There is absolutely no better place to be in Northern Michigan during the summer than at the beach. With countless options for lakefront locations, everyone moving to the Grand Traverse or Leelanau County area is hoping to snag a coveted waterfront property. As these locations become harder to find and even harder to afford, you want to make sure you are getting the most out of your sandy beach and crystal-clear fresh water.

While there are many different options to turn your backyard into an entertaining paradise, you may not even know where to begin. How should you deal with that steep hill right out your back door? What landscape elements are well-suited for lakefront properties? We know you want to make a wise investment and protect the value of your property and the pristine lakeshore, so let’s look at five ways to make better use of your waterfront outdoor area.

1. It’s all about accessibility

The most frequent reason our clients are not using their outdoor waterfront property as much as they hoped is that it is just not very accessible. Maybe there is a large hill with no steps, maybe plants have overgrown and taken over, perhaps the beach is filled with seaweed washed up overnight, or maybe it is a long way back from the beach through a field full of knee-high weeds.

stone steps and boulder wall with plantings at beach

There are several ways to fix a difficult-to-access waterfront location. Before you decide to go outside and start cutting things down, remember that many of our shorelines are protected, and doing anything to them requires permitting. A professional landscape contractor can help you navigate the permitting process.

Addressing the accessibility issue can be simple in some cases and more extensive in others. At TruNorth, our full-service maintenance plans include things like raking your beach and disposing of waste, and trimming plantings for optimal health. These minor fixes can help make your property feel much more inviting.

landscape maintenance team rakes beach

If the grade of your property to the water is extreme or you have a longer walk to the beach, a more extensive solution may be necessary. Installing a walkway or pathway helps navigate the property much more easily. In addition, if you have a steep hill, grading may be necessary and sometimes even installing a patio with a retaining wall and steps can both give you more usable space and improve accessibility.

2. Heat it up

Northern Michigan nights can get chilly. As a result, if you have no heating source outside, you may be turning in for the night sooner than you would like. Heating elements like an outdoor fireplace or firepit can not only add warmth, but also entertainment and light. Fire elements can be either wood burning or a gas, whichever is the best fit for your property. Firepits and fireplaces are an excellent investment in your outdoor space and can be enjoyed by family and friends for years to come!

outdoor firepit with two chairs

3. Light it up

One thing nearly all waterfront property has in common is the complete and utter darkness after the sun sets. Without a fire or flashlights, navigating around your property in the evening hours can get dangerous. One simple way to help make your property more usable is to consider adding landscape lighting. Landscape lighting has come an extremely long way over the last few years. Lighting can many times be controlled from your phone and different lighting schemes can be created for different events including dimming and color!

landscape lighting in hardscape and near home

An experienced landscape designer can create a plant that illuminates your property but also makes it more beautiful. Lighting can be placed to highlight the beautiful architecture of your home or even some unique plantings by creating shadows.

4. Fire up the grill

During the summer in Northern Michigan, nothing is more delicious than a hot dog or hamburger fresh off the grill. Bringing the comfort and ease of your indoor kitchen outside can help transition your outdoor space from boring and drab to party central. Outdoor kitchens can consist of a built-in grill or so much more. Check out some of our favorite outdoor kitchen features that make cooking outdoors way more fun:

  • Drawers- This one sounds really simple, but it so nice to not have to haul out all your cooking utensils, plates, cups, and more just to eat dinner outside. It is even possible to install drawers that keep items warm after you pull them off the grill.
  • Sink- A sink is key for easy clean-up outdoors. The ability to not have to walk back inside to get a glass of water or rinse a plate is a time saver.
  • Refrigerator, Wine Cooler, Freezer, Kegerator- Any of these options are great for saving trips to and from the house. A refrigerator can help keep your pasta salads and fruit cold while you grill and is a great spot to throw leftovers while you enjoy the sunset. Freezers allow for quick and easy ice or popsicles for the kids. A wine cooler or kegerator can be a fun addition too!
  • Pizza Oven- This one is really just for fun and deliciousness over purpose, but everyone loves a brick oven pizza cooked outside.outdoor kitchen on patio with firepit

5. Add some plantings

When we mention waterfront property, plantings are probably not the first thing that comes to mind, however, they can completely transform your outdoor space. Many think that planting has to be minimal when it comes to beach properties, but this is totally untrue. Try some of these ideas for adding color and texture to your waterfront property:

  • Creating an area that is dedicated to grass near your beach can be a ton of fun and add some color to your landscape.
  • Add built-in plant beds to your patio or retaining wall if you sit very close to the water. These beds can house perennial plants that are minimal maintenance but have maximum beauty.
  • Try adding container gardens like pots or hanging baskets if your area has limited space. Don’t hesitate to try planting perennials in your container gardens!
  • Visit a local garden center and check out the plantings. Write a list of a few of your absolute favorites and work to include them in your space.

patio and retaining wall with planters built in

Partnering with a Professional Landscape Contractor

While many of our suggestions are great DIY projects, for many properties, it may be wise to call in the experts. Attempting to perform grading on your own or installing a patio or retaining wall on your own can lead to a dangerous property with drainage and safety issues. An experienced landscape design team can help you select plantings that will thrive near your waterfront and help make suggestions to convert your space from blah to wow. You invested in you waterfront property, so you deserve to get the most out of it! Utilizing your outdoor space more often and more comfortably can help make those Northern Michigan summers even more sweet!

Interested in discussing your waterfront property’s potential? Get started with a consultation with one of our experts today.

Get started today with a consultation!

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