Surely one can appreciate a sandy shoreline amid the crisp winds of autumn or marvel at the frozen majesty of Lake Michigan during the icy winter, but a beach doesn’t really shine in all of its glorious beachiness until the heat and sunshine and activity of summer arrive. Never has this notion been truer than this year, after the relentlessness of our arctic entrapment over the past several months.
Borne perhaps of the simple realization that our designated beach season is so cruelly finite, we here in the Midwest have never been ones to take our beaches for granted. So don’t be surprised if the crowds are just a little bit bigger and the smiles just a little bit wider when the beaches of Indiana, Michigan and Chicago once again heat up for another busy summer. After all, we’ve never been more aware of how lucky we are to have them.
This 23-acre stretch is a popular oasis among its industrial surroundings for swimmers, boaters and fishermen.
1561 Park Road, Whiting
A perfect spot for both the active and the less so, West boasts a bath house and wide sandy beach for sun worshippers and a series of nearby dune trails for the adventurous, get-off-the-towel crowd.
N County Line Road, Portage
A scenic entry drive, a quiet patch of sand and the nearby Dune Ridge Trail are the big selling points for this Porter County gem.
1100 N Mineral Springs Road, Porter
The name says it all—this is a great spot for enjoying a lakeside lunch with an unbeatable vista or for just kicking back and taking it all in.
Lake Front Drive and Broadway, Beverly Shores
From bank swallows to dragonflies, Central is just as appealing to wildlife as it is the human population. Central and Valley Avenues, Michigan City
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
This 57-acre former industrial site is now a place to manufacture summer memories, from strolling along the path to dropping a line from the fishing pier.
6150 US Hwy 12, Portage
Indiana Dunes State Park
“A day at the beach” takes on a whole new meaning at this sprawling 2,182-acre system of beach, dunes, marshes, swamps, hardwood forests, white pine groves and 16.5 miles of trails – better make it a few days.
1600 N 25 E., Chesterton
A Miller Beach favorite for generations, this municipal park includes a 1.4-mile white sand beach, inland ponds, high sand dunes, wetlands, a lagoon and an indigenous oak savanna.
1 N Grand Boulevard, Gary
Washington Park Beach
The popular swimming beach here is but one of many summertime attractions, including fitness trails, tennis courts, fishing spots, a boat launch and Indiana's only working lighthouse and catwalk.
115 Lakeshore Drive, Michigan City
New Buffalo City Beach
Within walking distance of downtown, this scenic spot features dunes, wooden walkways and kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as a rocky breakwall for those looking to venture into the lake without getting wet.
Whitaker Street, New Buffalo
Located at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, this popular spot for swimming and sightseeing also features the perpetually buzzing Shadowland Pavilion for weddings and other special events.
101 Broad Street, St. Joseph
Holland State Park
Take your pick from beaches along Lake Michigan or Lake Macatawa, bunk down at one of the two large campgrounds or head out for a bike ride along the adjacent Ottawa County trail.
2215 Ottawa Beach Road, Holland
Mount Baldhead and Oval Beach Recreation Area
A hand-pulled chain ferry across the Kalamazoo River from Saugatuck is one way to get to the beach that was rated among the 25 best shorelines in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, and a 282-step climb to the top of Mount Baldhead awaits those who don’t like to spend their beach time lying down.
698 Water Street, Saugatuck
Saugatuck Dunes State Park
2.5 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and coastal dunes over 200 feet tall highlight this relatively secluded getaway.
6575 138th Avenue, Holland
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
You can spread out on a towel here if you’d like, but you’re almost sure to be in the minority—everybody else (kids especially) will be turning their legs to jelly climbing through the shifting sands of the dune hills.
6748 S Dune Highway, Glen Arbor
Van Buren State Park
With a mile of sandy beach, towering dune formations and a series of woodland trails, this is a great place to unwind before or after enjoying one of South Haven’s many summer festivals.
23960 Ruggles Road, South Haven
Warren Dunes State Park
With three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and 260 feet of dune elevation, Warren checks off every box on the list of great beach adventure options.
12032 Red Arrow Highway, Lake Charter Township
North and South Beaches
If you have two quarters, there’s no need to choose between these two South Haven beaches—just hop on the “beach bus” and spend part of your day at each.
North: Lakeshore Drive, South: Water Street, South Haven
Ohio Street Beach
Compared to its more crowded brethren just to the north, this Streeterville pocket can be relatively serene during the week, though the weekends often draw flotillas of debauchery in the not-too-distant waters.
600 N Lake Shore Drive
North Avenue Beach
From the bustling nautical-themed beach house to the rushing stream of bikes and blades along the adjacent lakefront path to the endless array of volleyball courts, this is not the beach for those looking to get away from it all—it’s for those who prefer to be right in the middle of it all.
1600 N Lake Shore Drive
Oak Street Beach
The see-and-be-seen beach in Chicago, this glamorous elbow of sand and selfies nuzzles right up to Lake Shore Drive in the shadow of the Magnificent Mile and the Gold Coast.
Oak Street and Lake Shore Drive
Montrose Avenue Beach
Away from the raucousness of the “downtown” beaches, this North Side expanse is nevertheless a sure spot to find large, though mostly laid-back, weekend crowds.
4400 N Lake Shore Drive