US Lakes with Great Beaches

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US Lakes with Great Beaches

When the summer heat kicks in, and you can’t get to the ocean, consider these US lakes with great beaches instead!

Lake Michigan

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Lake Michigan offers beachgoers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan some beautiful beachfront for fun in the sun in the summer months. It really is the darling of the Great Lakes and offers fun little beach towns and the feel of the ocean, but with freshwater. Here are the fan favorites:

 
Silver Beach, St. Joseph, Michigan: Stretching for 2,450 feet along Lake Michigan, Silver Beach offers plenty of room to spread out. The wide, clean beach has 1,600 feet devoted to swimming. Kayaking and SUPing is popular here, as is volleyball and picnicking.
 
Esch Beach, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Honor, Michigan: Wade at the mouth of Otter Creek, where this Lake Michigan beach begins. There are usually lovely wildflowers in bloom along this stretch of National Lakeshore – other beaches in the area include Peterson Beach, Platte River Point, North Bar Lake and Glen Haven Beach.

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Take a break from the gritty city sidewalks and head to North Avenue Beach, a sandy stretch smack dab in the middle of Chicago. Swimming is allowed from 11 AM to 7 PM when lifeguards are on duty. Check out the massive beach house, designed in the style of an ocean liner. From the upper decks, you get great lake and city views. The beach is right along the popular Lakefront Trail. Or, make your way to Oak Street Beach near the Gold Coast neighborhood.
 
Porter Beach, Indiana Dunes State Park, Westchester Township, Indiana: If you live in or are visiting Indiana and want to check out Lake Michigan, visit the Indiana Dunes. There are 15 miles of lake shoreline and a number of lakefront cottages and residences – some of which are available to rent. Other beach accesses in the area include West Beach, Mount Baldy and Portage Lakefront.
 
Whitefish Dunes Beach, Whitefish State Park, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin: Another attractive reason to visit Door County, Wisconsin – the beaches along Whitefish State Park. There are 1.5 sandy miles to enjoy, as well as several hiking trails of varying lengths.
 
Manistee, Michigan: Check out the 25 miles of Lake Michigan in Manistee. The warm, golden-sand beaches in this area are considered some of the best on Lake Michigan. Check out Douglas Park, with its dedicated dog beach; Bar Lake Beach, a quiet alternative to the busier beaches; Pierport Beach, where you can catch a gorgeous sunset; and North Beach, the perfect pet-friendly beach for long strolls.
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Warren Dunes State Park, Lake Michigan: One of the top state parks in Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park is on the lake’s eastern shore, about a 90-minute drive from Chicago. You’ll get that dreamy ocean feeling here with never-ending water views and rolling sand dunes. There’s a dog-friendly portion of the beach, food service and a large beach area with lifeguard supervision.
 
North Beach, Racine, Wisconsin, Lake Michigan: Ranked as one of the best Great Lakes beaches around, 50-acres North Beach is on Lake Michigan’s western shore and has been rated as a Blue Wave Beach (meaning it has an environmental thumbs-up). There’s live music, volleyball, a playground, kayak rentals and food service.

Lake Superior

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Home to Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Lake Superior is, well, superior when it comes to beach options. There are sandy stretches and rocky beaches, colorful rocks and campsites right on the beach. Favorites include:
 
Sand Point Beach: The area’s most family-friendly sand beach, Sand Point Beach enjoys a quiet, shallow, calm setting along Munising Bay. The water is also generally warmer here than at other Lake Superior Beaches. It’s also the only beach in the area that has picnic tables right out on the sand.
 
Miners Beach: Not only can you swim on this mile-long beach, but you can walk the pretty boardwalk through jack pine forest and see Bridalveil Falls. Sign up for one of the kayak tours that leaves from here. Nearby you can see Miners Castle, an iconic landmark along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

 
Chapel Beach: You’ll need to work a bit for your beach day at Chapel Beach. Park at the end of Chapel Road, then hike in to the picturesque sand beach backed by high bluffs and boasting the famous Chapel Rock. Look for the single tree atop a sandstone outcropping above the beach. The hike is 6 miles roundtrip.

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Hurricane River Beach: Even the locals are surprised when they arrive at Hurricane River Beach each summer. The mix of sand and rock shifts throughout the winter, resulting in a new beach scene every year. If the lake levels are low enough, you can walk along the beach for 1.5 miles to the Au Sable Light Station. Watch for the remains of shipwrecks along the beach.
 
Twelvemile Beach and Lake Superior Overlook Beach: You guessed it – there are 12 miles of pristine sandy beach extending east of some cliff walls. Access the beach from the east end of the Twelvemile Beach Campground. If you drive past the campground, you’ll arrive at a day-use parking lot, with a short staircase to the beach. The overlook provides a lovely view of the lake.
 

Singing Iona Beach, North Shore, Minnesota, Lake Superior: Singing Iona Beach is considered one of the most famous beaches along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The lake is created by pink Ryholite rock, resulting in a cool wave crashing sounds – when the waves are retreating, they make a distinctive tinkling sound over the stones.
 

Other Great Lakes Beach Options:
 

Sandy Island Beach State Park, New York, Lake Ontario: Don’t forget Lake Ontario for this beautiful sandy beach on the upstate New York coastline. Enjoy the sandy beach, picnic area, fishing, birdwatching, sailing and kayaking.

 

Headlands Beach State Park, Ohio, Lake Erie: Swim, picnic, play and fish from the break wall at the mile-long sand beach of Headlands Beach State Park on Lake Erie. Walk along trails that date back to the time of the Iroquois.

