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The 10 Best Beaches in Minnesota [2023]

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
Amar Hussain's image

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

790 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

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...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

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Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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When planning a beach trip in the U.S., Minnesota probably isn’t one of the first places that comes to mind. However, don’t overlook this Midwestern state and all it has to offer. Though the state doesn’t have any saltwater beaches, the area’s many lakes and rivers create near-countless miles of shoreline for both in-state and out-of-state visitors to splash around at on a sunny day.

Whether you’re a Midwesterner yourself or are coming from the other side of the globe, there’s a place in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” for you to love.

Map of the 10 Best Beaches in Minnesota

The 10 Best Beaches in Minnesota

1. Afton State Park

Afton State Park
Image Credit: Minnesota DNR

Located on the St. Croix River, Afton State Park is full of opportunities for outdoor fun. No matter what time you visit, you’ll be able to hike, have a picnic, or camp. The park even has swimming areas with both sand and pebbles, so you can take a dip in the river during the summer months.

Minnesota gets famously humid between June and August, so this beach offers some nice, cool water relief. Just keep in mind it can get crowded on the weekends and around holidays like Memorial Day. Since the water’s current in the swimming areas is gentle and shallow, you can bring kids here to splash around without any stress.

Hot Tip:

Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars so you can do some bird-watching while you’re visiting since the park is home to a plethora of species all year.

2. Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach

Bde Maka Ska
Image Credit: Joe Passe via Flickr (license)

Bde Maka Ska is the largest lake in the Minneapolis area, spanning 401 acres of land. So, it’s not surprising that it’s also one of the most popular spots for waterfront recreation. No matter when you visit, you’ll be able to see sailboats out on the water, and you can escape the bustle of the city by listening to the gentle current.

You can also swim in 3 spots around the lake, where the water is gentle and shallow. Since Bda Maka Ska can reach a maximum of over 80 feet in depth, local authorities take swimming safety very seriously.

The 32nd Street Beach is by far the most popular shore among locals. With a nearby playground and large open spaces to spread out, even on crowded days, you won’t have trouble finding room to lay out.

3. Black Beach

Black Beach at Silver Bay Minnesota
Image Credit: Like via Adobe Stock

Black Beach is a beloved stretch of Minnesota’s shoreline. Surrounded by multi-colored rock formations that are thousands, if not millions, of years old, it’s one of the most unique and natural beaches in the state.

This beach has plenty of hiking trails you can wander on, or you can go for a long stroll on its wide stretch of sand. However, due to the open nature of this area’s landscape, it tends to be windy here, which can make a normally warm day feel much colder.

Don’t be surprised if the water is a little too cool to swim in unless you visit in July or August when temperatures and humidity indexes typically reach their yearly peak. On the bright side, that breezy tendency often dissuades visitors, so you might have the place virtually to yourself if you visit during the week.

4. Cedar Lake Point Beach

Cedar Lake Point Beach
Image Credit: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Cedar Lake Point Beach is one of Minneapolis’ best-kept secrets when it comes to outdoor recreation. Usually frequented by locals, this outdoor space has multiple walking paths, fishing and canoeing areas, and even a beach that’s covered in soft sand.

Just keep in mind that Cedar Lake isn’t swimmable everywhere, and signs clearly mark the areas where you can go in the water without a boat. This helps ensure no one is caught off guard by deep water or unexpected fish or plant life that could distract you.

Though the park is more natural, there are still essential amenities nearby, including changing areas and restrooms, making it perfect for families or last-minute visits. Typically, lifeguards are on duty on weekends during the summer, but if you visit during the week, the guard posts might be unattended.

5. Iona’s Beach Scientific & Natural Area

Ionas Beach Scientific Natural Area
Image Credit: Minnesota DNR

Iona’s Beach Scientific & Natural Area is one of Minnesota’s most unique lakefront areas. This stretch of land is primarily used as a nature preserve and wildlife research area, but it’s also a popular spot for in-state and out-of-state visitors to spend time in the great outdoors.

Though mostly known for its walking trails, Iona’s Beach has a clean and pristine swimming area as well. The water near the shore is shallow enough for young swimmers, and the water is usually comfortably warm by July.

You might even encounter a few fish or birds while you’re splashing around in the lake. Just make sure you give any wildlife you see space. However, since the ecosystem of this area is vital to the research conducted, you’re not allowed to take any “souvenirs” from the premises. That means no rocks, flowers, or other natural elements can be removed.

6. Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Carlos State Park
Image Credit: Minnesota DNR

First opened in the 1930s as an outdoor park area for locals, Lake Carlos State Park has become one of the state’s premier summer destinations.

