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The 10 Best Beaches in Chicago, Illinois [2023]

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Chicago is one of the most popular cities to visit in the U.S., but it’s not the first place people think about when they’re planning a beach vacation. However, just because Chicago doesn’t border an ocean doesn’t mean it lacks places to go for a day on the sand.

Though you’ll be staying within the boundaries of a single city, figuring out which Windy City beach you should spend your time at can be tricky and involves careful planning. To help you out, we’ve come up with this list of the best beaches in Chicago.

Map of the 10 Best Beaches in Chicago

The Best Beaches in Chicago

1. Belmont Harbor Dog Beach

Belmont Harbor Dog Beach
Image Credit: vxla via Flickr (license)

If you like to travel with your trusty pup, you don’t have to worry about leaving your dog behind while you explore Chicago’s lakefront. Belmont Harbor Dog Beach has explicitly been set aside for dogs to run and splash around.

Boats dock nearby, so make sure you keep an eye on your furry friend, especially if they go in the water. However, you don’t have to worry about keeping your dog on a leash. As long as they get along with others, dogs can run around safely because the area is fenced in.

The beach isn’t very large, so it can get crowded around the midday hours and on weekends. However, if you visit in the morning, you shouldn’t have to worry about running into too many other people. It’s also cleaned and maintained regularly and is generally well-kept.

2. Foster Beach

Foster Beach
Image Credit: Erick Opena via Flickr (license)

Foster Beach is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches. While it’s common to find crowds here, you can find some secluded spots if you’re willing to walk a little.

The beach is open all year from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. However, swimming is only allowed between Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Eating on the sand is allowed, but it’s not recommended to help reduce the amount of mess on the sand. You don’t have to worry, though. There’s green grass nearby to set up a picnic.

The beach even has Wi-Fi access, so you can head there to get some work done in the sun. If you’re driving, you’ll be happy to know there’s a parking lot available for a fee.

Hot Tip: Learn more about the best things to do in Chicago (we even have kid-specific tips!) in our detailed guides.

3. Kathy Osterman Beach

Kathy Osterman Beach
Image Credit: get directly down via Flickr (license)

If you enjoy going for a swim during a day at the beach, Kathy Osterman Beach is the perfect place for you. The water here is nice and clean, even on busy days.

This is also one of the most inclusive beaches in the city. For example, during the city’s Pride weekend each June, you’ll see many families enjoying some downtime on the sand and in the water. The beach also has all the amenities you’ll need to have a carefree day. There are public restrooms and a concession stand, and you’re just a short walk from a pier.

Chicago has cold winters, so you’ll only be able to swim here between May and September. However, you can still visit during the rest of the year, and it’s a great place to go for a walk or to watch the sunset in the city.

4. Loyola Beach

Loyola Beach
Image Credit: Richard Bartlaga via Flickr (license)

Loyola Beach is a Chicago hidden gem. It’s family-friendly and rarely gets crowded except for busy summer weekends and the July Fourth weekend. The beach is open every day from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. However, you can only swim between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the summer when the beach is staffed with lifeguards.

If you decide to head to the beach for sunrise or sunset, you can go for a stroll on the sand and enjoy the fresh air. The water in this part of the city tends to be a little cooler than the water at some of the other beaches in Chicago.

Hot Tip: If you find the water to be a little too chilly for your liking, you can still enjoy the beach’s park or even have a picnic.

5. Margaret T. Burroughs Beach and Park

Burroughs Beach
Image Credit: Chicago Park District

Margaret T. Burroughs Beach and Park is one of the most popular event areas near the water thanks to its clean and well-kept nature.

There’s plenty of space, and as long as you clean up after yourself, you can have get-togethers both on the sand and on the paved area. There’s a parking lot on-site, but it’s also near public transportation stops if you don’t have a car or if you’d prefer not to pay for parking.

From this beach, you get one of the best views of Chicago’s iconic skyline. The vista is beautiful at any time of day, but it’s particularly dramatic in the evening and at night if you’re looking for a good place to take vacation photos. The beach is generally clean, but busy weekends can lead to kicked-up sand and more litter.

Hot Tip: Wherever you stay in Chicago, we have a recommendation, from points hotels to boutique hotels to cheap hotels!

