Skip to Content

Unsalted and Shark-Free: Visit America’s Freshwater Inland Seas

If you gravitate toward the water for your summer vacation but want to avoid the crowds, you might consider a getaway to the Great Lakes. You can have your beaches, coastal towns, and water sports without the swarms of people found on either coast. There will be room on the sand for the whole family, and you won’t have to fight for space to build sand castles. Hop into the water without fear, as sharks are non-existent. Plus, the fishing is great!

With hundreds of beach towns from which to choose, the Great Lakes provide the perfect alternative to oceanside vacations. Let’s take a closer look!

North America Has 5 Freshwater Seas, Known As the Great Lakes

The five lakes that make up the Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater seas on earth. They have some attributes you can only find in the world’s oceans, giving them the nickname “inland seas.”

With rolling waves, sustained winds, ocean-like currents, deep waters, and horizons with no land in sight make the Great Lakes a freshwater option to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.


What Are the 5 Great Lakes in Order of Size? 

With the exception of Lake Michigan, the Great Lakes define the border between the United States and the province of Ontario, Canada. Of all five, Lake Superior is, by far, the largest, covering 31,700 square miles. Lake Huron is 23,007 square miles, and Lake Michigan is just shy of that, covering 22,404 square miles. Coming in fourth is Lake Erie at 9,910 square miles, and last is Lake Ontario at 7,340 square miles.

Two little children playing on beach in front of Lake Michigan
Enjoy relaxing on clean white sandy beaches and swimming in warm waters.

What Makes the Great Lakes Special?

With five huge freshwater seas, visitors can enjoy water activities like sailing, kite surfing, sea kayaking, and more. If money is no object, bring your yacht along or just hang your rod and reel off the back of a powerboat after a morning of waterskiing. You could catch salmon, whitefish, trout, or walleye for dinner, but you won’t be reeling in any shark.

Because they are so large, severe storms are always a threat, especially during the fall season. For that reason, there are numerous shipwrecks like the Edmond Fitzgerald scattered along the bottom that divers like to explore. Most of them have islands that can be explored. That includes Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, where wolves and moose are the main attraction.

Who doesn’t enjoy watching the sunset on a beach or behind one of the many lighthouses that dot the shorelines? Explore the history and beauty of these bodies of water that overshadow the communities scattered along their edges.

Pro Tip: Going on an adventure to Michigan? Check out these 10 Great Places to Go Beach Camping in Michigan.

dog looking across lake superior
The Great Lakes are so big that you can’t see all the way across them.

What Are the Biggest Fish in the Great Lakes? 

Early settlers marveled at the number of fish species in the waters. More than 150 species existed before commercial fishing, and the building of dams began to limit their existence.

Today, the lake sturgeon is the largest fish that inhabits the five bodies of water. They can grow to 8 feet long and weigh up to 300 pounds! The largest ever recorded was 310 pounds and 8 feet long.

Chinook or king salmon can also be found in the Great Lakes, and typically grow to 5-10 pounds. Coho and pink salmon are also found in this water system, however, all the salmon have been introduced by official organizations and restocked annually to maintain their populations for sport fishing.

Not to worry, however. There are no sharks.

Which One Is the Cleanest? 

Lake Superior is the largest, as it has greater depth and colder water. With a cooler climate than its counterparts and poor soil, it has fewer pollutants and remains the cleanest of all freshwater lakes. It’s also considered the wildest of the five, with fewer population centers on its shores.

However, despite its cleanliness, it has one of the lowest biodiversity. Not many species can survive in its cold year-round temperatures.

couple gazing out across the great lakes
The five Great Lakes have something for everyone to enjoy.

Do the Great Lakes Have Beaches? 

Yes, there are amazing beaches to qualify as great vacation spots. Lake Michigan touts several different beach towns where you will find beaches, huge sand dunes, and entire maritime districts. All their beaches are less populated than those on either coast, yet the sand is just as inviting. 

Lake Superior offers Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Sand Point Beach, Miner’s Beach, Chapel Beach, and Hurricane River Beach, to name a few. When at Lake Michigan, check out Grand Haven, Silver Lake Sand Dunes, and South Haven beaches. Lake Huron has Starlite Beach, Cheboygan State Park, Oscoda Beach, and Lakeside Beach, among others. 

The offerings at Lake Erie include Presque Isle Beach, Kelleys Island State Park, Cedar Point Beach, and Edgewater Beach. And Lake Ontario beaches include Fair Haven, Ontario Beach, Sandy Island Beach, and Southwick Beach.

Mom, dad, and son playing in Lake Michigan
Due to minimal tides and shark-free waters, the Great Lakes are perfect for little children to play in.

Do the Great Lakes Have Tides?

Because they are so large, they do technically experience tides. However, they’re nothing like the tides you experience in an ocean. They are nominal in comparison. The gravitational pull of the moon and the centrifugal forces of its orbit with the Earth causes the water to move from one side to the other twice a day.

But, the difference in water level is only around 2 inches or 3 inches at maximum. This is because they are not as large as an ocean and are self-contained without outlets. Conversely, oceans are interconnected, so water can flow from one to another as the tides move.

Pro Tip: Find out What Is at the Bottom of Lake Superior. The answer may surprise you!

What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit?

Spring and summer are the most popular times of the year to escape to these sandy beaches, as the weather (and water) warms. Outdoor recreation is more prevalent, and you will avoid the sudden storms that appear, usually in autumn.

Lake Huron - The Great Lakes Shoreline RV Tour

Are the Great Lakes Worth It? 

Pick one or pick them all! Each offers a worthy destination for any getaway. Freshwater fishing, playing on a sandy beach, or exploring coastal towns never looked so good when you compare it to the crowded coasts of the Pacific or Atlantic. It may be time for you to put Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario Lakes at the top of your vacation list!

If you plan to do any beach camping on the Great Lakes, be sure to follow these 10 Beach Camping Golden Rules You Should Never Break.

Become A Mortons On The Move Insider

Join 15,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!

Also, join our Mortons on the Move Community discussion over on our Discord Server!

About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

About Us

Sharing is caring!