The park has everything you need to spend a summer weekend in nature, from campgrounds to hiking trails and even swimming areas right on the lake’s shores. One of the most beloved things about this park is the amount of wildlife you can see while you’re here.

While most people see birds, deer, and other animals on the trails, you might see something in the distance while you’re in the water. That’s even more likely if you visit during the week in May or September when crowd levels are lower. Keeping the lake free of pollutants and litter is a top priority, so you can be sure the water is clear and clean.

7. Lake Harriet South Beach

Lake Harriet South Beach
Image Credit: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Lake Harriet might be known as a top spot for sailing, but it’s also a safe, family-friendly place to go for a swim.

The lake’s South Beach, in particular, has numerous amenities to make a day by the water fun for people of all ages. There’s a bandstand for events, bike paths, and plenty of open sand-covered spaces to run around on if you want a break from swimming.

If you do decide to spend your whole day splashing around in the lake, you can do so without stress since the water in this area is separated from the boating areas, so it’s clean and shallow. Keep in mind, though, that this beach doesn’t have lifeguards on duty. So, you’ll need to make sure you swim extra cautiously and keep an eye on any children you’re visiting with.

8. Lake Nokomis Beach

Lake Nokomis Beach
Image Credit: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Open every day for swimmers between mid-June and late August, Lake Nokomis is a favorite spot among local Minneapolis families during the summer months. 

That’s in large part because of how well-organized the lake is. The Parks and Recreations Department regularly updates the beach’s schedule with information about swimming lessons, hours, and other events being hosted in the area.

The beach features numerous amenities as well, so you can have a full day of fun without worrying about finding a place to lay out a picnic or where to change after hours of swimming. Remember, while this is an outdoor area, it’s also an all-ages space, so roughhousing isn’t allowed, and neither is smoking or glass containers to ensure everyone’s safety.

Hot Tip:

You can even reserve the beach for the day if you’re planning a group event and you want privacy and space.

9. Park Point Recreational Area

Park Point Recreation Area
Image Credit: evilfoo via Flickr (license)

If you love being active during the summer, Park Point Recreational Area is a great Minnesota spot for you.

This outdoor space is known for its varied landscape that offers numerous activity opportunities. If you prefer to stay near the shore, of course, swimming in the clear water needs to be at the top of your to-do list. If you need a little break or are looking for something more dynamic, bring a volleyball with you so you can take advantage of the on-site beach volley net.

If the water temperature is a little on the cooler side, you can still have fun at Park Point. Multiple trails on the premises take you through the area’s sand dunes and pine forests. Since the entire Park Point territory spans 7 miles, you’ll have plenty of space to roam.

10. Zippel Bay State Park

Zippel Bay State Park
Image Credit: Tony Webster via Flickr (license)

Located on the white, sandy shores of the Lake of the Woods, near the Canadian border, Zippel Bay State Park is an expansive outdoor area that’s perfect for nature lovers. The park spans about 3,000 acres and has dozens of campsites available for overnight visitors, so you can spend a long weekend exploring everything the park has to offer.

If you’re visiting during the summer, make sure you plan plenty for exploring the beach. With 2 miles of sandy stretches and clear blue water, you could fill a whole day with swimming, walking, and just laying out in the sun.

The park is open all year, so no matter when you visit, there’s something to do. Obviously, the water will be warmest in July and August, but you should be able to at least wade in the lake at any time between May and early October.

Final Thoughts

While Minnesota may not be the first place you think of to have a beach getaway, it’s clearly a state with a lot of shorelines worth visiting. Whether you prefer more natural beaches or you enjoy the bustle of crowds, there’s a place on Minnesota’s beaches for your getaway needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Minnesota have any beaches?

Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” so it shouldn’t be surprising that it has numerous beaches within its territory. Between its rivers, lakes, and even its ponds, there are both natural and man-made beaches you can choose from to enjoy while visiting the state.

Does Minnesota have sandy beaches?

Minnesota has multiple sandy beaches. Many of these shores tend to be in the northern part of the state, but you’ll find them spread all over. However, there are also pebbly beaches as well as areas that have a mix of sand and rock.

Does Minnesota have ocean access?

Minnesota’s location in the northern Midwest means it doesn’t have direct access to the ocean, so you won’t find any actual coastal beaches. However, the state does have multiple waterways that allow boats to access the Atlantic Ocean and even the Gulf Coast.

Are Minnesota lakes safe to swim in?

Minnesota has many safe and swimmable lakes of varying sizes. However, because there are so many bodies of water in the state, don’t assume they all allow swimming. Signs will usually be posted if there are dangers or recommendations. You can also ask locals.

Amar Hussain's image

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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