The 13 Best Beaches in Chicago

Aerial view of Oak Street beach in Chicago.

Taken by Archie Wong / Getty Images

With beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see, you may think you've gone from the Windy City to Southern California. When the weather is warm, you can expect to see many Chicagoans heading for the beaches along Lake Michigan, which have been making quite a comeback lately due to the lake's rising water levels, to enjoy a day in the sun or sips and noshes at a popular beach bar. The Chicago beaches listed below are open for swimming from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, except where otherwise noted. ​

01 of 13

Loyola–Leone Beaches

People standing on the empty Loyola Leone Beach

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer

Address
1222 W Touhy Ave, Chicago, IL 60626-2614, USA
Phone +1 773-262-8605

At eight blocks long, Loyola and Leone Beaches, located in the East Rogers Park neighborhood near Loyola University, are the largest in Chicago. With stroller beach mats and a lively playground for kids, these family-friendly beaches are also great for sports enthusiasts who come to use the baseball fields, basketball courts, and large bike racks. There’s also a kayak launching spot at Leone Beach for those who want to paddle. On Loyola Beach, don’t miss “Windform,” an intriguing 100-foot sculpture by artist Lynn Takata.

Situated between Touhy Avenue and West Pratt Boulevard, you’ll find this stretch of sand about a 25-minute drive north of Downtown Chicago, or a 50-minute ride on CTS Bus #147 (Outer Drive Express Northbound).

02 of 13

Belmont Harbor Dog Beach

Overhead view of Belmont Harbor in Chicago

Steve_Gadomski / Getty Images

Address
Belmont Harbor Dog Beach, Chicago, IL 60657, USA

Belmont Harbor, a popular Chicago beach hangout, boasts bike, walking, and running paths as well as ample parking. It’s also where you’ll find Chicago's Yacht Club and the city's unofficial "dog beach," a fenced-in area by the water that's perfect for those traveling with their canine companions (see more tips in our guide for pampering your pets in Chicago). The beach is adjacent to two other notable parts of the city: Boystown, home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community, and the Villa Toscana Guest House, one of the most well-known bed and breakfast destinations in the area.

About a 20-minute stroll from Wrigley Field, you can also reach the Belmont Harbor Dog Beach by taking CTA bus #146/151 northbound from the city center for about 40 minutes (if you’re driving, it’s about 15 minutes).

03 of 13

Oak Street Beach

Looking down on Oak Street Beach in Chicago

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Address
Oak Street Beach, Illinois 60611, USA

Whether you’re into rollerblading, volleyball, relaxing and soaking in some rays, or just want to check out tiny swimwear, Oak Street Beach is just steps from the Magnificent Mile, making it a people-watching extravaganza right in the middle of a bustling metropolis. Part of Chicago’s Gold Coast, it’s one of the city's most accessible beaches, located within walking distance of some of the area’s best hotels, including The Drake, InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, the Park Hyatt Chicago, and The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago. Note that you’re only allowed to swim if there’s a lifeguard on duty.

An eight-minute drive from the heart of Downtown Chicago, you can also take CTA bus #151 Sheridan northbound to reach the beach.

04 of 13

Ohio Street Beach

Chicago skyline by Ohio Street Beach

Joe Passe / Getty Images

Address
600 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Phone +1 773-363-2225

Located right next to Navy Pier, Ohio Street Beach is one of the closest to Chicago’s Downtown and about 10 minutes south of Oak Street Beach, mentioned above. Take in incredible views of the city as you swim in its cool, calm waters. You’ll find a mix of locals and visitors taking a dip here, with some treating the beach as a giant 800-meter swim lane—the beach faces north so you can swim all the way up to the Oak Street Curve without straying too far from the safety of the seawall.

Take CTA bus #29, #146, #147, or #151 north, then walk toward Navy Pier to reach Ohio Street Beach. Alternatively, take the Red Line train, then connect to the #66 bus toward Navy Pier.

Continue to 5 of 13 below.
05 of 13

North Avenue Beach

Aerial view of North Avenue Beach in Chicago

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Address
Chicago, IL 60614, USA

Chicago's answer to Venice Beach, North Avenue Beach is situated along Lake Michigan between Lincoln Park and Old Town and sports a mini-gym (check out our guide to top local boutique fitness studios for more ideas) as well as several biking and running paths. It's also a popular spot for alfresco yoga classes and for trying water sports like kayaking, wake boarding, and stand up paddle boarding. North Avenue Beach plays host to professional volleyball tournaments and the Chicago Air & Water Show. Be aware that this is the busiest beach in Chicago; public transportation is advised, as parking is limited.

It’s just a 35-minute ride on CTA Bus #151 Sheridan northbound, or a 15-minute drive from Downtown Chicago to North Avenue Beach.

06 of 13

Evanston Beaches

Trail leading to Evanston Beach in Chicago

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Address
1251 Lake Shore Blvd, Evanston, IL 60202, USA

Directly north of Chicago, Evanston is home to five beautiful beaches that each offer great southern views of the Chicago skyline. Most of these beaches enjoy a perfect combination of shallow waters and gourmet and ice cream concessions, making them an excellent destination for families. Note that this is one of the few Chicago beach areas where a season token or daily pass is required for admission during operating hours.

