There’s nothing more exciting than getting away from your daily routine for an extended weekend or week-long getaway with your dog and loved ones. Give your dog an opportunity to run on the beach and chase the waves in the surf. Nestled on Lake Michigan, Illinois offers beaches on lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Book a stay at a pet-friendly Illinois vacation rental for your upcoming beach trip. Here’s a look at the five top dog-friendly beaches in Illinois to help you start planning.

1. Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago

In the northwest corner of Montrose Beach, your dog is welcome to roll in the sand and play in the surf without a leash. The area is fenced off from the rest of the beach to protect your dogs and other visitors. There are waste disposal bags available at the beach, and you don’t need to worry about getting sand in the car, since there’s a dog washing area where you can clean up your furry friend before letting him back in your vehicle. The park is open throughout the day year round, but the morning hours are the slow period. While there isn’t a fee to visit the park, you do need DFA tags for your dog. This park is located on the edge of Chicago, so after enjoying a day on the beach, spend some time in the big city, or explore the icon Navy Pier with your dog and family.

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2. Belmont Harbor Beach, Greater Chicago Area

Another pup-friendly beach in the Chicago area is Belmont Harbor Beach. Dogs don’t need to stay on a leash while visiting this beach, making it perfect for pups who love to run free. The shallow water and gentle slope make Belmont Harbor Beach an exciting place for smaller dogs and little kids who want to play and not swim. Large dogs can wade out into deeper water to swim and play. This area is fenced off for safety, and there aren’t any waste removal bags available on-site, so plan to bring your own.

When you want a break from the water, head to Chicago’s Millennium Park to enjoy some fresh air and to view Cloud Gate, a massive bean-shaped sculpture with a polished surface.

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3. Moraine Dog Beach and Park, Highland Park

Before a visit to the Moraine Dog Beach and Park, you must stop by the Hellar Nature Center and register your dog. The registration process includes providing your pet’s rabies vaccination records to ensure the health of all the dogs visiting the beach. After taking care of registration, your dog can race around the beach without a leash. In the upper park area, there are some interesting sculptures. You can also take your pup with you for a walk along the nature trails.

Highland Park is the nearest town to the park and an exciting place to visit. Learn more about native and non-native plants with a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, and then clear your mind by meditating in the Japanese garden. Bring your canoe or kayaks to Skokie Lagoons to explore this nature preserve and see the scampering critters from the water. You can also rent a canoe from the visitor’s center.

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4. Evanston Dog Beach, Evanston

Evanston Dog Beach is a sandy beach that lets you take your pup off the leash to run in the sand and swim in the water. This fenced area keeps your pooch safe and prevent him from running off or approaching people who aren’t dog lovers. Sometimes, depending on the lake and beach conditions, the entrance to this dog beach changes before the summer season begins, so look carefully for the correct entrance when visiting this beach.

Evanston is a suburb of Chicago and offers a large selection of rental properties that are perfect for your family and dog. Take a tour of the American Toby Jug Museum to see more than 8,000 Toby and character jugs, with some of them dating back to the late 1800s. Then, hop in your car and drive down to see the Leaning Tower of Niles, a half-size replica of the tower that stands in Italy.

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5. North Marcum Beach, Barren Township

Located in the North Marcum Recreation Area, North Marcum Beach is a spot where dogs can roam without a leash. This beach becomes crowded with a partying crowd on the weekends, and boats often sail in and out from this beach, so it’s important to be cautious. Bring a picnic lunch from your vacation rental to enjoy at the picnic shelter. There are also restrooms and a shower house on site where you can shower off your four-legged friend to keep him from tracking sand into your vehicle or vacation rental.

Benton is the closest town to find a place to stay for a few nights. While there, enjoy a tour of the Franklin County Garage 1910 Museum to learn more about the local history and see a garage from the early 1900s.

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