Dunes 101: Where are the Indiana Dunes beaches?
Hey, Ranger Matt here with some insider tips on how to make the most of your beach experience here in Indiana Dunes Country.
Our beaches get a lot of attention—and for good reason! Many people consider our 15-mile coastline to be among the best beaches in the world. Two of our most popular beaches are the Indiana Dunes State Park and West Beach of the National Lakeshore. Both locations have amenities like ample parking, restrooms, rinse-off stations, and lockers. There is also a fee to enter both locations.
Most popular beaches
To get to the State Park beach, just take State Road 49 north. You can park in either the main or west lot—both are right on the water. West Beach is one of several National Lakeshore access points along Highway 12. With the most parking and amenities of all the National Lakeshore sites, it’s a great spot for a beach day!
If you’re looking for a quieter beach experience, the smaller National Lakeshore beaches are local favorites. Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk, Cowles Bog, Porter, Kemil, Dunbar, Lakeview, Central, and Mount Baldy beaches are all excellent beach day locations. These parking lots are just down the road from the beaches, so be prepared to walk a little bit, and bring a picnic lunch because these beaches don’t have concessions.
When to visit
Here’s an insider tip: Visit during the week before 10:00 a.m. and after 3:00 p.m. on summer weekends when there are fewer crowds. On holiday weekends, the early bird not only gets the worm—it gets the parking space. Visiting during the fall, winter, or spring will give you better parking, as well as spectacular seasonal views of the park.
Need to know
We also have a few rules I like to call the “Dunes and Don’ts.”
- Watch out for those pesky community parking rules. The towns of Beverly Shores and Porter have private lots that require parking permits. There is also no parking allowed along the side of the road.
- The National Lakeshore allows alcohol on all of their beaches except West Beach. The State Park does not allow alcohol on its beach anywhere.
- Glass bottles of any kind are not allowed on any National Lakeshore beach or the State Park beach.
- Pets can hang out with you at every beach except the swimming areas of the State Park beach and West Beach. Make sure they’re leashed!
- Lifeguards are stationed at the State Park and West Beach Memorial Day through Labor Day. The other National Lakeshore beaches do not have lifeguards. Be aware of swim warnings and closures due to rip currents. Take these warnings seriously! You can call the Visitor Center for this information.
- The dunes include some of the most unique ecologies in the world! To help preserve it, personal motorized vehicles like jet skis are not permitted on any of the State Park or National Lakeshore beaches.
- Kayaks, however, can be launched at the State Park or any National Lakeshore beach. Just be sure to bring a sea kayak that’s made to handle Lake Michigan’s waters. Please carry your kayak to the water rather than dragging it.
- We know you’ll be hungry after a whole day at the beach. Inside the State Park, you can grill near the pavilion using your own grill, or use the provided grills at the many picnic areas. Grilling is allowed in the National Lakeshore picnic areas at West Beach, Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm, Tremont, Glenwood Dune, and Lakeview.
That about covers it. Thanks for joining me for Dunes 101—we’ll see you on the beach! And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single video in the series.