take a day trip to the beach

Summer is almost over – have you been to the beach yet?  You owe it to yourself to have a sunny summer day at the beach!  Make it even better by getting a ride so you don’t have to deal with the stress of driving.

Lake Michigan. photo: susan ask

Four beaches near Chicago that you can get to by public transit.

Take a day trip to the beach!

Don’t forget to check in with lifeguards about swimming conditions.  Riptides and rough water should be taken seriously.  If it’s not a good day for swimming, there’s still more to do at the beach!

Illinois Beach State Park  (northwest Illinois)

Wildlife along the Dead River. photo: susan ask

Miles of beaches provide room for everyone to relax, run and enjoy the sun and water.  Take some time to explore the black oak savannas, swales and marshes away from the beach.

The trails along the Dead River lead into a surprisingly lush area, rich with aquatic life, birds and other critters.

Transit directions:

Metra (Union Pacific North Line):  Take the train to the Zion or Winthrop Harbor stop, then walk east into the park. To get to the trails and beaches: From Zion, walk east on Shiloh Boulevard then turn south (right) on Deborah Ave.  From Winthrop Harbor, walk east on 7th street.

From Chicago (Ogilvie Transportation Center):  about 1 hour 25 minutes; $8.75 round trip on weekends or $17.50 round trip weekdays

Montrose Beach  (in Chicago)

Montrose dune. photo: susan ask

Right in the city, you’ll find a nice stretch of sandy beach where you can read a book, build a sandcastle or play volleyball.  Short walking trails through the restored dune and ‘Magic Hedge’ provide the chance to see and hear more birds than you might expect in a big city.  There are picnic tables throughout the park, where you can have lunch under a shade tree.

Why not get out on the lake?  You can rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards at the kiosk on the southern edge of the beach.

Transit directions:

CTA bus:  The Montrose Bus (#78) or the #145 or #151 going north/south.  The #78 goes into the park during the summer.  For all other buses, walk east long Montrose to get into the park.

CTA el train:  Red Line.  Exit at the Sheridan, Wilson or Lawrence stops and walk east until you reach the park.

Fare:  $2 – 2.25 each way; transfers within 2 hours are 25 cents.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   (northwest Indiana)

Dune grass. photo: susan ask

The Indiana Dunes provide a beautiful oasis along 15 miles of Lake Michigan coastline.  There are broad sandy beaches, high dunes, wetlands and rich history to explore.

Walk the trails through the wooded dunes to take a trip through deep time and ecological succession.  The tree-covered dunes furthest from the lake were once right on the water’s edge.  Over time, new dunes developed near the shore and trees replaced marram grass on the older dunes.

Transit directions:

South Shore Line:  There are four stops within the Park:  Miller Station, Ogden Dunes, Station Beverly Shores Station and Dune Park Station.  The National Park Service has detailed directions for getting from each station to some popular places within the park.

To get from the station to the park, the free Dune Buggy shuttle runs a circular route that includes stops at Miller Train Station, Douglas Center, Lake Street Beach and Marquette Park.  The shuttle runs every 20 minutes from 10 am – 6 pm from Memorial to Day Labor Day.

From downtown (Millenium Station):  About 1 hour 10 minutes; $14 round trip.

New Buffalo Beach  (southwest Michigan)

Lake Michigan. photo: joe mazza / brave lux

The beach is a busy, family-friendly vacation spot.

For a wilder experience, rent a kayak or paddle board on the beach to explore the coast or paddle up the Galien River.

If you want the full beach-tourist experience, wander up Whittaker street for all the t-shirts and junk food you can handle.

Transit directions:

Amtrak:  The Wolverine and Blue Water trains both stop in New Buffalo, right by the beach.  It’s a short walk west to the beach or east to the main shopping district.

From Chicago (Union Station):  About 1 hour 20 minutes; $24 round trip.  (For comparison, beach parking is $12, the same as a one-way train ticket)