When most people think of beaches, the Midwest typically isn't the first thing that comes to mind. It tends to be an overlooked region that most skips when planning their family beach vacations.
But whether you live in the Midwest and are looking for a nice sandy beach or just visiting, it's good to know that there are some great hidden gems that should be checked out.
From the shoreline of the Great Lakes to smaller lakes around the states, there's a beach for everyone.
Whether you're looking to sunbathe on the sandy beach, go for a swim, or even explore the lake on a boat or kayak, there are plenty of choices.
In this post, we will share the best Midwest beaches with you, so you can enjoy relaxing in the summer sun without ever leaving the region.
Below are the best places in the Midwest to soak up the sun on a sandy beach! From smaller, local beaches to popular ones in Urban cities, there are so many options to choose from.
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Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world and is one of the reasons that Duluth, MN is so special.
Across the Aerial Lift Bridge and at the end of a long, narrow piece of land that juts into a canal of Lake Superior, you’ll find Park Point Beach.
This is one of the only sandy beaches in Duluth, and it offers a great place to relax on the shores of the greatest lake in Minnesota.
Stretches of soft, white sand like this are hard to come by in the Midwest, so spending time here is so worth it!
From sitting back on the shoreline and relaxing to taking a dip in the chilly waters of Lake Superior, Park Point Beach is one of the best places for swimming in Minnesota.
Nearby, you’ll also find sand volleyball courts, grills, and scenic hiking trails that wind along the dunes.
In Canal Park, just a short distance away, you’ll find great shops and restaurants, including some of the best pizza and ice cream places in the city.
Address: 4750 Minnesota Ave, Duluth, MN 55802
While most people visit Chicago for The Bean, Willis Tower, and deep-dish pizza, you can also find a lovely sandy beach along the shores of Lake Michigan in the big city.
Oak Street Beach is found just up the road from the popular Navy Pier and offers a spectacular view of the city’s skyline from the sandy shores.
There are often lifeguards here during the summer, so you can swim confidently, knowing they're watching out for you.
Along with the beach, you’ll find other amenities like beach chair, bike, and volleyball rentals, as well as volleyball nets and Oak Street Beach Cafe, which services food and drinks.
A unique piece of the beach is a mural called 'You Know What You Should Do,' encouraging people to keep the beach and water clean to protect our Earth.
Address: 1000 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Chicago
Iowa is one of the most overlooked Midwest states, right up there with Nebraska, but it still features some great places to visit!
Arnolds Park Beach is one of those places, with a beautiful, sandy beach on Lake Okoboji in Northern Iowa.
The beach is open and free for the public to enjoy, and there are a variety of amenities to use while you’re there. From beach volleyball courts to jet ski and boat rentals, you can have an adventurous or relaxing day on the water.
Also nearby, you'll find the Arnolds Park Amusement Park, which features fun rides for the whole family, from roller coasters to Ferris wheels.
There is also a pavilion that hosts live music and movies throughout the summer. So whatever you’re looking to do, you can find it at Arnolds Park Beach.
Address: 389 Hwy 71 N, Arnolds Park, Iowa 51331
The Twin Cities are the largest metro area in Minnesota and are home to over 20 lakes just in the area. And because Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it's easy to see that these beaches are some of the best!
Bde Maka Ska is one of the most popular lakes in Minneapolis, named by a Dakota tribe that used to inhabit the area.
It's found just a short distance from Downtown and has a variety of amenities available to make your day in the sun more fun.
There are actually three beaches on the lake; Thomas Beach, 32nd Street Beach, and North Beach.
At North Beach, you’ll find Wheel Fun Rentals, which offers rentals of paddleboards, kayaks, bikes, and other fun water sports equipment. It’s one of the best places to go kayaking in the Twin Cities.
Address: 3200 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Minneapolis
Door County is an adorable small town in Wisconsin on a peninsula of Lake Michigan. In Door County, you’ll find Nicolet Beach.
This sandy beach sits right in Nicolet Bay and allows you to enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Michigan from the shoreline.
Whether you're hoping for a relaxing day on the shore or to get out for a swim, there's something for everyone.
At the Nicolet Beach Camp Store, you'll find rentals for kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and more, as well as snacks, beach toys, and more.
Although the water in Lake Michigan is almost always cold, it's a beautiful place to relax and soak up the warm summer sun.
Address: 9462 Shore Rd, Fish Creek, WI 54212
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Traverse City is one of the top hidden gems in the Midwest, and just a short distance away, you’ll find Platte River Point Beach.
This beach allows you to enjoy the views of the sand dunes in Sleeping Bear Dunes and even spend some time on them, relaxing on the beach.
A few sandbars can be found just off the shore, and they make the perfect place for kids to play and for you to set up your home base for the day.
The beach is found on the Platte River, which flows right into Lake Michigan.
After you've spent enough time soaking up the sun, head into the dunes and challenge yourself to climb to the top of them! It can be tough, but it will all be worth it once you see the views.
Address: Lake Michigan Rd, Honor, MI, 49640
Often, people forget that there are beaches in urban areas, but Bradford Beach is one of the best Midwest beaches in an urban city.
