You could stay there, as there are an abundance of hotels, restaurants, vineyards to explore and decent beaches on the bay. The main difference on open water on Lake Michigan is water as far as you can see and big waves. It’s a lot prettier in open water. A day trip through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and a Beach stop in Empire, Frankfort, Manistee or Ludington would show you the difference. If you want to see the ocean, you probably don’t head to Tampa Bay. Same idea on our freshwater seas.
It depends where you'll be.
Traverse City is the best of the beach tows for restaurants, breweries, and vineyards in my opinion.
There are also great Lake Michigan beaches at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and up the western coast of the Leelanau Peninsula (so 3 days in Traverse City is a great way to experience Northern Michigan).
If you're specifically focused on the beach, any town along the Lake Michigan shoreline, from Charlevoix (or even Mackinaw City) all the way down to New Buffalo near the Indiana border will have great beaches.
So the primary issue is where you're coming from before the beach and going to after the beach.
If you're driving from Missouri, you can shorten your drive time to enjoy the beach by stopping somewhere far south of Traverse City.
if you're flying to Michigan it'll depend on your airport.
When we got to Traverse City, we don't go to the beach there. We hit the beaches over at Sleeping Bear National Seashore. But, we greatly enjoy TC and the surrounding towns for shopping, eating and activities.
There are great beaches all the way from the Indiana border up to Mackinaw city. As mentioned Traverse city is on grand Traverse bay, while the TC beaches are fine there are others that you may like better.
As in Saint Joseph, South Haven, Saugatuck, Grand haven, Muskegon, pentwater, Ludington, Manistee, Frankfort, empire, Glen arbor, Leland, Northport, elk Rapids, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and of course wilderness State Park which is west of Mackinaw cityEdited: 10 July 2018, 18:52