Petoskey Stone Hunting: 10 Beaches Where You Can Find Michigan’s State Stone
The Petoskey stone has been Michigan’s state stone since 1965, and has been one of the most sought-after beach treasures in the Northern Lower Peninsula for decades. This stone is composed of fossilized coral (Hexagonaria percarinata) that dates back to the Devonian period. Named for Ottawa chief Pet-O-Sega, Petoskey stones share their name with the city of Petoskey and many other area landmarks. The best places to search for these stones are centered around the 45th parallel, covering an area from Manistee to Traverse City along the Lake Michigan shoreline. We’ve been fortunate to track down many of these stones over the years, and without giving too many secrets away we will share some of our favorite places to hunting for Petoskey stones. This is by no means a fully comprehensive list (as we’ve found Petoskey stones in many far away places) or a list for guaranteed success, but it is our compilation of 10 places where we have had the most success finding these fun fossils!
A few important notes:
- Removal of Petoskey stones is prohibited at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
- The state of Michigan allows for 25 lbs. of collecting per visit
- Best times to go hunting include after or during rain (easier to spot the coral patterns) or in spring after the ice on the lake thaws out
- Find a section of the beach that isn’t busy for best results
- Don’t limit yourself to just the beach, check parking lots, in the water, etc. as well
Bohemian Road Beach/Good Harbor (Sleeping Bear Dunes) – This magnificent beach along Good Harbor Bay is a favorite for families looking for somewhere to swim. A stream flows into Lake Michigan here, a great spot to start looking for Petoskey stones is near where the stream meets the lake. From M-22 near Bass Lake, take CR-669 north to its end at Lake Michigan. (National Park pass required)
Glen Haven Beach (Sleeping Bear Dunes) – Look for the bright red building here (Cannery Boat Museum) and you’ll find a long stretch of pristine sandy beach as well. From here you can see both of the Manitou Islands. Look for Petoskey stones right along the water line or in the shallow water. To get to Glen Haven, head north on Glen Haven Rd. at the point where M-109 makes a 90-degree bend between the Dune Climb and the D. H. Day Campground. (National Park pass required)
Petoskey State Park – One of the gems of the Michigan state park system in Northern Michigan is Petoskey State Park, which is home to 180 campsites, several miles of hiking trails, and a stunning beach on Little Traverse Bay. We’ve had a great deal of success finding Petoskey stones here on the beach and in the shallow water. To reach the park, head north from US-31 onto M-119 for two miles and look for the park entrance (MI Recreation Passport required).
Michigan Beach Park (Charlevoix) – This beach next to the Charlevoix South Pier Light has consistently been a great spot for us. On a recent (June 2020) visit it took less than a half hour to find a handful of Petoskey stones. From US-31 just south of the lift bridge, head west on Park St. and follow it two blocks to Grant St. Follow Grant north to its end in the park.
Orchard Beach State Park – The main draw to this state park north of Manistee is the views from a bluff above Lake Michigan and a campground. Erosion has done a number on the beach area in recent years, but there are still stones to be found if you’re willing to put in the work. From Manistee, head north on M-110/Lakeshore Rd. for three miles and the park entrance.
Point Betsie Lighthouse – One of our favorite Michigan lighthouses (check our our Photo Gallery) also has a small beach that has been a great spot for finding Petoskey stones. From Frankfort, head north on M-22 for five miles, then turn left on Point Betsie Rd. Follow this road west to its end at the lighthouse and a small parking area.
Empire Beach – Village Park is home to a playground, boat launch, picnic facilities, and a section of Lake Michigan beach that can be a good spot for rockhounds. The Robert Manning Memorial Light is also located in this park, which is located off of Niagara St. a few blocks west of M-22 in Empire (parking fees may apply).
Platte River Point Beach (Sleeping Bear Dunes) – Kayaking or tubing the Platte River is one of the most popular summer activities for visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The river meets Lake Michigan at a spot with pristine beach and views of the Empire Bluffs. Get great pictures of the Petoskey stones you find here, and check out the Platte River Campground for a great place to stay. From M-22 near Platte Lake, head west on CR-708 and follow it to its end at the parking area for the beach (fees may apply).
Esch Road Beach (Sleeping Bear Dunes) – As you drive back to Esch Road Beach, it’s easy to think that this is a secret spot – but rest assured plenty of people know about it! There’s plenty of beach here with scenic views of the dunes, so you’ll have room to spread out and start looking for Petoskey stones. We’ve had some luck looking for them where Otter Creek meets Lake Michigan. From M-22 south of Empire, head west on CR-610 and follow it to its end at Esch Rd. Beach (park pass required).
Leland/Fishtown Beaches – Pristine waters and sandy beaches are a big draw to Leland, which is also where you’ll find historic Fishtown and a collection of shopping opportunities. Thompson Street Beach and Van’s Beach are a few options for swimming and looking for rocks here, and are both located just a few blocks west of M-22.