Lake Tahoe
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If you live in the valley around Reno, you escape to Lake Tahoe during the hot summer months. The cool-water lake is perfect for swimming and water sports. These Lake Tahoe favorites include play areas for kids and are relatively easy to access (though parking is always limited).
 
Sand Harbor: Join the locals at Sand Harbor, the closest Lake Tahoe beach to Reno. It’s set within Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. The pristine, crescent-shaped beach will make up for the parking difficulties – consider riding the shuttle bus from Incline Village, 3 miles away.
 
Cave Rock: Another favorite in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Cave Rock boasts a sandy, family-friendly swimming area. You won’t be able to miss Cave Rock itself.
 
Round Hill Pines Beach and Marina: This private resort is actually operated under a US Forest Service permit and offers a half-mile beach, water sports equipment rentals and extra amenities. Spend the day kayaking, paddleboarding, jetskiing or even taking a lake cruise.
 
Kings Beach State Recreation Area: On the north shore of Lake Tahoe, this beach is right in the town of Kings Beach. Rent water sports equipment and water play toys and plan to make a full day of it.
 
Baldwin Beach and Pope Beach: These two beaches in the Tallac Historic Site on the south end of Lake Tahoe come with a surprise – there are mansions on the grounds, formerly residences of wealthy San Francisco families, that you can tour during the summer months.
Lake Chelan
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Where western Washington become eastern Washington and rainy days give way to drier, sun-baked landscapes, you’ll find Lake Chelan. Beachcombing is one of the most popular “dry” activities along 50.5-mile-long Lake Chelan. For much of the year, the beaches are hidden by water, but when the water drops, and the beaches emerge, you may find a few treasures. Walk the beaches, grab your metal detector or your bucket and head out in search of shells, unique rocks and who knows what else! The following Lake Chelan beaches are great for both swimming and beachcombing:
 
Lake Chelan State Park: Spend the day on this long, sandy beach with a calm lagoon. Float for hours, soak up the family-friendly vibe and plot out your hiking adventures in the nearby North Cascades.
 
Don Morse Lakeside Park: Another local favorite, Don Morse Lakeside Park sits on 40 acres on 2,000 feet of waterfront. Swim, boat or relax in the sun. There are sand volleyball courts, a skate park, an 18-hole natural green grass putting course, tennis and pickleball, basketball courts and a playground.
 
Willow Point Park: This breathtaking day-use park offers great views of the lake and mountains. There’s a designated swimming area, but no lifeguards, a playground, picnic tables and barbecues.
 
Chelan Falls Park: This beach is actually along the Columbia River and offers a boat launch, picnic shelters, restrooms and a popular swimming area. If the water is too cold in the lake, head here for warmer conditions

Lake Geneva

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When the summer heats up in Wisconsin, those in the know head to Lake Geneva. Most of the public beaches are easily accessible, offering everything from kayaking to dock diving to hiking. Here are the Lake Geneva favorites:
 
Riviera Beach: This family-favorite does not allow alcoholic beverages, keeping the atmosphere low key. There’s a lot to love, from the sparkling white sand and crystal-clear water to the far-reaching lake views. There are docks offshore for lounging and diving.
 
Williams Bay Beach: A 10-minute drive west of the town of Lake Geneva, Williams Bay Beach offers a quiet ambience than Riviera Beach. It’s intended to be a kid favorite, with floating buoys are different distances so parents can know how deep the water is where their kiddo is swimming.
 
Fontana Beach: A 20-minute drive west of Lake Geneva, Fontana Beach as a small-town feel with cafes and shops just steps from the sand. This is a great choice for kayaking – you can glimpse historic mansions from the water this way.
 
Big Foot Beach State Park: A 10-minute drive from downtown Lake Geneva, this is a pet-friendly beach destination with camping. Hang out on the sandy white beach by day, then head to the tent area and fire pit for s’mores and sunset viewing.

Sebago Lake

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Think Maine is too cold for swimming? Think again. When the mercury rises in July and August, you’re going to want some refreshing lake water to swim in. Sebago Lake fits the bill perfectly, providing the quintessential New England lake life experience. Here are the local favorite Sebago Lake beaches:
 
Tassel Top Beach, Raymond: Covering 35 acres on the east shore of Sebago Lake, Tassel Top offers 900 feet of sandy beach. There is no lifeguard supervision, but the safe swimming area is marked by buoys. Grab an ice cream or cold drink at the fully stocked Snack Shack.
 
Songo River Beach: Inside the borders of Sebago Lake State Park, Songo River Beach offers a natural sandbar that is great for families with young children.

Torch Lake

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One of Michigan’s natural treasures, Torch Lake is the state’s longest and second-largest inland lake. Locals from the Traverse City region, as well as visitors to the area, love it for the fishing, boating, swimming and summer recreation opportunities. The pristine water makes it one of the best swimming destinations in the state. There are limited drive-in beaches, however. Most folks go out on their boats and moor at sandy stretches of shoreline. These are the best public-access swimming beaches:
 
Barnes Park Campground: Spend the day or camp overnight at this great Northern Michigan day-use campground on Grand Traverse Bay. Walk the beach, hike the trails, ride your bike and, later, sit by the campfire.
 
Eastport and Nearby: Where US-31 and M-88 meet, you’ll find a Torch Lake swimming area with a pavilion, picnic tables, grills and boat access. There’s another swimming area and boat access at the north end of Eastport, off M-88.

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