Disclaimer: This Indiana Dunes beaches post was originally published in May 2021 and was updated during spring 2022 for relevancy.
This post is going to be a travel guide covering Indiana Dunes beaches you should visit! In case you’re unfamiliar, Indiana Dunes is a national park located in the northwestern part of Indiana on Lake Michigan. It’s a 15 mile stretch of coastline, with Indiana Dunes beaches in both the state park and national park. This is a shorter blog post as there’s not a ton to do here, but this national park is gaining more popularity as a sought-out midwestern summer destination. I went here during a recent midwestern road trip after visiting Michigan and before visits to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. So, without further ado let’s hop into Indiana Dunes beaches you should visit!
Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Tesalate, an Australian towel company. Tesalate reached out and was kind enough to send me one of their best-selling, sand-resistant beach towels in exchange for a feature on my blog. Keep reading to learn more about Tesalate, and as always – all opinions are my own!
Background Information On Indiana Dunes
Before I go into detail about the Indiana Dunes beaches, I want to give some background on the area in general! As mentioned above, Indiana Dunes is located in northern Indiana on the very southern tip of Lake Michigan. The area stretches 15 miles from Michigan City, Indiana in the east to the Gary, Indiana area in the west. Aside from the multitude of sandy beaches here, there’s also rugged dunes to explore, tranquil wetlands, and a plethora of hiking trails (50 miles to be exact). With over 1,000 plant species, this 15,000 acre park is one of the most biologically rich in the USA.
In 1966, Congress authorized this area as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This helped bring new crowds of tourists to the beaches, making the dunes one of the most sought-after summer spots in the midwest. On February 15, 2019, Indiana Dunes became the nation’s 61st national park.
It’s a bit confusing but there’s actually a state park here within the national park. These state parks do not accept any national park passes, but instead charge per vehicle depending on whether you’re coming from out of state or not. The national park stretches along the coastline on either side of the state park. Just be aware of this when planning your trip!
Pro-tip: Plan on visiting more than one national park? Invest in the Annual America the Beautiful Parks Pass! It allows you to visit every park in the US an unlimited amount of times for a year.
How To Get To Indiana Dunes National Park
There are two ways to access the Indiana Dunes beaches. The first is by car. This is BY FAR the best option since there is 15 miles of coastline here. So that you have the most flexibility to explore the area and various beaches, I highly recommend driving here. Coming from these midwestern cities…
- 123 miles (2 hour drive) from Grand Rapids to Indiana Dunes
- 40 miles (45 minute drive) from Chicago to Indiana Dunes
- 138 miles (2.5 hour drive) from Milwaukee to Indiana Dunes
- 153 miles (2.5 hour drive) from Indianapolis to Indiana Dunes
The second most direct way to access the Indiana Dunes beaches is by train. You can take the South Shore Line from Chicago into Indiana Dunes super easily! The train station you’ll want to use is Dune Park. Trains run regularly every hour or so and tickets only cost $9! This is what I did to continue on to Chicago after spending the day in Indiana Dunes National Park.
Pro-tip: From the train station, the nearest beach is over a mile away. This walk isn’t the most enjoyable, so definitely bring a car if you have access to one!
Indiana Dunes Beaches You Should Visit
Compared to some of the most popular national parks in the USA like Yellowstone and Yosemite, Indiana Dunes is much smaller. That’s why I’m only going to focus on the Indiana Dunes beaches here. As mentioned above, there are tons of hiking trails in the area, but I didn’t do this. I did visit a few beaches though! Lake Michigan has some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen, so definitely add this place to your list if you’re looking for a cool place to ~dip~ in the summer months!
Note: Eight of the Indiana Dunes beaches can be found in the national park and one is the state park beach. This guide covers all of them from west to east, coming from the Chicago area.
- West Beach: The most popular beach in Indiana Dunes for swimming! As the name suggests, this beach is located on the west end of the park and has a lifeguard. Looking for an adventure? Climb up to 250+ stairs to the Dunes Succession Trail and walk along the mile-long boardwalk here.
- Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk: This area has an enclosed pavilion with food service and restrooms. There’s also a fishing pier, handicap-accessible trails, and a kayak launch here.
- Porter Beach: This beach is the closest to Dune Park station and also happens to be a part of the national park stretch! This place has massive dunes, perfect for exploring and bird watching. I also recommend this beach for young families as there’s a bathroom, foot wash area, and picnic tables.
- Indiana Dunes State Park: As the name suggests, this is the state park area and the one state park beach at Indiana Dunes. You will have to pay a fee to enter but this is where most people camp as there are campgrounds, showers, a snack bar, camp store, and nature center, along with over 2,000 acres of dunes, swamps, and marshes.
- Kemil Beach: One of the most scenic drives is right along this beach. Here you’ll also find the Lake View Picnic area, along with more restrooms.
- Dunbar Beach: Located in Beverly Shores, this area of the national park is quite residential. There are no lifeguards on duty here but there are historic homes and more picnic areas. Be aware of limited parking!
- Lake View Beach & Picnic Area: The only area in the national park with picnic shelters overlooking the lake.
- Central Avenue Beach: One of the best places for biking in the park. Here you’ll find most of the park’s forest, flower fields, and marshes.
- Mount Baldy & Beach: This is the largest “living” dune in the park, meaning it moves up to 4 feet each year! The beach is open year-around, but the hike can only be done with rangers.
From this list, I recommend West Beach the most for tourists and families and the Porter Beach area out of convenience from the Dune Park station if you’re walking. The state park is also a wonderful option if you’re visiting from Indiana!
Thank you to Tesalate for sponsoring today’s blog post! Tesalate is an Australian towel company specializing in compact, sand-free, absorbent towels! They offer a wide variety of designs and styles for both the beach and for working out. I chose the sand-free Bora Bora design in pink as my new go-to beach towel for the summer and it hasn’t disappointed. As a frequent traveler who’s always on the go, it’s important to me to have compact products that are easy to travel with. My towel came with a slip case that has a handle, making it super easy to travel with. It’s also fast-drying, meaning I can pack it up again right after a beach day! I highly recommend checking out Tesalate if you’re in the market for a new beach or workout towel, and want to bring a piece of Aussie home with you.
Hopefully this guide helps you plan a trip to the Indiana Dunes beaches, something you should definitely plan to do as a day trip this summer.
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