You’ll find Evanston’s beaches between Campus Drive near Northwestern University and Dempster Avenue, all about a 30-minute drive or 40-minute UP-N (Union Pacific / North Line) train ride from the city center.

07 of 13

Montrose Beach

Buildings behind Montrose Beach in Chicago

tifonimages / Getty Images

Address
4400 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60640, USA
Phone +1 773-363-2225

Montrose Beach, near Uptown, is a lovely beach with much to offer, like a bird and butterfly sanctuary, which attracts migratory birds just north of the beach. Food concessions are available, as are volleyball courts and kayak rentals. Kiteboarding and kitesurfing can be learned or practiced here. Bring your dog to Montrose Dog Beach, a fenced-off space that’s the largest in the city and technically the city’s first off-leash beach. There's even a place to wash off Fido afterward so he can be brought home smelling like soap instead of being covered in wet sand. With amenities like this, it’s no wonder visitors and locals alike claim this is the best beach in Chicago.

There's a paid parking lot, or you can take public transportation, including CTA bus routes #78, #81, or #151. The Red Line train also stops at the Lawrence or Wilson stations nearby.

08 of 13

Foster Beach

Looking down the shoreline at Foster Avenue Beach in Chicago

Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

Address
Foster Beach, Illinois 60660, USA

An ideal destination for families and furry friends, Foster Beach is located in the Edgewater neighborhood north of Downtown Chicago. While not quite as trendy and touristy as Oak Street Beach or North Avenue Beach, this stretch of sand is perfect for those seeking a quieter alternative. Grassy picnic areas abound, making it a great spot for a BBQ or alfresco meal by the water. Be on the lookout for the Chicago Full Moon Jam, an event that brings fire dancers, musicians, and drummers, among other artsy types, to celebrate nature on the beach.

Foster Beach is located about a 15-minute drive or 50-minute bus ride north of the city center. CTA bus routes include #146, #147, and #151, while the Red Line train stops at Berwyn station.

Continue to 9 of 13 below.
09 of 13

Kathy Osterman Beach

Lifeguard stand at Kathy Osterman Beach in Chicago

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Address
Kathy Osterman Beach, Illinois 60660, USA

Often referred to as Hollywood Beach, Kathy Osterman Beach is known for its summertime events and attractions, bicycle parking, fishing pier, volleyball courts, shallow waters ideal for swimming, and for being the city’s unofficial LGBTQ+ beach destination.

Located just above Montrose Beach (and just north of Uptown in Edgewater), you’ll need to take the Red Line train 45 minutes north or drive 15 minutes to reach Kathy Osterman Beach.

10 of 13

12th Street Beach

Boats on the shore at 12th Street Beach in Chicago

tacojim / Getty Images

Address
12th Street Beach, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

You’ll find 12th Street Beach in Northerly Island Park, part of Chicago’s Museum Campus. If you’re planning to spend time at the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, or the Field Museum, consider ending your day with a relaxing stroll on the beach or a refreshing swim or paddle in its calm waters. If all that sightseeing has worked up an appetite, stop by Delcampo’s Tacos for a quick beachside bite.

From the city center, it’s a 10-minute drive or 20-minute ride on CTA bus #6 or #146. You could also take the South Shore line to the Museum Campus/11th St. station, then walk 20 minutes to reach 12th Street Beach.

11 of 13

57th Street Beach

57th Street Beach in Chicago

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Address
57th Street Beach, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

Located in Jackson Park south of Promontory Point, and next door to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), 57th Street Beach is a great spot to try non-motorized water sports like kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding. Designed by Olmstead and Vaux during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the beach is reachable via underpass; stop by Tasty Grill, which serves up tasty Mexican food and other quick bites, if you work up an appetite on the water.

Head south on CTA bus #6 for 30 minutes or drive 15 minutes south to reach this special stretch of sand from the city center.

12 of 13

South Shore Beach

View of the Chicago skyline from South Shore Beach

stevegeer / Getty Images

Address
South Shore Beach, Illinois 60649, USA

Situated just above Rainbow Beach, South Shore Beach provides a much-needed break from the city. It's part of the South Shore Cultural Center and close to other fun things worth checking out, like the nearby solarium, sand dunes, butterfly garden, and nine-hole golf course. There’s also a beach house where you’ll find restrooms, showers, and a place to buy snacks and refreshments for your day out on the sand.

From Downtown Chicago, drive 20 minutes south. If you’re taking public transportation, it’s about an hour south on the Red Line or the CTA #6 bus.

Continue to 13 of 13 below.
13 of 13

Rainbow Beach

Clouds over Rainbow Beach Park in Chicago

stevegeer / Getty Images

Address
3111 E 77th St, Chicago, IL 60649, USA
Phone +1 773-745-1479

For a real escape from the hustle and bustle, head to the 142-acre oasis that is Rainbow Beach, complete with impressive views of the skyline from the South Side. It’s also home to handball courts, a fitness center, a playground for the kiddos, and a nine-acre sand dune habitat. Best of all, there’s free Wi-Fi, so you’ll be able to work straight from the sand if you want to. Before heading home, stop by the Rainbow Beach Victory Garden, the oldest public gardens in the city.

You’ll need to take the South Shore line about 40 minutes or the CTA #6 bus about 50 minutes south from the city center to reach Rainbow Beach Park. Otherwise, it’s a 25-minute drive.

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The Best Beaches in Chicago