Chicago’s Best Beaches

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The Windy City does a lot of things well; for 25 years it sported the tallest skyscraper in the world, its spacious street design makes getting around effortless, and quirky bars like The Bedford, made from a bank vault, hint at its eccentric nightlife. And let’s not forget Cloud Gate – the polished oblong sculpture that has enabled a copious amount of selfies of people taking selfies. Yes, there are many things Chicago does well, and one of the more surprising ones is beaches!

The city’s coast hems a section of the expansive body of water known as Lake Michigan. And you’d be forgiven for confusing it with an ocean – its turquoise waters are filled with yachts, speedboats and froliking land dwellers, so it’s no wonder that there are also a fair amount of sandy beaches along its shores. Pair that with the inherently hot summers and you have a winning combination. Here are some of Chicago’s best sunbathing spots.  

Montrose beach – Great for entertainment

Montrose Beach, Chicago
Photo by Clayton Rego courtesy of flikr 

Wander through the Magic Hedge and you’ll happen upon Montrose Beach. Here you’ll find toilets, showers, the Windy city Watersports centre and, most importantly, a great deal of sand that’s been put there to create a golden shoreline. There’s plenty going on during the summer – sizzling temperatures amass crowds and opportunistic mango, popsicle and water vendors set up shop.

Every Wednesday evening, the air is filled with live reggae music at the Dock at Montrose Beach, a restaurant-come-entertainment-venue, and if you want to venture out into the water you can hire jet skis, kayaks and paddleboards.

Oh, and in case you’re wandering what the Magic Hedge is, it’s a bird and butterfly sanctuary – worth a visit while you’re in the area.

North Avenue Beach – Great for Scenery

North Avenue Beach, Chicago
Photo by YoChicago courtesy of flikr 

A 10-minute drive south of Montrose Beach will take you to one of the most popular beaches in the city. This is where you’ll find most of the summer crowds, so get there early to claim your section of this attractive beach. There’s a beachhouse, Castaways, shaped like a cruise ship, and it hosts live music performances on the weekends. The beach is parallel to South Lagoon – home to a bounty of wildlife including turtles, frogs and crayfish, and the South Lagoon is parallel to the picturesque Lincoln Park. But before we get even further away from the beach, we should also mention the views from the coast create a wonderfully romantic setting come nightfall.

Glencoe Beach – Great for Families

Glencoe Beach, Chicago
Photo by Joe Zekas courtesy of flikr

You do have to pay an entrance fee (around £4), but at Glencoe beach, there’s lots to warrant it. There’s a tennis court, a kid’s water play area, lifeguards on duty during peak season and a nice trellised area which is great for hosting summer events. Kids can participate in the Spike & Splash Volleyball Tourney with other children, where they can compete towards a trophy every Sunday and Wednesday, or families can rent a boat at around £20 per hour.

Ohio Street Beach – Great for Swimming

Ohio Street Beach, Chicago
Photo by mason.flikr courtesy of flikr

Ohio Street Beach is small but pleasant and has a long-distance swimming area, so it’s a good training ground for open water swimmers. You can only swim when the lifeguards are on duty (from 11am – 7pm in the peak season), and that’s because the lake can get pretty deep. Also, since it’s freshwater, it’s more difficult to remain buoyant in it. Nearby you have the Navy Pier, a popular attraction with rides, restaurants and events going on throughout the year.