As a lifelong, landlocked Hoosier resident, the closest beach to Indiana is a topic that often comes up when we start talking amongst ourselves about vacation. Does this sound like you? Ever wished you could teleport to a beach paradise? Well, the good news is you don’t actually have to go that far!
Depending upon what type of beach you want and how far you want to go will determine which beach you pick. If salt water isn’t necessary, look no farther than Indiana’s beaches along Lake Michigan. Or a bit further up in Northern Michigan.
If it’s an ocean beach you desire (and in the winter months, I’m guessing it is), you could make it to the Carolinas or even the panhandle of Florida with one long day of driving. So, pack your coolers, grab your swimsuit, and read on as we explore the closest beaches to Indiana.
Indiana’s Own: Michigan City
The closest beach to Indiana is actually IN Indiana – Michigan City. Michigan City is a gem that’s sometimes overlooked, but it’s time to put this fabulous place on your radar. We used to head up there multiple times a year to visit the Outlet Mall and the casino, and I can verify it’s a fun place for a weekend getaway!
How to get to Michigan City?
Michigan City sits snugly in the northwest corner of Indiana, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Michigan border. If you’re starting your journey from Indianapolis, you’re looking at a 2- to 2.5-hour drive via I-65 N and I-94 W. Once you arrive, Michigan City Beach is the crown jewel of the area. It sprawls along the coast of Lake Michigan and offers an expansive view that makes you forget you’re even in Indiana.
What is there to do in Michigan City?
As I mentioned, we’ve spent many weekends exploring Michigan City and although some things have changed through the years, the fun to be had has remained! The Washington Park Zoo is practically next door to the beach and although it’s small, it’s a fun place to explore – especially with kids. My daughter loves the animals and my son loves the break from outlet shopping when we visit it!
For history buffs, the Old Lighthouse Museum offers not just historical insights but a panoramic view of the lake and the city. Speaking of views, don’t miss the Michigan City Lighthouse & Pier; it’s a picturesque spot perfect for some Insta-worthy shots.
Although there are plenty of other things to do in Michigan City, a few other highlights include the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets and the Blue Chip Casino. These were always the focus our our trips – especially at back to school or around Christmas. The Outlet Mall used to be HUGE and had so many unique stores. Today, there is still enough for some good shopping, but sadly not nearly what it used to be.
Great places to eat in Michigan City
From casual eats to fine dining, Michigan City doesn’t disappoint. For brewery fans, Shoreline Brewery is always a hit, and Bartlett’s Fish Camp is a great choice if you want seafood and a water view. You’ll also find plenty of tasty breakfast spots as well as ice cream in Michigan City – it is the beach after all!
What sets Michigan City apart
Michigan City isn’t just another beach town; it’s a complete package that offers variety without overwhelming you. I always come back from a trip to Michigan City happy that I went and with a new set of memories. I think that what sets it apart is how it manages to blend a relaxing beach experience with a dash of culture, history, and outdoor activities. And, it’s right here in Indiana, so it takes the trophy for the closest beach to Indiana!
It’s perfect for families, friend groups, and even solo adventurers. There’s a unique charm to Michigan City that makes it more than just a ‘stop-by’ beach; it’s a destination. From beach lounging to zoo visits, from mouthwatering food to historical exploration, Michigan City offers a rich experience that’s just a drive away.
Indiana Dunes: The Rugged Beach Experience
Just down the way from Michigan City are the Indiana Dunes. As the only National Park in Indiana (and a state park too), the Dunes have a more rugged feel – but they are still lovely beaches and a great choice for a day trip.
How to get to the Indiana Dunes
Situated along the southern tip of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is about a 2.5- to 3-hour drive from Indianapolis, depending on traffic and your need for coffee breaks. It’s just a short hour or less from Chicago. At the dunes, you get miles of coastline sprinkled with a series of giant, undulating sand dunes. As a kid, we often went camping at the Indiana Dunes State Park and always had a blast running up and down the dunes!
What is there to do at the Indiana Dunes?
