Illinois, Family, Local, Seniors, Summer

5 Best Chicago Beaches for Summer Fun!

Hi, I'm Kristen!
I'm an award-winning senior portrait and family photographer based out of Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. I love sunshine, cacti, chocolate chips, and a great cup of tea - but most of all I love photographing joyful clients. :)
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High school senior girl sitting in grasses and sand dunes at one of Chicago's best beaches

Sharing here today my guide to the best Chicago beaches so you can get planning for summer fun! Whether you’re interested in swimming, beach volleyball, or just a great place to hang out for the day with the friends, this guide has got you covered. 🙂

Best Chicago Beaches

Some general information:

It’s always worth checking the links I’ve included for each beach which contain information about the water quality. Chicago will occasionally ban swimming due to poor water quality.

Chicago beaches are open from 6 AM through 11 PM and have WiFi!

All of the Chicago beaches have lifeguards on duty during beach season (the weekend before Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend), from 11 AM-7 PM. Swimming is not allowed except during those hours!

Dogs are not allowed at Chicago beaches EXCEPT for three that have dog-friendly beach areas. These are covered in more detail in a section below. 🐶

High school senior portraits at North Avenue Beach, one of the best Chicago beaches

Chicago North Avenue Beach

1601 N. Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

Check the water quality at North Avenue Beach here.

In my opinion, North Avenue Beach is the top of the best Chicago beaches. It has many amenities, ease of accessibility, and a superb skyline view.

Metered Parking Lot, WiFi, ADA accessible with the beachwalk, and there is a beach wheelchair available for checkout at the lifeguard office. The boat-shaped beach house has restrooms available on either sides of the boat!

There are multiple dining options: Castaways Bar and Grill at the boat-shaped beach house offers grab and go options on the lower level and more sit-down options with a beautiful view from the rooftop.

North Avenue Beach is one of the few beaches that has launching access for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding. This is available within the “hook” part of the wavebreak on the south side of the park.

At this beach, you can rent a volleyball court and balls for $10/hour, as well as renting bikes, jet skis, kayaks, wakeboards, and paddleboards!

Retail options at North Avenue Beach include shops selling flip flops, lounge chairs, beach umbrellas, and other beach-related needs.

Something unique and fun about North Avenue Beach: beach yoga classes are available at sunrise, mid-morning, and sunset through Sun and Moon Beach Yoga. These classes are offered 7 days a week.

Girl with curly brown hair and white tank top in front of pink flowers, at one of the best Chicago beaches

Oak Street Beach

1000 N Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

You can check out the water quality for Oak Street Beach here.

This popular beach is near the Gold Coast district, which also has nearby access to North Avenue Beach and Ohio Street Beach. Historically, Oak Street Beach has been one of the most popular beaches in Chicago. It is a little on the small side compared to some of Chicago’s other beaches, but its proximity to downtown makes it a convenient and well-loved spot.

Food is available at the cafe Whispers at Oak Street Beach, as well as volleyball courts, bike rentals, volleyball rentals, and the all-important restrooms. It is ADA accessible with a beachwalk. For parking, you’ll want to park at lots on the west side of DuSable Lake Shore Drive. There’s a parking garage at 500 N Lake Shore Dr, and another at 441 E Erie St.

Girl in white dress and black doc marten shoes for photos at one of Chicago's best beaches

Ohio Street Beach

600 North Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

Here’s the link to check water quality.

Located right next to Navy Pier and the Gold Coast, along with the beautiful Milton Lee Olive Park right next door that has a stunning view of the city, especially in the afternoon. This is a relatively tiny beach, so plan to get here early to stake out your spot!

Food and bathrooms are available at the nearby Navy Pier food court, although it is not a super short walk over if you have a desperate toddler, ask me how I know.

Parking is available at the parking garage on Navy Pier, but it’s a bit of a trek to the beach. You might want to consider bringing a small wagon if you have many items you’re bringing on your Chicago beach day!

Some people think that this beach is called Milton Lee Olive Beach, but that’s not true – Milton Lee Olive Park is a separate park right next door to the Ohio Street Beach.

Girl in black dress at North Avenue Beach in Chicago

Oakwood Beach / 41st St Beach

4100 S. Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60653

You can check the water quality for Oakwood Beach here.

Chicago’s Oakwood Beach is located a little south of the Loop, close to the Oakland district. This beach is located right next to Burnham Park, which gives more options for fun if you’re planning on spending the day there. It’s also right next to the beautiful lakefront trail if you’re interested in more of a walk.

Parking is pay and display, and food is available at Pier 41 Concession.

