Beach-Going & Swimming

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Playing at the beach
Playing at the beach.

Zach DeYoung

Fifteen miles of sandy beach along the southern shore of Lake Michigan offer a wide variety of recreational activities. Whether it's enjoying a summer sunset stroll or marveling at the arctic beauty of Lake Michigan's shelf ice, you can enjoy the beach in all seasons.

There are several beach parking lots along the Indiana Dunes National Park. All beaches and parking lots are open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm and have potable water and restrooms. Additionally, West Beach has showers and lifeguards from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend.

Indiana Dunes National Park has an entrance fee. You do need to purchase a pass to enter this national park and locations listed above. For information on how to purchase passes visit our Fees & Passes page.

Beach parking lots fill up very quickly on summer weekends and holidays. A pilot program is introduced and information can be found at our Beach Parking Page. Several lots including Lake View, Dunbar, Kemil, Porter and Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk fill up as early as mid-morning. It's best to arrive early or wait until late afternoon when parking spots become available as visitors depart. West Beach's lot holds nearly 642 cars and rarely fills up except on holiday weekends.

All parking lots are located close to the beaches. Kemil Beach parking is located one-quarter mile away from the lake while Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, Central Avenue and West Beach parking are one-eighth mile from the water's edge. Wheelchair accessible parking lots with views of Lake Michigan include West Beach, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach, Porter Beach, Lake View Beach, and Central Avenue Beach.

Prohibited Activities on the Beach

  • The removal of natural items such as rocks, shells, and fossils.
  • Wood and charcoal fires on the beach. West Beach and Lake View Beach do have dedicated grills in the picnic areas.
  • Glass containers on all beaches.
  • Pet rules differ for each beach area. Please visit the Pet Information Page.
  • Launching, landing or operating any unmanned aircraft (e.g. model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Indiana Dunes National Park except as approved in writing by the superintendent.

Beach-going Tips

  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellent. Wear a hat, shoes and sunglasses.
  • Stay on marked trails to protect the plants and animals of the dunes.
  • Stay out of the water when rip current warnings are posted.
  • Stay off the shelf ice. It is full of hidden, thin spots and gaps that people can fall through.
  • Stay out of the water when signs are posted to alert you to high bacteria counts. The bacteria may harm your health.
  • Watch for strong winds blowing away from the beach that can hijack rafts and beach toys.
  • Do not feed the gulls or other birds. Human food is unhealthy and encourages them to flock. When they flock, they make the beach dirty.

Swimming Safety Tips

  • Use caution when swimming in Lake Michigan. The bottom is uneven with holes and deep drop-offs. These inshore holes are very dangerous to small children and non-swimmers.
  • The only beach with lifeguards is West Beach.
  • Parents and guardians must keep a constant watch of children in the water.
  • Stay out of the water when there are high, breaking waves and rip currents.
  • Rip currents are caused by a sudden break in an offshore sandbar that releases water rapidly back into the lake. Rip current conditions often occur when the wind is out of the north. These dangerous currents can also occur in waters adjacent to seawalls, artificial reefs, and erosion control structures; stay clear of these areas. Obey posted and verbal rip current warnings.
  • If being pulled out into deeper water by a forceful, unexpected rip current, DO NOT PANIC. Follow the rip current or try to swim out of it by swimming parallel to shore until the pull outward into deeper water subsides.
Two visitors swimming in the lake.
Visitors swimming in Lake Michigan.

NPS image collection - Jeff manuszak

The Dangers of Shelf Ice

The Dangers of Shelf Ice

Stay off the shelf ice! Despite its unusual beauty, don't risk your life. Enjoy the view of the shelf ice—from a distance!

Rip Tides Poster

Rip Currents:

Be on the lookout this summer for rip currents on Lake Michigan.

Before your next visit to the beach, learn how to spot a rip current and what to do if you get caught in one. Always check the local beach forecast for any warnings, and exercise caution.


♦ Don't fight the current
♦ Swim out of the current, then to shore
♦ If you can't escape, float or tread water
♦ If you need help, call or wave for assistance


♦ Know how to swim
♦ Never swim alone
♦ If in doubt, don't go out
More information about rip currents can be found at the following websites: and

Last updated: December 21, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1100 North Mineral Springs Road
Porter, IN 46304


219 395-1882
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center phone number.

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