy a clear view of the stars. With the added benefit being so close to home, this 1,140-acre recreation area is perfect for a quick stargazers’ getaway. Addison Oaks County Park, 1480 W. Romeo Road, Leonard; 248-693-2432; oakgov.com.
Tawas Point State Park
Known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” this warm, sandy campground is located in Tawas Bay on the shores of Lake Huron. Home to the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse, the park offers outstanding, lakefront views of the night sky. Tawas Point State Park, 686 Tawas Beach Road, East Tawas; 989-362-5041; michigandnr.com.
Rockport Recreation Area
Michigan’s 100th state park became an official Dark Sky Preserve a few years after its establishment. This unique park hosts over 4,237 acres of land on the shores of Lake Huron and is known for its variety of sights. With trails, sinkholes, deep-water fishing, a historic ghost village, fossils, a boat launch, a picnic area, and plenty of spots to set up a blanket and stare at the sky, Rockport Recreation Area will keep you entertained and mesmerized all evening long. Alpena 49707; 989-734-2543; visitalpena.com.
Looking for even more places to take in the magic of Michigan’s skies? Check out these spots to take in the sunset.
This post has been updated for 2023.