Saugatuck Dunes State Park combines mature forest with sandy lakefront to create one of the best places in West Michigan. Access to the beach is via a shady trail through wooded dunes. The walk is over a half mile, up and down hill, which reduces the crowds substantially-- it's way too far to haul a cooler. The beach is popular on summer weekends, but still relatively quiet.
The park has a system of trails through the woods, enough to make a decent hike. In the winter, it's a good place for cross-country skiing.
The park is just north of the village of Saugatuck (recently named Coolest Small Town). Take Blue Star Highway north to 64th street, turn left on 64th, then left on 138th St.
I teach economics at Kalamazoo College. My wife is also an economist. We were on sabbatical in Europe for the 2014-15 academic year. (Salamanca, Spain, followed by Oxford, UK.) We were in Uruguay for the 2006-7 academic year.