The Best Beaches in the Great Lakes

After the treacherous winter most of the U.S. experienced in 2014, a lot of vacationers are eyeing a spot to relax along the shoreline this summer. Although destinations along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are quite popular with travelers, there may be one area you are overlooking when it comes to beach fun: the Great Lakes.

Whether you want to embrace a major waterside metropolis, explore a farm that hugs a pastoral lake stead or even try your hand at surfing – the Great Lakes deliver. And the best part? You don't have to worry about eyes stinging from salt, pesky jellyfish or sharks.

Empire, Michigan
This small town lies in the splendor of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a massive green space along the shorelines of Lake Michigan with 400-ft dunes, gorgeous and protected white sand beaches, several hiking trails and paved biking paths for those who want to have an active vacation.

North Beach – Racine, Wisconsin
According to Travel Wisconsin, this beach has been awarded Blue Wave Beach status, which is one of the first environmental awards for beaches, since 2004. Here you can explore 50 acres of serene vistas along Lake Michigan and enjoy activities like swimming, fishing and picnicking. Racine is also home to the kringle, a delicious dessert that was brought over to the region from Danish immigrants. Be sure to grab one when you aren't beach-lounging.

Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania
Located along Lake Erie, this entire park is a lush green peninsula with loads of coastline and a multi-purpose National Recreation Trail. During the winter, this is a popular hotspot for hikers and cross-country skiing, but it's during the spring and summer when this area really bursts to life. There are nine beaches to explore here, which are open Memorial Day to Labor Day. Most patches of sand are remote and quiet, giving you plenty of space to relax and catch up with a good book.

Oak Street Beach – Chicago, Illinois
We return to Lake Michigan's shorelines once again. Chicago is different from other major cities in the U.S. because rather than building up real estate along the shore, the city decided to dedicate the space to its residents and vacationers. There are several beaches scattered across the skyline, but the most revered is Oak Street Beach. Located near the Streeterville and Gold Coast neighborhoods, this urban coastline boasts fun beach bars, a stretch of the ever-popular Lakefront Trail, beach volleyball courts and fantastic views of the Chicago skyline.

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