I have been to Sleeping Bear Dunes, Sand Point / Pictured Rocks, and Oak Street.
The last time I was at Sleeping Bear was when I was in college, back in the 80's. The dune is very steep, and running down it we were covering 20 feet in each stride. It was autumn already, but we went skinny dipping anyway before the climb back up.
As for Pictured Rocks, I much prefer Chapel Beach, Miner's Beach, or Twelvemile Beach. Twelvemile offers dunes. Miner's Beach is the most accessible and has a combination of sand and rocks dropping into deep water, and even a few sea caves for those willing to swim around the point. Chapel Beach requires a hike and has back country camp sites. Late in the season you can have it all to yourself. Try skinny dipping before loading your pack and hoofing it out in the morning.
Am I channeling Bear or RJ in this thread?
As for Oak Street, it is the beach where all the hot chicks and buff dudes go to be seen. The equivalent is Bradford Beach in Milwaukee (which has the advantage of being near the university). Occassional skinny dipping, but not by me.
I've been to all of the beaches. I would place the beaches of the Pinery Provincial Park or Grand Bend Ontario before that of Bayfield. Otherwise spot on. Lots of nice beaches in the Great Lakes. Its about time we got some love.
Sleeping Bear is right at the top of my favorite places to be in Michigan - right up there with the Silver Lake dunes in Hart, MI which also has some great beaches but you generally have to deal with a much larger and louder crowd than at Sleeping Bear.
And I agree with DetroitPlanner that Grand Bend and the Pinery are some great beaches. I used to have a friend who's neighbors had a cottage just north of Grand Bend right on the lake. It was always a lot of fun going there when I was a little kid because the cottage was right near the road and then there was a tiny, rickety staircase leading down about 70' or so to get to the beach (or at least that's what it seemed like to me as a 10-year-old... if I went back now I'd probably think it was closer to 25').
That is fantastic. I've spent quite a bit of time on a friend's property in DeTour Village, MI (easternmost point of the UP excepting Drummond Island), watching the freighters go through the passage. That will be so cool to track the ships coming and going.
Last year nothing froze over. It was too warm. This was true for even Mackinaw Island which depends on the frozen waters to make it to and from the mainland in winter. The boats were able to operate all winter though. This week the Detroit River is full of sheets of ice making their way from Lac Ste Clair to Lac Erie. I don't see this as a huge trend. Most years it freezes over somewhat. In some years it don't. Some years water levels are high, other years they are low. The Great Lakes region is a complex eco-system operating in a complex environment. We're North, but not so far North where weather won't vary from season to season. I am more concerned about lake levels as along with last years low snow and ice came low levels of water screwing up navigation in and out of ports similar in fashion as what was seen on the Mississippi.