Milwaukee is home to this beach, which features a wide range of amenities and things to do for beach-goers.
From kicking back and sunbathing on the sandy shoreline of Lake Michigan to getting together with a group of friends for a game of beach volleyball, there is something for everyone.
Cabana rentals are available, so you can have a nice, shady spot to come back to when you need a break, and nearby is MooSa’s, which serves custard, drinks, and other foods to enjoy for lunch.
The Dock at Bradford Beach also serves great food and drinks and has a nice patio area to eat on. They also often have games of cornhole or beach volleyball going on that you can join.
Address: 2400 N Lincoln Memorial Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53211
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Milwaukee
Branson is well known for its live entertainment, from concerts to comedy shows, but many people don't realize that it's found right in the Ozark Mountains and is nearby one of the best lakes in the state, Table Rock Lake.
While this lake is world-renowned for its fishing, it also has a fantastic beach, Moonshine Beach, for those looking to relax on the sandy shores of the lake.
Moonshine Beach offers a sandy shoreline and a spacious area where beach-goers can spread out and enjoy time on the water.
Whether you want to sit and sunbathe or you'd rather take a dip in the water, you can do whatever your heart pleases on Table Rock Lake.
And if you want to get out on the water, there are plenty of opportunities for that as well.
Renting a boat is easy from local outfitters, and you can also get fun water sports equipment like jet skis or waterskis.
Address: 3778 Historic Hwy 165, Branson, MO 65616
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Branson
This long stretch of sandy beach on the coast of Lake Michigan is found just an hour from Chicago and is located within Indiana Dunes National Park.
Once you've arrived at the beach, you'll be surrounded by beautiful views of sand and greenery surrounding the blue water.
There is plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the sunshine, and you’ll find lots of people here on hot summer days.
You’ll find restrooms and showers near the beach on a seasonal basis, and there are also a few picnic shelters and grills to cook a meal. There are also lifeguards present on the beach during the summer.
When you're done laying out on the beach, head into the rest of the national park and explore the dunes. There is plenty to see from hiking on the trails to many other beaches.
Address: W Beach Rd, Portage, IN 46403
Also found near Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is Clinch Park Beach.
This stretch of sandy beach is found on the 2-mile stretch of public land in the West Arm Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan and is one of the best beaches in the Midwest.
The chilly water of Lake Michigan makes for a great spot to cool off during the summer months, or sitting on the shoreline is a great way to soak up the sun that we know doesn’t last forever.
The beach features a playground, picnic tables, a splash pad, opportunities for fishing, nearby food vendors and restaurants, and more.
And being so close to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore gives you the opportunity to go explore the dunes after relaxing on the beach.
Address: 161 E Grandview Pkwy, Traverse City, MI 49684
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is well known for its great snowmobiling and skiing in the winter, rolling hills of fall foliage in Autumn, and miles of shoreline on Lake Superior.
But many people forget that there are also sandy beaches to relax on and enjoy the refreshing waters of Lake Superior.
At Miners Beach, you can enjoy the breeze off of one of the Great Lakes, splash in the water, or just relax on the beach.
Enjoy the beautiful views of the green trees surrounding the area and the cliffs that drop right into Lake Superior.
And because the beach is nearly a mile long, there is plenty of space to lay out your stuff and then spend time walking along the shore, letting the waves crash into your feet.
Address: Miner Rd, Shingleton, MI 49884
Another popular lake in the Twin Cities is Lake Nokomis, home to 2 beaches perfect for spending time outdoors this summer.
While the beaches are busier than some others in the area because Lake Nokomis is such a famous lake, they are still worth the visit!
Both of the beaches are found around the same area, but one is called Main Beach, and the other is called 50th Street Beach.
They both feature beautiful sandy spaces, and Wheel Fun Rentals offers rental equipment for paddleboards, kayaks, and more.
A nearby restaurant sells food to enjoy during your day at the beach, and there are several walking paths nearby to take your dog on or just wander to enjoy the weather.
Lifeguards are present during the summer months, and a boat launch is just down the road if you're hoping to take your boat onto the lake.
Address: 5001 Lake Nokomis Parkway W Minneapolis, MN 55417
Kohler Andrae State Park is found on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, just an hour North of Milwaukee.
Within the park, you’ll find miles of sandy beaches, roaming wildlife, towering sand dunes, and several hiking trails to explore.
As for the beach, you’ll find them in the small town of Wilson. There are 2 miles of beaches to explore, which gives you plenty of space to wander.
Kohler Andrae State Park is just one of the nature preserves along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and you’ll understand why they wanted to protect this beautiful stretch of land!
Address: 1020 Beach Park Ln, Sheboygan, WI 53081
While the Midwest is most well known for its small towns, friendly people, and the Great Lakes, beaches are often the last thing people think of.
But luckily, there are so many great sandy beaches along the many lakes that make up the Midwest, from Lake Superior in Minnesota to Lake Michigan in Illinois.
Although it isn't the tropical beaches of the Caribbean, you can still enjoy soaking up the sun during a visit to the great Midwest.