Illinois Beach State Park
Last remaining beach shoreline park in the state.

Just an hour’s drive outside the city limits of Chicago is Illinois Beach State Park. What really makes this state park so unique is it is the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state, with dunes and swales, sprawling marshes, forests of oak and vast arrays of animal life and vegetation. Illinois Beach State Park stretches over 6.5 miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois. What makes this a great trip is the fact that admission is free, parking is free and the only cost is the campsite or staying overnight at the Illinois Beach Resort & Conference Center.

With Fall quickly closing in, I took the one hour drive up north on one of the last warm days of the year, yes it was windy but what a beautiful day to be outside.

How to Get There

South from Chicago: I-294 north to I-94 to Rt 173 east (approx 8 miles) to Sheridan Road. Make a right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road, make a left and you will be in the park. Be advise this route does have toll roads but it the quickest way. Another way is to go Rt 41 which runs parallel to I-94 it avoids the tolls but does take more time.

Coming from the North: I-94 South to Rt. 173, east on Rt.173 to Sheridan Road, right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road and make a left on Wadsworth into the Park.

Park Offerings

The best way to explain Illinois Beach State Park is that it is divided into two sections, a north section and a south section which covers over 4000 acres. Some of the offerings is biking, hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, bird watching and picnicking. The north section is more natural and more preserved. The south section of the park has the swimmable beach, the campsites and the resort hotel.

picnicking at illinois beach state park
Visitors can enjoy a cookout at the park- no charge.
natural shoreline of Illinois Beach State Park
North Section is known for its natural beauty.

The park has been fighting off beach erosion and more importantly the washing away of the last remaining natural lake shore sand dunes in Illinois. Break walls and concrete blocks have been added to the shore line in an attempt to stop the powerful waves from crashing in. On the windy day that I visited one could see the powerful waves breaking up along the man-made barrier.

natural lake shore sand dunes in Illinois
Last of the lake shore sand dunes in Illinois
man-made barrier to stop beach erosion
Man-made barrier to break up the waves of Lake Michigan
The bike trail covers the whole park and runs about 4 miles in length.
fishing at illinois beach state park
Visitors can fish in several of the small lakes which are stocked with fish.
swimming at illinois beach state park
The south section of Illinois Beach State Park has the more swimmable beach.

For those who like camping, the park offers camp sites for about 10 USD per night which includes access to electricity, showers and bathroom. No visitors are allowed in the camp ground and alcohol is prohibited. Campers must observe quiet time after 10 pm each night. For those wanting to make camping reservations here is the link.

For those don’t like camping but want to stay overnight or for the weekend the Illinois Beach Resort & Conference Center is available and only 20 yards from the beach.

Illinois Beach Resort & Conference Center.
Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center.

I made a video of my trip to Illinois Beach State Park on a very windy day.

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