I like beaches. A lot. Perhaps too much. This doesn’t make me particularly unique, of course, but I do take my passion seriously. I’ve got legit opinions on sand — from the weight of the grain to its color. I have thoughts about the right games to bring, depending on the landscape. I even have a few private beaches tucked away that I never share with anyone but my closest friends.
Still, I didn’t expect to see a beach in Indiana, just over an hour from downtown Chicago by train. Certainly not one like those at Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park. The lakeside beaches I’ve visited have often been stony or muddy or too small to accommodate crowds. Indiana Dunes is none of those things. It’s a white sand paradise. It’s massive. And in the hottest summer months, it absolutely comes alive with locals and those eager to ditch the Chi’s summer heat.
This is a midwest beach vacation at its best. The cool kid pretense of Venice and Montauk are gone. There’s no sense of exclusivity like in Malibu or worn down scruffiness like the Jersey Shore. It’s its own thing — the ultimate throwback, where lifeguards sit on tall wooden perches and colorful blankets dot the sand for miles. Like a forgotten stop on old Route 66.
As the summer heat starts to drag and people look to escape the big city, Uproxx’s Alia Stearns and I decided to lay out where to visit and what to try when heading to the Indiana Dunes (whether you start at the State Park or the National Park).
— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director UPROXX Life
PART I: WHERE TO STAY
If you really want to get out of your city rut, it’s essential that you spend your nights around a campfire. You have two options in the state park: a larger campsite, Indiana Dunes Campground, with 140 spaces and electrical hookups and a smaller location, Dunewood Campground, with 54 drive-in wooded sites and 13 walk-in ones without electrical hook-ups. Both have showers and restrooms, but the smaller site is definitely more rustic. If you prefer a more secluded, traditional experience, it’s the way to go.
Only the larger site takes reservations. The other is first come, first served and that’s a pretty big gamble if you take the train in from Chicago and don’t have a back-up accommodation in the region. -Alia Stearns
Stay in a Classic Motel
We like a good deal as much (if not more than) the next person, and if we find an affordable place to stay that also feels like walking into the past, we are doubly here for it. Al & Sally’s Motel in Michigan City is a straight-up motor lodge from days gone by. It’s one story. The rooms all open into the parking lot. Things are kept neat and tidy with a minimum of fuss. It really is a throwback, and it would make a great set for an Instagram photoshoot.
If you can’t get behind a budget motel, the Aberdeen Inn, though more floral for sure, has a lot of amenities, and is very close to the park. It also has a rich history that dates to the 1800s. You still get your throwback; you’re just throwing a lot further. -AS