Our 7 Top Midwest City Beaches | Midwest Living

Our 7 Top Midwest City Beaches

We spent hours walking, kayaking, swimming and, of course, sampling food from snack shacks. These seven beaches offer the best mix of sandy fun and cosmopolitan flair.

Milwaukee: Bradford Beach

A relaxed urban feel floats over this nearly 30-acre expanse on Lake Michigan just north of downtown. Parking is easy off Lincoln Memorial Drive, and there's room, even on busy days, to build a sand castle, spread towels and toss a football. The two-story Bradford Beach House sells concessions, but for the best food, stop at Northpoint food stand, about a 10-minute walk south on the bike path. You won't regret the wait for fresh-made burgers, Wisconsin white cheddar cheese curds and soft-serve custard flavored with Madagascar vanilla beans. (414) 257-7275; county.milwaukee.gov

Traverse City, Michigan: Clinch Park Beach

Tall ships bob on Grand Traverse Bay, a train chugs past the parking lot and carefully tended flowerbeds border the soft sand at Clinch Park Beach, the most popular of Traverse City's six public beaches. More than 1,500 feet of shoreline stands just a few minutes' walk from downtown. It can get busy, but the farther east you walk, the quieter the beach gets. (231) 922-4903; traversecity.com

Marquette, Michigan: Presque Isle Beach

Marquette's public park actually stretches for about a mile from town north along Lake Superior, and a bike rail hugs the shoreline. But for the real entertainment, bring a blanket and watch swimmers leap from Presque Isle's huge black rocks into the 38-degree lake. Most of them are teens (surprised?), but some adults aren't afraid to backflip, belly flop and cannonball. (906) 228-0460; mqtcty.org

Racine, Wisconsin: North Beach

If we didn't know better, we'd think California. Amazingly clean, the 1.2 miles of sandy Lake Michigan coast welcome the Extreme Volleyball Professional tour each summer. A wetland, Kid's Cove playground and a zoo border the 50-acre expanse; to the south, boats bob in Racine Yacht Club's marina. To rent a kayak or personal watercraft, head to Pier 29 Water Sport Rentals at the southern end of Michigan Boulevard. For just $15 an hour, you can paddle around the harbor and drink in the views of this perfectly groomed destination. (800) 272-2463; realracine.com

Minneapolis: Lake Calhoun North Beach

Paved walking and biking trails give this swimming beach just west of the trendy Uptown neighborhood three-pronged appeal—the whole area seems to exude outdoorsy fun. While teens and college students often hang out at mile-wide Lake Calhoun's larger Thomas Beach, a more eclectic crowd prefers North Beach. Tin Fish, a casual seafood-fry restaurant on the northeast shore, has lines of people waiting to place orders for walleye and mahimahi tacos. A guy plays a keyboard for tips, and people sit at tables along the waterfront and watch the sailboats. (612) 230-6400; minneapolisparks.org

Duluth: Park Point Beach

Located on the world's largest sandbar, Park Point stands east of Duluth's famous Aerial Lift Bridge, and the beach faces Lake Superior. Visitors park their cars at the base of a big sand dune and clamber their way up and over it, past a wooded picnic area that comes tricked out with grills, shelters and an ore-boat-style playground. Despite the water's frigid temps, swimmers frolic near the shore and watch the massive 1,000-foot ore boats come and go. (800) 438-5884; visitduluth.com

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