When you think of Chicago beaches, stretches of glistening sand might not be the first thing that spring to mind. But rest assured that the beaches along the splashing shores of Lake Michigan make for a great summer vacation destination!
Of course, Chicago beaches are seasonal and you won’t get the same experience during the cooler months. The beaches are only open from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day each year, so if a beach vacation is what you’re after, then bookmark my guide to the best time to visit Chicago.
Having lived in the Windy City for five years myself, I’ve put together this list of the 14 best beaches in Chicago, from north to south. They each have something unique to offer during the Chicago beach season.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- 14 Best Beaches in Chicago
- FAQs About Beaches in Chicago
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14 Best Beaches in Chicago
Loyola Beach/Leone Beach
East Rogers Park
Of all of Chicago’s Rogers Park beaches, including Rogers Beach, Columbia Beach, Fargo Beach, and Albion Beach, Loyola Beach is arguably the one with the most to offer. Also known as Leone Beach, this beach hosts many recreational activities. There is a 2.3-mile hiking trail on this beach that runs along the sandy shoreline of Lake Michigan.
You can participate in a volleyball tournament on the beach or stay active on the basketball and tennis courts of the neighboring Loyola Park. Enjoy the beautiful community garden, in addition to the natural dune and lovely lighthouse.
This beach, located right off of the Rogers Park neighborhood, is very family-friendly and relatively relaxing and quiet.
Kathy Osterman Beach/Hollywood Beach
Also known as the Hollywood Beach, Kathy Osterman Beach is on the northern edge of Lincoln Park, next to Edgewater. Located on the northern end of Lake Shore Drive, it’s a fairly small beach with many great amenities, such as a fishing pier and volleyball court.
The Kathy Osterman Beach is a great beach for swimming since the waters are shallow and gentle. Birdwatchers will love the opportunity to see bunches of migratory birds nearby in the spring and autumn seasons.
Sandwiched between Hollywood Avenue and Ardmore Avenue, this beach boasts beautiful scenery in the form of the stunning Chicago skyline.
Continuing down the scenic Lake Shore Dr., you’ll eventually reach Foster Beach, sometimes called Foster Avenue Beach. Located in Edgewater, this is a great dog beach and very family-friendly. It isn’t a typical tourist spot, so you can have a nice quiet picnic or a peaceful family outing here.
This beach is the official location of the Chicago Full Moon Jam, which takes place once a month during the summer months. There is no cost to attend, and the event always starts at sunset. This fun Chicago festival includes diverse family-friendly entertainment that is provided by different artists and dancers.
📚 Related Reading: Looking for things to do other than swimming and sunning yourself on the beach? Check out our guide on what to do in Chicago!
📍 Google Maps | Website | 🅿️ Parking: Free street parking on Montrose Avenue, Marine Drive, Wilson Avenue, and other nearby streets | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: BEST WESTERN PLUS Hawthorne Terrace Hotel
Further south on Lake Shore Drive is Chicago’s largest beach. Montrose Beach is a family-friendly beach that has a lot of appeal for dog owners. Located in Uptown, it’s one of the two official beaches for dogs in this city. There is a fenced-off dog area for your furry friend to run around and swim.
At Montrose Beach, you can also rent paddleboards, jet skis, and kayaks. Go to The Dock at Montrose Beach, the seasonal beach bar, to listen to live music and enjoy fresh fish and juicy burgers.
👉 Pro Tip: There are migratory birds that flock towards southern parts of the beach in the spring and autumn, so try not to leave any snacks lying around unsupervised.
Belmont Harbor Dog Beach
The Belmont Harbor Dog Beach is one of the few beaches in Chicago that is made for you and your dog. Your furry friend can play in the sand and water in a fenced-off area just for him, and you can watch from a bench.
This small beach is walking distance from Wrigley Field. If your dog does not have a lot of experience being around other dogs, then it would be a good idea to test the waters by bringing him here before taking him to a bigger and busier beach in Chicago.