Girl in white tank top and blue miniskirt at North Avenue Beach, one of the best beaches in Chicago

Chicago – Rainbow Beach

3111 E. 77th Street
Chicago, IL 60649

Water quality information here.

This is one of the most popular of Chicago’s beaches on the south side with many options for activities and amenities.

This beach is ADA-friendly! There is a wheelchair-friendly beachwalk down to the beach and a free beach wheelchair available for checkout at the lifeguard office. Parking is available at the lot at Rainbow Beach Park and is pay-to-park. Importantly, as a mom to a young child, there are bathrooms available.

Rainbow Beach and nearby Rainbow Beach park has lots to offer: there’s a playground, three baseball fields, four basketball courts, and twelve tennis courts. On the south side of the beach there is a pretty native plant area with sand dunes, as well as access to the water for launching kayaks and paddleboards.

Food is available at Norman’s at the Lake which is largely fast food. They offer chicken wings, catfish po’boys, salads, burgers, nachos, and chicken tenders as well similar fare.

Fun fact, this beach is named after the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division. It was called the Rainbow Division because it was comprised of units from all over the country, “stretching across the country like a rainbow.”

Girl with brown curly hair and white tank top sitting in wildflowers in front of the Chicago skyline

Chicago Beach Hotels

While there once was a famous hotel literally called the Chicago Beach Hotel, that was demolished in 1970. If you’re looking for hotels near Chicago beaches, here are some good recommendations!

W Chicago Lakeshore by Marriott – right next to Ohio Street Beach beach (and also the beautiful Riverwalk).

The Drake – overlooking Oak Street beach to the North. Equally, the Four Seasons Hotel is very close to Oak Street Beach in the Gold Coast.

Hotel Lincoln – JDV by Hyatt is one of the closest option to North Avenue Beach – ideal if you’re coming from out of town for a photoshoot at Lincoln Park. 😉

High school senior portraits at North Avenue Beach in Chicago

Best Chicago Dog Beaches

There are three Chicago dog beaches, meaning there are dog-friendly fenced-off areas at that beach. Chicago does not allow dogs at most of the beaches.

All Chicago dog beaches require a DFA tag and proof of rabies vaccination for dog entry into the beach areas. There is no fee to enter the dog beaches.

In all cases, the dog beaches are fenced in on three sides with the lake making up the fourth side. Depending on the water level, these areas may be easier for your dog to escape than you like, depending on how ambitious they are!

Belmont Harbor Dog Beach

Belmont & Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60614

Check water quality for Belmont Beach here.

This Chicago dog beach has a small, fenced-in area where dogs can be off-leash and swim in the water. It also is gently sloped so that dogs can either splash in the shallow areas, or swim in the deeper areas if they choose. Dog parents also really appreciate that there is a beach space where they can throw tennis balls and let their doggos dig till their heart’s content. There are a few complaints: too crowded, no bench to sit at, and while it is challenging for the dogs to swim out of the beach area, it can be done if they are determined enough.

This Chicago dog beach is the closest to the Chicago loop, with the beach existing within Belmont Harbor just north of Lincoln Park. The nearest parking is within the Belmont Harbor Park at 100 W Addison Dr, Chicago, IL 60613.

Montrose Dog Beach

4697 Lawrence, W Wilson Dr, Chicago

Check water quality for Montrose Beach here.

Situated right next to the Montrose Dog Park, the Montrose Dog Beach is a beautiful space for your dog to enjoy the beach, and in my opinion is the prettiest of the Chicago beaches that are dog friendly! The dog beach area is fenced in on three sides with the lake making up the fourth side – ambitious dogs may escape from the fenced-in area.

Parking includes a small pay to park lot, and pay to park street parking.

Please be careful – dogs are NOT allowed at nearby Montrose Beach, on or off leash.

Foster Dog Beach

5200 N. Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

Check water quality for Foster Beach here.

The northernmost dog beach in Chicago, this beach is located in the Edgewater district north of Lincoln Park. It sports a large fenced in area for dogs to play! People think this beach is better for larger dogs, while nearby Belmont Dog Beach is better for smaller dogs. Located on the northern part of Foster Beach. Just a few blocks north of Foster Avenue Dog Beach is the Edgewater Dog Park for more fun for your pet.

Girl with brown curly hair dancing in front of the Chicago skyline at one of Chicago's beaches

Considering portraits during your trip to one of the best Chicago beaches? I’d love to help out. Inquire here, or sign up for my newsletter to stay in touch!

Kristen Hazelton is an award-winning Oak Park, IL (West Chicagoland) and Livermore, CA (San Francisco East Bay Area) graduating senior, and family photographer. She occasionally photographs in San Diego, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Seattle, WA. You can inquire about your own photoshoot here!

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