Here's five beaches worth making the drive from Grand Rapids to visit.  I've included some old favorites, and at least one hidden gem (that I guess won't be hidden anymore).

All of these are within about an hour's drive from the Grand Rapids Metropolitan area.

They are in no particular order, and I encourage you to weigh in with your favorites as well.

Silver Lake State Park, Mears -- The only beach along Lake Michigan where you can drive, the sand dunes offer tons of recreational possibilities, from dune buggy rides, to bicycling.  Locals along the coast are well aware of the beauty of these dunes, but it doesn't have the national attention that Sleeping Bear Dunes do, so it's really a place just for us.

Tunnel Park, Holland -- This Ottawa County Beach is at the south terminus of the Lakeshore Bike Trail.  It offers terrific views of Holland's Red Lighthouse, and access to the Lake Macatawa inlet.  The perfect beach to spend the afternoon building sand castles, and enjoying family get togethers.  The only downside is there are no lifeguards.  If it gets too hot when you're there, enjoy this view of the park in winter.

North Beach Park, Ferrysburg -- This is the hidden gem among Ottawa County beaches. Located off North Shore Road, it's accessible by taking the Spring Lake exit off US 31, ambling along 3rd Avenue to Ferrysburg, and taking the left at North Shore.  It offers all the beauty and sandy bottom swim areas of the more popular Grand Haven State Park and City Beach, but none of the crowds.  The sunsets here are stunning, with a great photo op featuring the famed Grand Haven lighthouse.

Oval Beach, Saugatuck -- This beach is more well known than North Beach, but it has that same hidden feeling to it.  Nestled back off a winding road that passes cottages, tennis courts, and forested dunes, Oval Beach has been named one of the top 25 US beaches by Conde Nast magazine.  You can also get there via hand cranked ferry from downtown Saugatuck.  Make it a day, and climb Mt. Baldhead (or Mt. Baldy depending on who you talk to) before refreshing yourself at the beach.

Pere Marquette, Muskegon -- A wonderful city beach that is underrated, it offers a wide, flat beach that has the feel of a Southern California beach. Adding to the allure is its setting among cottages and beach homes that have sandy front lawns. Surprising to some (not me), Pere Marquette is the only nationally certified clean beach in the Great Lakes region.

While we're on the subject of beaches, our Sun of a Beach Festival is Friday.