Indiana Dunes State Park is the older sister of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Founded in 1925 after years of efforts by conservationists, the park is surrounded on three sides by the National Lakeshore and by Lake Michigan to the north. It consists of 2,182 acres of natural landscape a few miles north of the town of Chesterton. Like the National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes State Park has incredible biodiversity.
Admission to the park is US$7 for cars with Indiana plates and US$12 for all others. It’s open daily from 7am to 11pm. There’s a large campground with 140 tent sites. Each site has an electrical hookup, picnic table, and sand tent spot with a paved pad. There’s also a camp store and showers.
The Nature Center is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm. It has a display with some of the reptiles found in the park, the park’s history, nature in the park, and a display about the shipwreck of the JD Marshall.
There are three miles of beach at Indiana Dunes State Park, but only a small section of it is safe for swimming. The beach is pretty clean but the scenery isn’t exactly the best. To the east is miles of open beach, but to the west are steel mills. On a clear day, however, you can see the Chicago skyline. There’s a historic pavilion and beach house with food carts out front selling ice cream, hot dogs, and more.
There are a couple natural features near the beach. One is Dunes Creek, which forms a small lagoon at the lake’s edge. Swimming is not permitted in the creek. There’s also Devil’s Slide, a sand dune which is fun to climb up and roll down.
It’s not safe to swim unless there’s a lifeguard on duty and you’re in the designated swimming area. Lake Michigan has very strong rip currents. It’s also a good idea to bring insect repellant. There are mosquitoes and biting flies on the trails in the park.
When to Go
The park is open year-round. Obviously it’s great to go during the summer when the beaches are open, but in the winter it’s a whole different world. There’s also cross-country skiing on some of the trails.