The Best Beaches in and Around Chicago

The Lake Michigan shoreline provides plenty of beaches to enjoy during the summer
The Lake Michigan shoreline provides plenty of beaches to enjoy during the summer | © Gautam Krishnan / Unsplash

Best known for deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and jazz music, Chicago is also home to some stunning beaches. It can get incredibly cold during the winter, but in summer the temperatures are warm enough to enjoy the shoreline along Lake Michigan, where there’s plenty of space for everyone to relax. Here, Culture Trip highlights the city’s best beaches.

Montrose Beach

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Chicago, USA, 3rd September 2015. Colorful rental kayaks line Montrose Beach at Lake Michigan on this steamy early September day. Temperatures exceeded 90ºF/32ºC but few people could cool off in the lake on a weekday. Credit:  Todd Bannor/Alamy Live News
© Todd Bannor / Alamy Live News
Montrose Beach, which comes complete with free wifi, is the best beach in the city. Situated in Uptown and slightly out of the way, it’s an attractive option for those looking for somewhere a little quieter. Here, you can sip on cocktails while visiting the Dock, and dine on some fresh fish, all while listening to the free live music. If you fancy getting into the water, hire a kayak or a jet ski. For dog lovers, you can take your furry friend to the north end, where dogs are allowed. And for bird lovers, head to the south side where you can spot some of the migrating birds.

North Avenue Beach

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A couple walks along a breakwater that separates Lake Michigan from a small pool at Chicago's North Avenue Beach. Chicago, Illinois, USA.
© Bruce Leighty / Alamy Stock Photo

Situated in Lincoln Park, this is by far one of the most popular beach destinations in the city. There is a beach house that offers some of the best views in Chicago, and a host of activities to keep you entertained. Take a stroll through the market, where you’ll find a variety of clothes, shoes and other unique souvenirs. Grab an ice cream or head for lunch on North Beach Avenue. You can also rent a bike on the beach, or get yourself wet with a wakeboard or a paddleboard.

Foster Beach

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Fence at Foster Beach in Chicago with Lake Michigan
© James Andrews / Alamy Stock Photo
Perfect for families and picnics, this beach is in a brilliant location and offers stunning views of the city. It is also home to the Chicago Full Moon Jam, which takes place once a month over summer. The jam starts at around sunset and brings together a host of artists and dancers with entertainment for the whole family. It’s volunteer-run and free to attend, and a real opportunity for local artists to share their passion.

Oak Street Beach

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© Jonathan j castellon / Unsplash

White sands and crystal clear waters – this beach could easily be in the Caribbean. It is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, playing volleyball or just taking a stroll where you can enjoy some breathtaking views. It’s also perfect for viewing the sunset and is open between 6am and 11pm. Swimming is only allowed when a lifeguard is present, from 7am until 7pm. Close to a number of restaurants and bars, it’s easy to get to and close to Clark/Division and served by local buses, too.

Leone Beach Park

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Perfect for picnics, this beach has a grassy area where you can sit and relax with friends. The park is open everyday from 6am to 11pm and is the city’s largest beach. It was named after Sam Leone, a park employee, in 1966. There are two metered parking lots, ideal if you have a car.

Ohio Street Beach

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CHICAGO, IL - CIRCA APRIL, 2016: Ohio Street Beach in the daytime. Ohio Street Beach located in Lincoln Park adjacent to Addams Memorial Park and Oliv
© Heorshe / Alamy Stock Photo

Ten minutes from the Magnificent Mile, this stunning beach makes for an interesting landscape and is perfect for selfies or any budding photographers who want to capture the natural world against a backdrop of manmade skyscrapers. It’s also great for swimming and kayaking. It does get very busy in the summer, particularly at the weekends, but the beach is long and wide enough for everyone. It’s also close to local restaurants.

Belmont Harbor Dog Beach

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Chicagoans provide some relief for their pets on a hot summer day at the Belmont Harbor Dog Beach.
© D Guest Smith / Alamy Stock Photo

The name says it all, and if you don’t have a dog, don’t worry. You can watch the pups play in the water together. It’s a short walk from Wrigley and is a little quieter than Montrose. So, if your dog is nervous of other dogs, this is the perfect place to start.

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