Orchard Beach State Park: a Western Michigan Best-Kept Secret?
Orchard Beach State Park is another one of western Michigan’s best-kept secrets…..at least, it is from a lot of people in the central and eastern parts of the state.
Thanks to assistance from a railway company (Eastlake), the Manistee area opened this park in 1892, with trolley cars transporting vacationers to the beach.
Trolley transportation lasted almost thirty years, and by 1921 tourists and weekend warriors simply drove themselves to the beach or hitched a ride. With the hordes of people swarming the park every weekend, it was just a matter of time before it expanded. The state cleared an area for a campground, pavilion, and restrooms.
Orchard Beach State Park was cited on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and called “one of the most intact examples of a Michigan state park developed in the 1930s and 1940s”.
The park also has an Historical Marker, recalling the 1871 blaze that burned most of Manistee and Holland on October 8, 1871, the same day as the infamous Chicago fire.
The famous pavilion still stands on the bluff, which has eroded over the years thanks to the lake effect. As of 2019, the pavilion is a mere 50 feet from the edge.
It’s another place to visit on a Michigan roadtrip…you just might end up staying an extra day or two. Check out some “then-and-now” photos below…