The heat is on and these swimming holes in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan deliver all the fun
Finding a spot to float about and swim isn’t tough with all the beautiful city beaches, community pools, and indoor waterparks in Chicago. But, sometimes you want something a bit more rugged or off the beaten path to host your summer cool-down session. Here are our favorite swimming holes worthy of a day trip, that range from man-made to naturally spectacular.
Swimming Holes in the Chicago Suburbs
What began as a limestone quarry that supplied foundations for many of the buildings in Naperville, is now Naperville’s sandy retreat on sweltering summer days. This man-made watering hole has some impressive stats. Centennial Beach holds 6.2 million gallons of water and increases from zero-depth entry to 15 feet, making it perfect for a broad range of swimmers.
If you want to escape to the deep end and use the diving boards, you must pass a 100-meter swim test. For those sticking to the shallow end, enjoy the water slide, pumps and sprayers, large sandy area with play structures, bag toss, umbrellas, and chairs. Beachgoers are welcome to bring their own food or the cafe serves hot-off-the-grill meals and cool treats. Bonus: Located a quick hop, skip, and a jump away from the beach along the scenic Riverwalk you’ll find Paddleboat Quarry, where kayaks and paddleboats are available to rent.
Regular Season: May 30 – mid-August
500 Jackson Ave.
Fish Lake Beach
Family-owned Fish Lake Beach in Volo has been providing families with a place to connect with nature for over 70 years. Located 40 miles northwest of the city in acres of prairie, and conveniently located near Six Flags Great America, there is a never-ending list of activities to choose from at this camping resort. The general public is welcome to visit on weekdays to swim in the lake, or in one of their two pools, troll around in row or paddle boats available for rent, or pack a tent to extend the fun into an overnight.
Once the kids have swam themselves exhausted, they can hop out for a visit to the arcade, play at the 10-hole mini-golf course, watch a movie under the stars, or shoot hoops. Besides the recreation that is a permanent fixture, Fish Lake also hosts ever-changing activities throughout the season. Outside food is welcome or there are concessions on-site for grill food, snacks, drinks, and ice cream.
Regular Season: May 30 – September 1
32223 N. US Highway 12
Harold Hall Quarry Beach
Harold Hall Quarry Beach is a sand-bottom swimming area that covers 60,000 square feet with islands, slides, and a diving area. Along with a playground, kids will dig the flume, wiggle bridge, and splasher, and parents will love the ease of zero-depth entry. Pack your own grub and set up camp in the large picnic area or grab nachos, pretzels, and hot dogs at the concession stand.
Regular Season: May 27 – August 13
400 S. Water St.
Evanston is home to six beautiful public beaches. Lighthouse Beach is particularly popular for families with small children. Noah’s Playground is adjacent to the beach, and you can also take a guided tour of nearby Grosse Point Lighthouse while you are there. Parking is free, and beach access is free to Evanston residents.
Regular Season: May 27 – August 13
2611 Sheridan Rd.
McHenry Petersen Park
Throw down a beach towel and dig your piggies into the sandy shores of Petersen Park Beach in McHenry. Lifeguards secure the swimming area that never feels overwhelming because it doesn’t get too crowded. Throughout the summer the park hosts a variety of events, like Big Wheel races and a music fest. Affordable boat, kayak, and barracuda bike rentals are available. This lake is known as being a popular spot for water sports, so once you’ve taken a dip, take to your towel and sit back and enjoy the show.
Regular Season: June 2 – August 7
4300 Peterson Park Rd.
Three Oaks Recreation Area
With its pristine lakes, Three Oaks offers many amenities, including a beach, boat rentals, catch-and-release fishing, hiking/biking trails, a splash park with spray jets and buckets of water being poured from overhead, a playground with memory foam decking and a scuba facility. Non-residents must be sponsored by a resident. Dare to try out wakeboarding at the Quarry Cable Park, on the North Lake, while you are there.
Regular Season: May 27 – August 13
100 W. Woodstock St.
Crystal Lake, IL
Swimming Holes in Indiana
Whiting Park and Whihala Beach
You may not know this beach that’s a quick 30-minute drive south of the city in Whiting, IN, but it’s worth adding to your summer agenda. Whihala Beach covers 21 acres complete with bike trails, a concession stand, a boat ramp, a fishing pier, and excellent views of the Chicago skyline to boot. From your beach towel, you’ll see swimming, kayaking, boating, kiteboarding, jet skiing, and even surfing on the days the water seems more ocean than lake. The 15-acre Whiting Park, with its playgrounds, flower gardens, and fish pond with a waterfall, sits adjacent to Whihala.
For a bit more adventure, head to the Whoa Zone, a floating water park made of slides, trampolines, towers, wiggle bridges, monkey bars, and more. They also offer stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and beach cabanas.
Regular Season: May 27 – September 4
Whoa Zone: June 17 – August 20
1500 Park Rd.
West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park
Lake Michigan provides Chicagoans with the ultimate watering hole, all the fun of the ocean minus the salt. Experience the lake from a different perspective at West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park, with nearby fishing at Long Lake. Traverse several marked trails along the dunes that include a boardwalk and 250 stairs to a spectacular overlook of the lake with stunning views of Chicago on the horizon. West Beach sits at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan and has a lifeguard on duty and a bathhouse on-site—key for those with little ones. Covered picnic shelters and grills offer a great spot to break bread after a day’s worth of fresh-air activity.
Regular Season: May 26 – September 4
376 North Country Line Rd.
Swimming Holes in Michigan
Silver Beach County Park
While Silver Beach is nearly a two-hour drive, it is well worth the trip, and still doable as a day trip. However, the charming town of St. Joseph may entice you to spend the night. The Silver Beach Carousel is a short walk away, as is the Curious Kids Museum, and the Whirlpool Compass Fountain. Silver Beach is very clean and wide, with two playgrounds right on the soft, white sand, as well as beach volleyball courts. There are grills and picnic tables available on a first-come, first-served basis, a concession stand, outdoor showers, and kayak and SUP rentals. Take a walk along one of the piers for closer views of the St. Joseph Lighthouse. Another great thing about Silver Beach is that it is fully accessible with beach wheelchairs free to use in the summer.
Regular Season: The park is open year-round with swimming permitted only when lifeguards are on duty May – September.
Broad & Lake Street
St. Joseph, MI