👉 Don’t Forget to Pack: There isn’t a lot of shade at Belmont Harbor Dog Beach, so a beach umbrella is a great idea for anyone who wants to stay cool and protect their skin. Also, check out this Chicago packing list for more ideas of what to bring!
North Avenue Beach
If you’re looking for a beach full of activity, then go to North Avenue Beach, close to the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Many vendors, including the steamboat-shaped Castaways Bar and Grill, serve all sorts of fun refreshments at North Avenue Beach to keep you cool between activities, which include volleyball, biking, paddleboarding, and more.
You can rent all sorts of water sports gear here too – including jet ski rentals, kayak rentals, and more. However, if you want a quiet, peaceful beach experience, then North Avenue Beach may not be for you, as it is one of the busiest and most action-packed beaches in the city. It gets busier the further south you go on North Avenue Beach.
Oak Street Beach
Also located off of Lake Shore Dr., Oak Street Beach sits on the edge of the luxurious Gold Coast neighborhood and is reminiscent of tropical island beaches. White sand and amazingly pristine waters, along with a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline, make Oak Street Beach one of Chicago’s most beautiful beaches.
When it’s warm enough, Oak Street Beach is a great place to swim, play beach volleyball, and rent bikes to ride along the lakefront. This beach has Wi-Fi, concessions, and chair rentals, so you can just relax on the sand as well if you’re not in the most active mood.
👉 Pro Tip: If you want a great day at Oak Street Beach, come early if you want sun, as it’ll disappear behind skyscrapers later in the day. You can eat at Whispers at Oak Street Beach or at one of the many nearby downtown Chicago restaurants.
Ohio Street Beach
Near North Side
Continuing down Lake Shore Dr., you’ll eventually see Ohio Street Beach, also known as Olive Beach. This beach is located just a short walk from Navy Pier and all of the fantastic shopping centers of the Magnificent Mile, and is a great place for anyone who just wants a quick dip in the water.
The water is very shallow, so it’s a good area for anyone who wants swimming practice. There’s also a beach cafe where you can enjoy sandwiches, other refreshing snacks, and all sorts of drinks.
You can take a leisurely canoeing or kayaking experience here, although you should keep in mind that during beach season, the Ohio Street Beach can get pretty crowded on the weekends.
📚 Related Reading: Trying to figure out where your home base will be during your Chicago vacation? Here’s my guide on the best areas to stay in Chicago!
12th Street Beach
Near South Side
The 12th Street Beach is located on Northerly Island and is a part of the Near South Side neighborhood. It’s just a few steps from the Chicago’s Museum Campus in Burnham Park as well, in case you wanted to visit some of Chicago’s amazing museums.
The 12th Street Beach is a relatively secluded little area, so it’s great for anyone looking for a private getaway.
Although the 12th Street Beach isn’t known for many facilities, there are concessions, a lifeguard first aid station, and restrooms. In addition to this, you can listen to great performances that take place at The Pavilion at Northerly Island Park.
👉 Pro Tip: For anyone who wants to make a day of it and spend some time at the attractions of the South Loop, these include the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, McCormick Place, and Soldier Field.
31st Street Beach
📍 Google Maps | Website | 🅿️ Parking: Pay-and-display parking lot – $2 for one hour, $6 for four hours | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Hyatt Place Chicago – South/University Medical Center
Located within Burnham Park, which also happens to be home to Promontory Point, nature trails, bird sanctuaries, and a well-loved skate park, the 31st Street Beach is the perfect place to go for water sports enthusiasts. There are so many options in terms of sports equipment rentals, including pontoon boats, paddleboards, kayaks, and jet skis.
One of the best-kept secrets of the Windy City, this beach is also known as the Margaret T. Burroughs Beach, having been named after the founder of the DuSable Museum. There are so many amenities here, including breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline, a fishing dock, a waterside cafe, and a boat harbor.
