Beating the heat in the summertime often has us daydreaming about relaxing on a warm beach, listening to the sound of the waves hitting the shoreline, and enjoying a cool breeze. Summer beach bum life isn’t just for those on the East or West coast to enjoy, there are plenty of beaches and natural swimming pools near Chicago in the Midwest too. From right around the corner to just a short drive from our homes in Naperville, there are a collection of natural swimming holes to choose from to take a refreshing dip. Below are our top 3 must-visit natural swimming destinations near our new home communities in Illinois.
Indiana Dunes National Park is nestled along the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan and has so much to offer. This park is unique because although it’s located within an urban setting there are four National Natural Landmarks and one National Historical Landmark located within its boundaries. The park spans across 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline and the beaches are one of the park’s most loved resources, offering visitors a sense of coastal beach life, complete with swimming, sunbathing, sand, dunes and more.
In addition to the beaches and swimming, Indiana Dunes National Park also boasts countless outdoor activities, many of which can be enjoyed year-round. Camping and fishing are popular ways to relax at the dunes during the spring, summer, and early fall. Kayaking has also become increasingly popular on Lake Michigan since the inception of the Lake Michigan Water Trail and in area waterways like Little Calumet River Water Trail: East Branch. Hiking at the dunes is a rewarding year-round activity and there are 14 distinct trail systems that cover more than 50 miles of trails. As if that all wasn’t enough, visitors can also bike on an interconnected trail system that spans 37 miles across the entire length of the national park.
The wildlife of Indiana Dunes is also extremely diverse and the park is renowned for its birdlife; more than 350 species have been observed here. The park is located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan and it’s an especially important feeding and resting area for migrating land and water birds. The park provides an excellent opportunity for avid birder watchers to see a variety of bird species and even plays an important role in the annual Indiana Dunes Birding Festival.
Indiana Dunes is a great place for a getaway, no matter the season and it’s under a two-hour drive from our new homes in Naperville.
This lake’s name may be a little hard to pronounce at first, but visitors will be saying its name over and over when recounting all the fun adventures they had here. Located in Stephenson County, the park is six miles south of the Illinois-Wisconsin state line and is less than 2 hours from our Highland Woods community in Elgin.
Lake Le-Aqua-Na is a 40-acre lake and was developed as part of a statewide plan to provide Illinois citizens with recreational opportunities close to home. There’s a small beach for swimming that’s perfect for families, as well as boating and fishing opportunities. Bring your own boat or rent one from the concessionaire and enjoy the beauty of the 1.4 miles of wooded shoreline the lake offers. Periodic stockings of walleye, northern pike and channel catfish compliment the lake’s self-sustaining largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and bullheads.
The park also offers multi-use trails, picnic areas, and RV, tent, equestrian, and youth group campgrounds. Camping at Lake Le-Aqua-Na is a very relaxed, family-oriented experience.
Stretching leisurely for six and a half miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois, Illinois Beach State Park encompasses the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state. Just a short drive from both Naperville and Elgin, the 4,160-acre park consists of two separate areas that offer ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping, and just plain old getting away from it all and appreciating nature.
The park is also home to more than 650 species of plants that have been recorded in the dunes area alone, including dozens of types of colorful wildflowers. Prickly pear cacti, dense stands of cattail, bluejoint grass, prairie cordgrass, reed grass, big bluestem, sedges, and several kinds of fragrant pines all inhabit the park. Illinois Beach is a unique and captivating natural resource for all to enjoy.
Midwest beach life is certainly well within grasp this summer with these three nearby natural swimming and outdoor recreation destinations. Please keep in mind that many of these beaches do not have a life-guard on duty so it’s imperative to be careful and keep an eye on one another. Pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, plenty of water and snacks, and enjoy a day under the sun at one of these Illinois beaches.