Chicago has some great beaches along its lakefront. These beaches are full of history and overflowing with beauty. Listed below are some of the more popular ones. They are listed starting with the northernmost location and then in order to the southernmost location. All but one of the beaches listed (Illinois Beach State Park) are located in the City of Chicago under the control of the Chicago Park District. The entire 28 miles of Chicago lakefront shoreline is man-made, and primarily used as parkland.
Aerial View of the Lakefront Beaches
Illinois Beach State Park – This beach is great for beach camping, hiking and biking with many nature trails along the shoreline. The area also includes dune area, wetlands, prairie and the southern end is a nature preserve, which in 1980 was named a National Natural Landmark.
Rogers Ave. Beach – A small beach, and barely a block long. Also has tennis courts.
Pratt Boulevard Beach – A little known jewel in Chicago with a great community feel. A long pier seperates two halves of the beach, and a very culturally diversed group gathers here, so people watching is always a pleasure.
Kathy Osterman Beach – This crescent-shaped beach is divided into two parts.Many consider this beach one of the best kept secrets in Chicago, with clean water, unlittered, white sands and one of the most spectacular views of Lake Michigan in all of Chicago. There’s a concession stand that serves alcohol and all kinds of foods (burger, hot dogs, chips, etc) and as every lady takes note of, lots of gorgeous men congregating to play volleyball. The north half of the beach is great for families, especially those with kids as the waters are shallow. The south half of the beach is very popular with the gay community. The best way to get to the Kathy Osterman Beach is by public transit, as parking around here is often very limited.
Foster Avenue Beach – A great little man-made beach usually not crowded and with lots of free/cheap parking. There’s no view of Downtown Chicago from this beach, but when you want a quiet day at the beach without tons of tourists and blaring music, this is a great spot for a relaxing afternoon at the beach. Relaxing, that is, if you don’t mind the sounds of children playing.
Montrose Dog Beach – Chicago’s largest beach with one of only two dog beaches in Chicago at the north end (“Doggie Beach”). One of the few beaches you can launch non-motorized watercraft from, and the most parking of any beach in Chicago. The beach has recently been remodeled with a 3,000 square foot deck and a full service restaurant, The Dock at Montrose Beach.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
North Ave. Beach – Considered Chicago’s premier beach and definitely its most popular. It hosts the most developed beach house resembling an ocean liner, and contains bike and sports equipment rental, a bar and restaurant (Castaways), concession stand, a lifeguard station, and restrooms. North Ave. Beach also has many volleyball courts, a lakefront path, and it is the center stage for the Chicago Air & Water Show.
Oak Street Beach – About a mile and a half long, and is home to the largest area of deep water swimming in the city. It used to be the most popular beach due to its proximity to downtown. It is also home to Chicago’s only chess pavilion and an outdoor restaurant called the Oak Street Beachstro that is assembled every summer and then dismantled at the end of the season.
Olive Park Beach – Also known as Ohio Street Beach and is located in Streeterville. It is oriented in a fashion so that it faces north instead of east like all the other beaches. This makes it an ideal training sight for open water swimming. One can swim about a half mile to the Oak Street curve without being more that a few feet from the seawall and shallow water.
Aerial View of Chicago Lakefront Illinois
12th Street Beach – Sometimes called the 14th Street Beach, it is just south of the Adler Planetarium, and has restrooms and a concession stand. 12th Street Beach is also popular for open water swimming.
31st Street Beach – Located in Burnham Park. Every Year the 31st Street Beach hosts the Junior Lifeguard Chicago Area Tug-o-War. This beach is clean, rarely crowded, and great for picnics, families and enjoying a fabulous view of Chicago.
57th Street Beach – Located in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood, the beach sits across the street from the Museum of Science and Industry. The beach provides an area for deep swimming. The bathrooms are clean, they have plenty of showers and the crowds are minimal. This stop is a must on the ride along Lake Shore Drive.
63rd Street Beach – Located in Jackson Park, it is home to the oldest beach house in the city. The beach used to be called Jackson Park Beach until 1914 when it was extended 10 acres to 63rd Street, thus changing its name. In 1919, the 63rd Street Pavilion was completed, and historically provided showers, medical rooms, and bathrooms. It was renovated in 2000, and is now used primarily by boaters, beach goers, and for special events.
Chicago Lakefront Skyline
South Shore Beach – It is located directly behind the South Shore Cultural Center (formerly the South Shore Country Club). The Country Club is a beautiful old building that houses a ballroom, restaurant, golf course, and tennis courts.
Rainbow Beach – Beginning with the 1919 Race Riot, Chicago suffered a history of race related disturbances regarding the use of public resources such as parks and beaches. Rainbow Beach was an area of controversy for black and white youth. Demographic shifts and racial climate changes of the 1960s led to a July 7 and 8, 1961 “freedom wade-in” at Rainbow Beach staged by an interracial coalition of demonstrators, including members of the NAACP Youth Council.
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Chicago Beaches | A Guide to Beaches in Chicago