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Rockhounding at Grandma’s Beach

Gerry Sell, Our Town: Antrim CountyWe have a request for information about where a family could do a little rockhounding around here.  And, um, apparently one of the kids has had a little too much fun already this summer and is sporting a cast, so that factors in too.  Got just the place, along with a few Additional Suggestions.


Some people call it Grandma’s Beach, in honor of Ada Marie McDowell (1912-2003) who was a pretty famous rockpicker in this neck of the woods.  I see a lot of grandmas taking lucky grandchildren for beachwalks there.

There are also young mothers with babies and dads and kids out for a bike ride and at least one blogger with a pair of disreputable dogs.  Not all at once, though–it’s never crowded.  Even on a blustery day it is a very good place to go rock-hunting.  This is the approved posture.

To get to Grandma’s Beach you will want to start at Torch Lake village, perched on the narrow strip of land along US-31 between Torch Lake and Grand Traverse Bay.  On the east side of the highway, Dock Road takes you to the William Good Day Park which has a swimming beach on beautiful Torch Lake, a boat launch, nice accessible restrooms, and picnic tables in sunny spots and shady spots. 

This is not Grandma’s Beach, but those restrooms can be very handy, and I thought I’d show you where they are first, just in case.  Besides, everyone should have a picnic on the shore of Torch Lake at least once during a vacation, and now you know a good place to do that.

It can get pretty busy at the height of the season, but even then it’s a peaceful sort of place—very family friendly.

OK, now we can go over to Grandma’s Beach.  On the west side of the highway, Torch Bay Road takes you to the Torch Bay Nature Preserve on Grand Traverse Bay.  You can see the blue glimmer at the end of the road as soon as you turn off US-31.  Bits of the beach are sandy, and you could certainly go swimming there, but mostly it’s a great wading and rock hunting spot with a primitive boat launch that needs repair, or did earlier in the spring anyway.

You can drive down to the boat launch area to unload your passengers and their gear and then go back and park by the end of the nature trail.  Look at all those rocks just begging to be examined.

When you have found enough Petoskey stones to make you happy, you can go geocaching on the nature trail.  There’s a cache there called “Grandma’s Beach.”  I managed to find it, and I can hardly ever find my car keys, so you can find it too.

(If you haven’t been geocaching before, you can read about it on Caching in: Who are these people and why are they skulking about in the underbrush? It’s an old post, but I just went and checked and the links still work.)

When you get hungry, I recommend that you trot right over to Chris and Sonny’s Torch Lake Market, situated conveniently at the corner of US-31 and Dock Road.  You could have breakfast there, you could have lunch there, or you could buy excellent treats to carry out.  You could even indulge in a Petoskey Stone puzzle or a Torch Lake sweatshirt.  I don’t see how you can go wrong.

The best part is that all three of these places are within an easy walk from each other and you cannot get lost, even if you don’t remember where you put your glasses.  Trust me on this.

For more from Gerry Sell, read her Torch Lake Views blog.

  • Mark Cameron

    I used to do that as a kid.  I plan on bringing my grandaughters to our favorite stretch of East Bay Shorline just north of Elk Rapids when they get to kindergarten age to look for a few stones. That will make 5 family generations of petosky stones built up in the collection.  A nice break from technology of the time - radio, TV, Color TV, HDTV, Video Games, Cell Phones, Smart Phones, but I think we may bring the digital camera. Great article Gerry! 

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