57th Street Beach
📍 Google Maps | Website | 🅿️ Parking: No on-site parking, limited street parking west of Lake Shore Drive | 🛎️ Where to Stay Nearby: Hyatt Place Chicago – South/University Medical Center
Continuing south on Lake Shore Drive, you’ll see the 57th Street Beach. This is a great place for families, and it’s typically not crowded – it’s known for being mellow and low-key. There are snack bars and restrooms here.
Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi at this beach, as well as accessible beach walks clear for people with disabilities. The beach is also well-known for a Mexican concession stands with some amazing hot dogs.
In addition, if you want to make a day of it, you can go to the Museum of Science and Industry, which is right nearby in Jackson Park. The Hyde Park neighborhood borders this beach, so if you want to visit a typical Chicago college town, this is your chance.
63rd Street Beach
Located off of the southern end of Lake Shore Drive, 63rd Street Beach is another great place to take your kids. It has interactive water fountains that they will love in a historic beach house, which actually happens to be the oldest beach house in the city of Chicago.
The elegant restored beach house has impressive breezeways, and you will find beach equipment that you need there as well.
In addition to this, there are buoys set up for long-distance swimming, a kayak launch, and options for bike rentals.
👉 Pro Tip: The landmark beach house of 63rd Street Beach was a result of area residents wanting the city to extend the beach. South Park Commission architects decided to build the 63rd Street Pavilion or the beach house that is so well-known here. This beach house is used today by beachgoers, boaters, and people who need it for special events.
South Shore Beach
Quite a bit more popular than the North Shore Beach, the South Shore Beach is located on South Shore Drive. There’s a nature sanctuary, sand dunes, woodlands, a small wetland, and prairie landscapes. It’s also within the South Shore Cultural Center, meaning the beach is adjacent to a solarium, a theater, and the Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs Gallery.
In addition to culture, there are many options in terms of leisure sports. You can take advantage of a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, and a circular beach house that resembles a shore club.
If you get hungry, grab a modern American meal at the Parrot Cage Restaurant inside the South Shore Cultural Center, or some vegan soul food at Majani.
Located on the South Side, Rainbow Beach is part of Rainbow Beach Park, which spans 142 acres. It is also home to the Rainbow Beach Victory Garden, Chicago’s oldest public garden. On the north end, you’ll find Rainbow Beach Dunes, an area overseen by the Chicago Park District that hosts flora and fauna that are native to Lake Michigan.
Rainbow Beach Park is the perfect place for active people, with a fitness center, multipurpose rooms, a gymnasium, and two playgrounds. There are handball and volleyball courts as well.
This is also a great beach for families and kids, as there are lifeguards on duty in the summer. You can sign up for day camps for your kids here as well.
👉 Read Next: 33 Best Things to Do in Chicago (By a Local)
FAQs About Beaches in Chicago
Are there real beaches in Chicago?
Even though Chicago is not near an ocean, there are more than two dozen real beaches managed by the Chicago Park District, totaling 26 miles of lakefront. These beaches are located along the shore of Lake Michigan, which borders Chicago on the east, many along Lake Shore Drive.
What is the nicest beach in Chicago?
Although it depends on what you are looking for in a beach experience, North Avenue Beach is arguably the most popular beach in Chicago. There is a plethora of water sports equipment you can rent, both water and sand activities, and a huge variety when it comes to concessions.
Can you swim on Chicago’s beaches?
You can swim on Chicago’s beaches while lifeguards are on duty. This is between 11 am and 7 pm daily during beach season, which runs between the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day every year. Outside of beach season, the water will likely be too cold for swimming anyway.
Can you bring alcohol to Chicago beaches?
Although you are allowed to bring food and drinks to Chicago beaches, alcohol is not allowed, as per the rules of the Chicago Park District. However, although you cannot drink in public areas, resort guests in some cases are allowed to consume alcohol in the accepted settings.
Thanks for reading this guide on the best beaches in Chicago! For more adventures in the area, check out this article on the best day trips from Chicago.
Have fun in the sun!
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