You don’t have to head to the West or East Coast to enjoy a beach vacation. Some Midwestern states like Wisconsin boast ocean-like beaches along the shoreline of the Great Lakes. Whether you’re looking for a small, quiet beach to revel in peace and quiet, or a recreational beach exuding excitement and activity, Wisconsin offers a surprising variety of waterfront destinations. Choose from many Wisconsin vacation rentals to serve as your home away from home. Find out what Wisconsin’s coastline has in store.
1. North Beach
Not only was North Beach named one of USA Today’s ’51 Great American Beaches, it was also designated a Blue Wave Beach since 2004. Harboring the U.S.A. first environmental certification for beaches, this acclaimed destination spans 2,500 of shoreline that’s open to the public. Visitors can go swimming, fishing, have picnics, or explore the 50 acres of land that make up the beach. Another special aspect of North Beach is the Beachside Oasis, which has a playground for kids, concession stands, and live music.
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2. Big Bay Beach
Travel to the northernmost tip of Wisconsin, and you’ll find Madeline Island in Lake Superior. Madeline Lake is the largest of the 22 Apostle Islands and is home to Big Bay Beach at Town Park. The beach offers a spectacular view of the lake and has two miles of sandy beach where visitors can go swimming, fishing or simply relax under the sun. Another popular activity at Big Bay Beach is stand up paddle boarding. It’s a sport where surfing meets paddling, so test out your balance and endurance on the water. If you prefer your oars, you can rent out a canoe or kayak on the island as well.
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3. Schoolhouse Beach
If scrunching through sand isn’t your idea of fun, and if you dread having to clean up mysteriously endless piles of sand after a beach trip, you’ll want to head for Schoolhouse Beach. The beach is covered in limestone pebbles worn smooth by Lake Michigan’s waves. You can go swimming in the marked area of the lake, or go diving, rafting and snorkeling as well. Washington Island also has a town park perfect for picnics, so fire up the grill and make a day of a trip to Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island.
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4. Kohler-Andrae State Park Beach
Located on the coastline of Lake Michigan, the state park is home to miles of golden beach. With the shimmering blue of Lake Michigan’s waters offset by the majestic sand dunes, the beach at Kohler-Andrae State Park is nearly picture perfect. Consider it a bonus if you can catch sight of one of the more than 150 bird species within the park, or one of the rare plants within the dune complex. And while you’re in Sheboygan, stop by downtown for some cafe or art hopping.
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5. Point Beach State Forest Beach
If you like biking or jogging along the beach, head for Point Beach State Forest along the shore of Lake Michigan. This beautiful Wisconsin spot has several hundred yards of beach, as well as bike and walking trails. Conquer the Rawley Point Recreational Trail, where you can ride for miles to the Rawley Point Lighthouse or cruise to Manitowoc on the Mariners Trail in Two Rivers. During the summer months, you’ll find concessions available at the beach house to parch your thirst or quench your hunger.
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6. Bradford Beach
Looking for a more urban beach destination? If you’re lodging somewhere near Milwaukee and long for the sound of the waves, Bradford Beach is just a few miles from downtown. At the beach, you’ll find 3 Tiki huts, volleyball courts, cabana rentals and even a concession stand. You can time your visit to catch a beach bash, such as the annual karaoke contest in August or the Bradford Beach Bash at the end of summer, or you can just rent a cabana and watch all the volleyball action. Also in Milwaukee, the two-mile RiverWalk is a popular destination. Linking three neighborhoods along the Milwaukee River, the path offers access to some of the city’s best restaurants, shops and water-front nightlife in town.
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7. Vilas Beach
Another urban beach is near Madison, just a few miles from the Capitol. This cityscape has plenty of opportunities for recreation, including biking and tennis. It’s also located near playgrounds for young adventurers, the Arboretum and Henry Vilas Zoo. If you’re traveling with a group who wants more than to do than sunning at the beach, Vilas Beach offers up an array of options.
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8. Devil’s Lake State Park Beach
Sometimes, vacationers have to choose between mountain or beach destinations. But if you’re headed to Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, you won’t have to. Cool down in a refreshing lake after a mountain hike, or stretch out on the sandy beach in Wisconsin’s largest state park. In addition to the amazing views from the 500-foot Quartzite bluffs, you’ll have access to a 360-acre lake that offers picnicking by the lake, bird watching, swimming, and canoeing. Thrill seekers can also try their hand at rock climbing or scuba diving, at their own risk.
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9. Peninsula State Park
One of the best things about some of Wisconsin’s beaches, including the one at Peninsula State Park, is that it’s never just about sunning on the sand or swimming in the water. There’s always the option for more. So if you enjoy hiking or biking, the state park is a great place to do so. But it also has an 18-hole golf course, outdoor theater for summer shows, a climbing tower and a lighthouse built in the 1860s. You’ll never get bored at this untraditional beach destination.
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10. Pattison State Park Beach
If you’ve ever imagined a beach visit preceded by one to a waterfall, there’s a way you can see not one, but two falls at Pattison State Park. Wisconsin’s most beloved waterfalls, Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls, are located in the state park just south of Superior. The Big falls is the highest waterfall in Wisconsin. Inside the park, you’ll also find a quaint sand beach on Interfalls Lake. Though comparatively small to other Wisconsin beaches, there’s still plenty of room to stretch out on the sand or go swimming.
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