The 12 states that constitute the Midwestern United States might not have oceanic coastlines, but they certainly deliver waterfront—with tens of thousands of river miles and lakeshores that make up some of the best beaches in the Midwest. This north-central region includes Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois’ beach towns worthy of a summertime visit.
Unsurprisingly, many of our picks come from the scenic Upper Midwest; yet there are still plenty of selections from across the region, from a famous island paradise, to a peninsula dubbed the Cape Cod of the Midwest, to a National Scenic River known for its free-flowing azure waters. Here are the best beach towns in the heartland, in no particular order.
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Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Part of Door County, a beloved Wisconsin destination, Nordic-chic Sister Bay rests on Lake Michigan's stunning Green Bay. This village makes the most of its location by hosting a popular summertime concert series at the Sister Bay Beach and Waterfront Park. Get on the water with a scenic boat tour (especially the sunset and live-music option), or rent a kayak or paddleboard from Bay Shore Outfitters. Consider a stop at the Door County Creamery for a farm-fresh lunch (and unreal goat cheese) and head to Skip Stone Coffee for a locally-roasted brew. Famous goats graze on the green grass roof at Al Johnson's, where you can get Swedish pancakes for breakfast or the lingonberry ice cream for dessert. It wouldn't be Wisconsin without an adult beverage, so grab an Old-Fashioned made with brandy at Earl's Sister Bay Bowl, a quirky Wisconsin supper club plus bowling alley.
Where to stay: Rest your head at the Dörr Hotel, a contemporary, Scandinavian-inspired spot where saunas are a soon-to-come addition.