Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
Read full bio
If you’re craving a little fun in the sun and sand but can’t easily get to the ocean, you’ll be pleased to discover that Lake Michigan has a lot of beaches waiting to be explored. Lake Michigan borders the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, and the beaches here are fun for family vacations in the Midwest. To explore the beautiful shores of this Great Lake, here are the best beaches to check out this summer.
Silver Beach County Park stretches along 2,450 feet of Lake Michigan and is a great one to hang out on in the summer. The beach here is wide and clean, and it has 1,600 feet dedicated for public swimming. The St. Joseph area is a top tourist destination in Southwest Michigan for this reason, with the park being open from 5am to dusk each day. Top features of this beach include kayak and SUP rentals, volleyball courts, outdoor showers, picnic tables, playgrounds, a concession stand, and grills.
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an awesome place to visit in Michigan, including the Esch Road Beach. This beach is at the mouth of Otter Creek and is nice for wading and lounging in the sand. You can see wildflowers along the banks and park along the road to access the beach and restrooms. Other popular Lake Michigan beaches in this national lakeshore area are Peterson Beach, Platte River Point, North Bar Lake, and Glen Haven Beach.
To party in the sun and sand near top attractions in Chicago, it doesn’t get much more exciting than North Avenue Beach. This busy Lake Michigan beach is open daily from 6am to 11pm, and swimming is allowed from 11am to 7pm when lifeguards are present. This beach has a 22,000-square-foot beach house that is in an ocean liner-inspired building with upper decks that offer great city and lake views. The beach is also right along the Lakefront Trail that’s popular with cyclists and joggers. Enjoy food and drinks at Castaways Bar & Grill at the beach, rent a bike from the on-site rental shop, join a beach yoga class, take a stand-up paddleboarding lesson, rent jet skis, and play a game of beach volleyball while you’re here.
The best places in Indiana to enjoy Lake Michigan beaches are around the Indiana Dunes, including the Porter Beach area. This community has lakefront cottages and residences that are surrounded by the shores of Lake Michigan. In total, there are about 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in the Indiana Dunes area, and some beach areas are wheelchair accessible. In addition to Porter Beach, other beach access areas are West Beach, Kemil Road, Dunbar Beach Access, and Cowles Bog.
The beach area around Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Michigan’s Ludington State Park is worth putting on your list. It’s a 112-foot lighthouse on the Lake Michigan shore that offers tours between May and October. Do the 1.8-mile hike from the parking lot to the beach to climb to the top of the lighthouse tower. Another popular feature in the park is the Ludington State Park Beach House, as well as the concession stands and playgrounds. In addition to the state park, Ludington area beaches include Stearns Park Beach, Oceana County Beaches, and Buttersville and Summit Park Beaches.
Another awesome Chicago beach along Lake Michigan is Oak Street Beach, which allows swimming during lifeguard hours of 11am to 7pm daily. This beach is near the Gold Coast neighborhood and offers chair rentals, bike rentals, volleyball courts, restrooms, and food and beverage options. You can get here from CTA bus routes 22 Clark, 36 Broadway, and 151 Sheridan.
The beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park Beach is about a two-thirds mile hike from the picnic parking lot, and the entire park has about 2.5 miles of shoreline. This is a great park to visit for undeveloped and wild terrain that’s perfect for hiking and birdwatching too. Come here for a secluded day trip near Holland.
Door County, Wisconsin offers an array of exciting attractions, including some nice beaches at Whitefish State Park. Check the park’s website to learn about available beach access points that are open due to an erosion of the shoreline. There are 1.5 miles of sandy beach here where you can enjoy Lake Michigan, as well as hiking trails ranging from 0.25 miles to 4.2 miles long. The park is open year-around from 6am to 8pm.
You can also visit Dune Beach at Leelanau State Park to enjoy some sand and sunshine. There are sand dunes here that lead to the beach, and the beach is at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in the Northport area. In addition to the beach, check out the hiking trails and the Grand Traverse Lighthouse that you can visit between May and November.
Point Betsie Lighthouse is on Lake Michigan’s northeastern shore and one of the most popular lighthouses in the region to visit. You can take a semi-guided or self-guided tour of the lighthouse. Water access is available here, and Frankfort Beach is near the lighthouse too.
This is another popular beach area in the Holland area of Michigan, and the historic Ottawa Beach Parks include the Black Lake Boardwalks, Mt. Pisgah, and the Lake Michigan Beach by Holland State Park. The Holland State Park beach is perfect for sunbathing and family recreation. Nearby, you’ll find kayak and SUP rentals and campgrounds.
Grand Haven State Park Beach is a Michigan state park with 48 acres of land and a lovely beach with scenic views. It’s great for swimming, volleyball, sunbathing, fishing, and camping nearby. Also, check out the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse here. Meanwhile, the Grand Haven City Beach is near the state park beach. Dogs are allowed during certain dates and times, and there’s limited free parking nearby.