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27 Reasons The Great Lakes Are Truly The Greatest (PHOTOS)

09/03/2013 07:43 am ET | Updated Jul 05, 2014

Lake Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. To some, those names might not mean much. What's a lake when you have the ocean, someone from California might say. They can't be much compared to the Gulf Coast, a Floridian might sneer.

But anyone who calls the Great Lakes home -- or a home away from home -- knows it's near impossible to beat the breathtaking surroundings of the five lakes that touch eight states and Canada. Below check out a few of the reasons why the Great Lakes just might be the greatest ever, and if you make it to the end without seeing your favorite spot, submit a photo or memory below.

  • 1 Let's start simple: the beaches are incredible.
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    That's an obvious one. Lake Michigan beach, north of New Buffalo.
  • 2 The sunsets are unbeatable.
    Honestly.
  • 3 And the sunrises are exquisite, too.
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    Predawn color over granites and white pine at mouth of Chikanishing Creek in Georgian Bay, Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario.
  • 4 They're home to more than 32,000 islands.
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    An iris at Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior that's also a national park. Those 32,000 islands also include Manitoulin in Lake Huron, the largest freshwater island in the world, which has more than 100 lakes of its own, which have their own islands, which have ponds. Mind-blowing.
  • 5 Speaking of national parks, they have amazing ones.
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    The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior, Michigan. AP Photo/Bob Brodbeck.
  • 6 Which are beautiful to look at from afar...
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    The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at Lake Michigan.
  • 7 And even better to visit.
  • 8 They're also huge.
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    The Great Lakes touch Canada, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Combined, the length of all five shorelines is about 44 percent of the Earth's circumference. They hold one-fifth of the Earth's available fresh surface water, and enough to cover all of the United States in more than 9.5 feet of water. By surface area, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world. Who needs the ocean?
  • 9 They're marvelous in all seasons...
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    Lake Superior Provincial Park, Wawa, Ontario.
  • 10 Even in winter...
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    A winter sunset at Tiny Beach, Georgian Bay, Ontario.
  • 11 Even when it's cold...
    Dave Gorum
  • 12 Really, really cold.
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    St. Joseph, Michigan.
  • 13 But they're not just beautiful.
    They also have a huge economic impact: more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs have a direct connection to the lakes, according to a 2011 report. The lakes also provide drinking water for 40 million people. The Cason J. Callaway closes out the 2012 shipping season at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
  • 14 They're full of adventure...
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    Juan Piantino wind surfs along Montrose Beach October 19, 2011 in Chicago. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.
  • 15 But also a place to find peace.
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    Lake Superior, Ontario.
  • 16 You can see once-in-a-lifetime phenomena.
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    A view displaying the Northern Lights affected by the solar tsunami over Lake Superior on Aug. 4, 2010 in Marquette, Michigan, captured by photographer Shawn Malone, 46, just before midnight. Malone spent just over an hour and half each night observing the enhanced natural phenomenon and used exposures lasting 20 minutes. Photo by Shawn Malone / lakesuperiorphoto.com / Barcroft USA / Getty Images.
  • 17 They're full of mystery ... and strange occurrences.
    The Great Lakes Triangle, the Midwest version of the Bermuda Triangle.
  • 18 There's so much to explore.
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    Wreck of the Sweepstakes, a ship built in 1867, in Big Tub Harbour, Fathom Five National Marine Park, Tobermory, Ontario. There are at least 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.
  • 19 Some beaches are a rock collector's dream...
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    The Georgian Bay shoreline at Halfway Log Dump in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario, Canada.
  • 20 But you can always find crystal clear waters.
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    Lake Michigan lakeshore.
  • 21 You can stay in amazing accomodations...
    Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island.
  • 22 Or find rustic bliss.
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    Lake Ontario.
  • 23 The Great Lakes have it all: the big city...
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    The Chicago lakefront.
  • 24 Charming towns...
    Fishtown, Leland, Michigan.
  • 25 And true wilderness.
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    Moose on Isle Royale.
  • 26 There's no better place to see the stars.
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    Mackenzie Point, Ontario.
  • 27 And a trip to the Great Lakes is always memorable.
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    Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. How to remember them? They spell out HOMES, and always feel like home.

The Incredible Great Lakes
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