Ask any Midwesterner and they’ll tell you—politely and enthusiastically—you don’t need the ocean to have a fantastic beach vacation. In fact, these eight American beaches are nowhere near the east or west coast. For the most part, they’re smack-dab in the middle of the country. Which means, they're easy to access from just about anywhere, and they're just waiting to welcome you for an unforgettable waterfront getaway.
BEAR LAKE, IDAHO/UTAH— See the Northwest’s "Caribbean of the Rockies."
Due to its completely harmless limestone content, the waters of Bear Lake, which straddle Idaho and Utah, pack a powerfully turquoise punch. But the water isn’t the only colorful feast for the senses. This beach hotspot doubles as a wildlife preserve, where thousands of native wetlands species flock to enjoy the pristine coastline.
Chicago city view with Gold Coast. North Avenue Beach. Photo courtesy of Tupungato
NORTH AVENUE BEACH, ILLINOIS— Treat yourself to Chicago’s urban-outdoor feast for the senses.
If your dream beach vacation includes urban energy and diverse culture, there’s no need to venture much farther than Chicago’s Lincoln Park. With its clear freshwater and sandy 18-mile trail, North Avenue Beach is perfect for enjoying a sun-soaked day of biking or lounging followed by dinner at a world-class downtown restaurant.
DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE, INDIANA—Venture beyond the cornfields to find your paradise.
Many an outdoor explorer has been surprised to find some of the country’s best beaches hiding in plain sight on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With 25 miles of continuous trails that run along Lake Michigan, there’s also plenty of opportunity to get your heart rate up while taking in the breathtaking natural scenery.
Lighthouse on South Manitou Island. Photo courtesy of Luke Wendling/iStock.com
SOUTH MANITOU ISLAND, MICHIGAN—Ferry around Lake Michigan for a taste of local history.
Set sail for the sun-soaked beaches of South Manitou Island, part of a Michigan island chain that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac. This off-the-beaten-path isle is accessible only by the daily ferry from Leland. Visitors spend the day exploring the island and learning about Manitou history at the visitor center, followed by a delicious lunch at the island’s only pub.
Lake Murray State Park. Photo by James Pratt-Oklahoma Tourism
LAKE GEORGE, NEW YORK—Beach-hop ‘til you drop with New York’s finest.
Caribbean vibes in landlocked New York seems implausible, but that’s exactly what you’ll find on the sandy shores of Lake George. Surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains, this stretch of lively beaches is a sun worshipper's dream. Mingle with the locals at Million Dollar Beach before making your way down to Veteran’s Park for some of the region’s best kayaking.
Lake Havasu Marina. Photo curtesy of the Arizona Office of Tourism
LAKE HAVASU, ARIZONA—Catch that Cabo feeling in the middle of the desert.
Between the white sands, palm trees, and blue-green water, you might start to believe you’ve ventured somewhere south of the equator. But you’re in Lake Havasu, Arizona, home to some of the nation’s most popular landlocked beaches. Commonly known as the “Playground of Arizona’s West Coast,” the lake brings thousands of visitors year-round for a bit of good old-fashioned sunbathing and splashing in the desert heat.
Lake Murray State Park. Photo courtesy of James Pratt and Oklahoma Tourism
LAKE MURRAY, OKLAHOMA—Discover shimmering shorelines and nearby amenities.
No place in Oklahoma looks quite as tropical as the crystal-clear waters and pristine shorelines of Lake Murray. Watch a variety of watercraft buzz across spring-fed waters that shimmer all summer long. After soaking up the healing beach vibes, follow the scenic route of U.S. Highway 77 to explore the park’s day-use campgrounds, hiking trails, and gorgeous natural preserves.
KOHLER-ANDRAE STATE PARK, WISCONSIN—Find a whole new meaning for “wild blue yonder."
With its miles of golden beaches that hug the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan, Wisconsin’s Kohler-Andrae State Park is truly a natural treasure. It’s also one of the last wildlife preserves along Lake Michigan, with well-organized recreational activities designed to help humans feel at one with the natural world.