6. Montrose Beach

Montrose Beach
Image Credit: sroot2006 via Flickr (license)

Montrose is one of the best beaches in the city if you like activities. The beach is spacious, so there’s plenty of room for visitors to spread out. You can rent kayaks and beach volleyball gear nearby to add a little extra excitement to your trip, and it also means you don’t have to worry about packing or carrying a lot of equipment.

Nature lovers also tend to flock to this beach. It’s in the city, but it’s tucked away and feels a little more “natural.” There are even sand dunes and bird sanctuary spots you can visit if you want to see some of Illinois’ natural wildlife without leaving the city.

Finally, you’ll find bike paths and a dog-friendly area.

7. North Avenue Beach

North Avenue Beach
Image Credit: Walter Martin via Unsplash

North Avenue Beach is popular among locals and tourists alike. People from all over the tri-state area make yearly trips to this beach during the summer months. The beach is near the city’s center, so it’s easy to get to no matter where in the city you are.

Lifeguards are on duty between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. from the end of May and September. And, you won’t want to miss watching a summer volleyball tournament to feel like a true Chicagoan.

8. Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach
Image Credit: Jonathan J. Castellon via Unsplash

If you’re looking for a small, relatively secluded spot to escape the craziness of the big city, Oak Street Beach might be the ideal place for you.

With a green park and a restaurant nearby, you can spend a whole day here during the summer, especially since it’s not usually very crowded. You’ll likely encounter some locals who come to the area to run or ride their bikes, but the sand itself is usually pretty calm.

The water is clean here as well, so you can safely go for a short swim. Like the rest of the beaches in the city, it closes at 11 p.m., but it opens to the public bright and early at 6 a.m. every day. Keep in mind that while you can have a picnic here, alcohol isn’t allowed.

9. Ohio Street Beach

Ohio Street Beach
Image Credit: Walter Martin via Unsplash

Chicago residents love Ohio Street Beach because it’s the perfect place to head to for a few hours of relaxation. It’s practically in the middle of the city, and it’s easy to access if you’re using the city’s public transportation system.

If you do decide to spend a little time here splashing around in the water, you can rent a locker to keep your valuables tucked away. You usually don’t have to worry about there being a shortage of them since the beach is rarely too crowded, especially during the week.

You’re just a short walk from Navy Pier as well, so you can spend a day on the sand and then head to one of Chicago’s most famous landmarks in the evening. The water here is exceptionally clean, especially considering there are boats nearby, and you’ll even encounter some fish should you go for a swim.

10. Rainbow Beach Park

Rainbow Beach Park
Image Credit: Mary Fairchild via Flickr (license)

If you like to be surrounded by the buzz of activity but don’t necessarily want to be in thick crowds, Rainbow Beach Park has just the balance you’re looking for. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be able to see joggers, cyclists, and families enjoying the fresh air.

If you want to swim, make sure to plan a visit between May and September, with August typically being the best time for warm water.

However, visiting in the winter is also great — the lake doesn’t freeze over enough so that you can walk or skate on it, but you’ll be able to see the layer of ice that glitters in the winter sun.

Hot Tip: Keep in mind that while dogs are allowed on the grassy part of the park, they can’t go on the sand.

Final Thoughts

Chicago has many beaches that are well worth visiting. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax for a whole day or you just want to spend a few hours near the water, there’s a beach for you in the Windy City.

Since they’re all in the same city, you can even head to multiple beaches without having to travel far. All you have to do now is choose which of the spots on this list you want to visit first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Chicago have any beaches?

Chicago borders Lake Michigan, which provides the city with numerous stretches of freshwater beaches.

Are beaches in Chicago free?

All of the beaches in Chicago are managed by the city’s park district, so they’re completely free for both residents and tourists. You will have to pay for parking if you decide to drive to any of these beaches, as well as other fee-based amenities.

Does Chicago have clean beaches?

Chicago’s beaches are generally clean, though there are some that are less well-kept than others. In general, if you avoid planning your getaway on busy weekends or stick to less-crowded places, you won’t have any trouble finding a clean stretch of sand.

Can you swim at Chicago's beaches?

You can swim safely at any of Chicago’s beaches. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not every stretch of Chicago’s Lake Michigan coast is considered beach land. Look out for “no swimming” signs posted in places where going in the water is banned.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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