Best Freshwater Beach (2016)


The coast isn't the only place to sunbathe this spring and summer; Mother Nature has blessed the U.S. with a number of stunning freshwater beaches along its many lake shores where you can work on your tan salt-free.

  • Presque Isle State Park

    Presque Isle State Park
    Erie, Penn.

    Visitors to Presque Isle State Park are in for a singular Pennsylvania experience: the state’s only formidable shoreline, which boasts a number of beaches. Beach 11 is the park’s most sheltered, and therefore most serene. Its shallow water is a safe option for visitors with little ones and boasts views of the Erie skyline. Beach 6 on the other hand, is a draw for young people, with its concession stands and volleyball courts. The flipside, it is often the most crowded.
    Photo courtesy of daveynin / Flickr

  • Grand Haven State Park

    Grand Haven State Park
    Grand Haven, Mich.

    In the Caribbean, they have sand-floor nightclubs. In Michigan, they have sand-floor state parks – as in all 48 acres are covered with it. Scenic views of Lake Michigan, the Grand Haven pier and the lighthouse are but a few of its highlights, along with picnic areas, playgrounds, camping and beach walking – not mention myriad aquatic pursuits. Off-season visits bring with them wind and waves, making for picturesque – if blustery – photo-ops.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Park Point Beach

    Park Point Beach
    Duluth, Minn.

    Duluth has a variety of Lake Superior beaches but Park Point is among the few where soft sands allow visitors the courtesy of barefoot bathing that’s less appealing at rockier shorelines. Families enjoy the park and playground, beach walkers – even those with four-legged friends in tow – have miles of sand on which to enjoy the serene lake views. This is Minnesota, however, so even in summertime, the water can be surprisingly bracing. Come prepared for a possible polar bear plunge.
    Photo courtesy of Pete Markham / Flickr

  • North Beach

    North Beach
    Racine, Wis.

    It’s not often a Midwestern beach gets the “Dr. Beach” nod, but Racine’s Blue Wave-certified North Beach is among the distinguished strands on Dr. Stephen Leatherman’s honorable mention list for the Great Lakes. Fifty acres along 2,500 feet of shoreline are a delightful summer playground for visitors, who flock here for the impressive space, which affords families room to spread out and enjoy time playing in the sand and splashy fun in its cooling, shallow waters.
    Photo courtesy of Daniel Orth / Flickr

  • West Beach

    West Beach
    Indiana Dunes, Ind.

    Ready to rock the southern tip of Lake Michigan? At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, more than a thousand acres – in part an otherworldly dune landscape that’s decidedly different than most Heartland parks – keep visitors enthralled with hiking trails and other pursuits, not the least of which is West Beach. This wide, family-friendly strand boasts boardwalks, concessions, and more – along with the refreshing freshwater carrot of the sparkling lake and clean sand that begs for a child’s pail and shovel.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Oak Street Beach

    Oak Street Beach

    Chicago loves its extreme weather. Jack Frost may be its unofficial mayor in wintertime, but with summer temps that can easily soar past 100 degrees, its various and sundry Lake Michigan oases provide residents with sorely needed relief. Oak Street Beach hosts pro and amateur volleyball tourneys in the warm season and offers visitors both bike and chair rentals and concessions – along with some of the most spectacular Chicago skyline views available.
    Photo courtesy of Adam Alexander Photography

  • Huntington Beach

    Huntington Beach

    Cleveland natives have been enjoying this signature strand for eons, and these days it’s cleaner than ever, having been awarded Blue Wave designation by the Clean Beaches Coalition several years back – it was the first Ohio beach to receive this environmental distinction. In summertime, eager bathers come to enjoy the cooling waters of its sandy, half-mile lakefront, along with ice cream from the popular on-site concession stand. Huntington Beach’s sweeping shoreline views don’t hurt, either.
    Photo courtesy of Heather McLaughlin / Flickr

  • Bradford Beach

    Bradford Beach

    Granted, “beach” is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think “Wisconsin,” which is why Bradford Beach is a surprising oasis in the Badger State – the city’s most popular for swimming and catching rays. Sand volleyball courts host league play all summer long and concessions keep visitors sated with food and drink. In fact, some folks love Bradford so much, they show up in wintertime for its annual Polar Bear Plunge.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

  • Lake Michigan Beach Park

    Lake Michigan Beach Park
    Empire, Mich.

    This quiet, beautiful shoreline is a best-kept Michigan secret, a place where kayaking and paddle boarding supplement swimming and the other lures of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, such as biking and hiking, sweeten the deal. Empire itself is a charming burg with small-town charm – cute inns, restaurants and shops make for great exploration before or after time spent on the water. Those who’d rather not get their feet wet can enjoy the view on a scenic drive on Empire’s beautiful bluffs.
    Photo courtesy of Jim Sorbie / Flickr

  • Sand Point Beach

    Sand Point Beach
    Munising, Mich.

    Why was this popular Michigan swim spot named one of the “Top Five Summer Beaches in America” by the Weather Channel? How about dreamscape-lovely watercolor sunsets over glimmering Lake Superior? Or beautiful white sand, clear, cool water and sweeping Wolverine State views? Sand Point’s small strand is often uncrowded and visitors who can brave the chilly water will find reward in rock hunting – there are beautiful treasures to be found in wading-deep water just off shore.
    Photo courtesy of National Park Service


The top 10 winners in the category Best Freshwater Beach are as follows:

  1. Presque Isle State Park - Erie, Penn.
  2. Grand Haven State Park - Grand Haven, Mich.
  3. Park Point Beach - Duluth, Minn.
  4. North Beach - Racine, Wis.
  5. West Beach - Indiana Dunes, Ind.
  6. Oak Street Beach - Chicago
  7. Huntington Beach - Cleveland
  8. Bradford Beach - Milwaukee
  9. Lake Michigan Beach Park - Empire, Mich.
  10. Sand Point Beach - Munising, Mich.

Other nominated beaches included Bliss Beach, Clinch Park Beach, East Beach at Tenaya Lake, Julian Bay Beach, Kohler-Andrae State Park, North Beach of Lake Willoughby, Peterson Road Beach, Sand Harbor, Twelvemile Beach and Walden Pond Beach.

Congratulations to all 10 winning freshwater beaches!

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo



AlertAbout 10Best Readers' Choice Awards

AlertThe Experts

Walter McLeod

Walter McLeod

Walter McLeod

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

10Best Editors