Sure, Midwesterners love a good mid-winter beach getaway. But in the summer months, the Midwest is home to some amazing beaches and shorelines. Here are our top 10 midwestern beaches for fun in the sun without the expensive airfare.
Oak Street Beach – Chicago, IL
A beachy paradise in the heart of a major metropolis? Nope, it’s not Miami. It’s Oak Street Beach located in the heart of Chicago, IL! This white-sand beach is clean, dotted with palm trees, and located directly beneath the gorgeous skyscrapers on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. If you have a four-legged friend who loves the beach as much as you do, check out Montrose Dog Beach—just a few miles away (cpdbeaches.com).
Bradford Beach – Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach is an accessible oasis for all of your summer beach needs! Complete with sand volleyball courts, an authentic thatched-roof tiki bar, a delicious custard and burger stand, playgrounds, and of course 30 acres of sandy beach along Lake Michigan, Bradford Beach also has the added benefit of easy, free parking. The lakefront is also home to a number of summer festivals, including the Lakefront Festival of the Arts and the Air and Water Show (county.milwaukee.gov).
Clinch Park Beach – Traverse City, MI
Traverse City is home to six beautiful beaches, but the most popular is Clinch Park Beach. Tall ships anchor in the clear blue bay, and the soft sand is surrounded by perfectly manicured flower beds. The further east you go along the 1,500 feet of shoreline, the more secluded the beach gets. It’s also just a short walk from downtown Traverse City (traversecity.com).
Presque Isle Beach – Marquette, MI
A perfect beach for thrill-seekers, Presque Isle Beach is lined with huge black rocks making it a popular cliff-jumping destination. If back-flipping into 38º water isn’t your style, the cool sandy-bottom swim area is a refreshing respite for floating and splashing around in the hot summer months. In addition to the beautiful beach, a bike rail hugs the shoreline, and the beach is only a mile from town (mqtcty.org).
North Beach – Racine, WI
Home to the Extreme Volleyball Professional tour each summer, North Beach in Racine, Wisconsin feels more like the west coast than southeastern Wisconsin. Incredibly clean, the 1.2 miles of sandy beach along Lake Michigan are located right next to a Zoo, a Kid’s Cove playground, and a natural wetland. North Beach is also a popular destination for boaters as it is also home to the Racine Yacht Club’s marina (realracine.com).
Lake Calhoun North Beach – Minneapolis, MN
Just west of Minneapolis’s funky Uptown neighborhood, Lake Calhoun North Beach is an outdoors lover’s paradise. Paved walking and biking trails run throughout the area. A slightly less-crowded alternative to the popular Thomas Beach, the crowd at North Beach is more eclectic. Stop by the Tin Fish restaurant for fresh walleye or mahimahi tacos and enjoy the views of sailboats drifting by (minneapolisparks.org).
Park Point Beach – Duluth, MN
Just east of Duluth’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge, this way-up-north beach faces the breathtaking Lake Superior and is home to the world’s largest sandbar. To access the beach, visitors park at the base of a sand dune and climb up and over it, through a wooded picnic area that boasts lots of grills, shelters, and a playground, and arrive at the gorgeous shoreline. The water this far north is frigid, but excellent for wading and watching the giant 1,000 foot ore ships passing through (parkpointbeach.org).
Lake of the Ozarks State Park – Lake of the Ozarks, MO
This massive state park in central Missouri is home to two sandy beaches along its 85 miles of shoreline—the more popular beach being Grand Glaize. Swimmers enjoy clean sand and beautiful views, while there is plenty to do for land-lovers as well. The state park offers boat rentals, lantern-light tours, horseback riding, fishing, golf courses, and more. There is something for everyone, and all of the attractions are conveniently located close together (mostateparks.com).
Mississippi River islands – McGregor/Marquette, IA
Iowa’s eastern edge is dotted with sandy islands all along the Mississippi River. A boater’s delight, these secluded islands are uninhabited and a perfect place to tie up and take a dip, have a bonfire, and soak up the sun. If you don’t have your own boat, houseboat rentals are available through the McGregor/Marquette Chamber of Commerce, and can make for an exciting getaway (mcgreg-marq.org).
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Michigan City-Gary, IN
Seven public swimming beaches adorn the Lake Michigan shoreline between Michigan City and Gary in northwest Indiana. Some of the world-class beaches are attached to campgrounds, shelters, and picnic areas. But the most popular—Indiana Dunes State Park at Chesterton— features stunning views of the Chicago skyline across the water. There are also a number of local breweries nearby when you need a break from the sand and sun.(nps.gov/indu).