To the uninitiated, the Great Lakes represent little more than the web of water that spawned hardscrabble cities like Detroit and Chicago. But these five lakes, which together form the largest network of freshwater in the world, have some incredible beach towns. "This is the best-kept secret in America," says Jerry Dennis, a Traverse City resident and the author of The Living Great Lakes. "Our beaches are better than most saltwater beaches – they're cleaner, they're bigger, and they're less populated." Out on the lakes, there's deepwater fishing for 30-pound muskie, world-class kitesurfing, and hundreds of miles of open water to paddle or sail. But what might be even more surprising is that the food and culture scenes on the northern shores – dominated by fresh-catch cuisine, craft breweries, local wineries, and an influx of musicians and artists – are booming as well.