If Indiana Dunes had a middle name, it would be “Adventure!” There are over 50 miles of trails that traverse through forests, wetlands, and yes, the dunes themselves. When I was younger, I tackled the Three Dune Challenge, a 1.5-mile trail that takes you over the three tallest dunes in the park. By the end, I was exhausted but felt quite accomplished! These days I stick to the easier hikes – and probably enjoy them a lot more.
Since we are talking about the closest beach to Indiana here, it’s important to point out that the Indiana Dunes have 15 miles of coastline. Imagine sunbathing with a backdrop of towering dunes; it’s like the beach and the desert decided to have a baby, and it’s beautiful! Plus, Lake Michigan is right there for all your swimming and splashing needs.
For bird watchers, Indiana Dunes is a paradise. The park is considered one of the best spots for bird-watching in the U.S., especially during migration seasons.
Where to eat at the Indiana Dunes
While Indiana Dunes has a more ‘pack-your-own-picnic’ vibe, fear not, foodies! Nearby towns like Chesterton and Valparaiso offer a variety of dining options. Meditrina in Valparaiso is amazing if you’re craving a delicious salad or homemade shawarma. But if you’re looking for something you don’t have to leave the Indiana Dunes for, the food trucks that are often near the visitor center offer some delicious quick bites.
What sets the Indiana Dunes apart
Indiana Dunes is not your run-of-the-mill beach destination; it’s an outdoor lover’s dream. What makes it truly unique is its duality. It offers the relaxation of a beach and the adventure of a hiking trail, all rolled into one. Whether you’re looking to chill by the water or challenge yourself with some rigorous dune-climbing, Indiana Dunes offers an experience you won’t easily forget.
So, if you want more out of your beach visit than just laying by the water (and no judgment if that’s you!), swap your flip-flops for hiking boots and explore this awe-inspiring place. For me, it’s the place I go if I just want a day trip to the beach – it’s close, convenient, and beautiful.
Pure Michigan: The Best Beaches in the Midwest
I may be a little biased, but I think the BEST closest beaches to Indiana that aren’t on an ocean have to be the Michigan beaches. Every time we visit Petoskey State Park (or really any of the Lake Michigan Beaches), I’m amazed at how “ocean-like” they feel. Until I get in the (admittedly cold) water and realize there isn’t any salt!
Pure Michigan is the state that’s practically synonymous with Great Lakes and great times. And really, the beaches here are the stuff of postcards. Specifically, I’m zeroing in on two must-visit locations: Petoskey State Park and Grand Haven.
Pure Michigan: Where Every Beach is a Postcard
Michigan beaches offer a diversity that’s hard to match, and the drive from Indiana is totally doable, ranging from 2 to 8 hours depending on your starting point and final destination. First up on our beach-hopping itinerary is Petoskey State Park, nestled along the shoreline of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. Then, we’re cruising down to Grand Haven, known for its stunning sunsets and iconic lighthouse.
Things to do at Petoskey State Park
You’ll want water shoes and treasure buckets ready because Petoskey is famous for its million-year-old fossilized coral, known as Petoskey Stones. The hunt for these unique treasures is both fun and educational, and one of the best places to find them is at Petoskey State Park. The park is also fantastic for hiking and biking, with trails that offer stunning views of Little Traverse Bay.
On our last visit, we spent an afternoon hunting for stones, playing in the water, and enjoying the beach. My son and his buddies had a blast digging a huge hole – what is it about teenage boys and digging? I guess they never grow up.
🍁 For more Petoskey fun, check out 21 BEST Things to Do in Petoskey in the Fall
Things to do at Grand Haven
Switching gears to Grand Haven, where the star attraction is undoubtedly the Grand Haven State Park beach. This place is a paradise for beach volleyball, sunbathing, and water sports. There is also a boardwalk perfect for strolling that leads to the Grand Haven Lighthouse. The sunset here is stunning – it’s like the sky turns into a live painting. It’s also a top spot for fishing, so get those rods ready.
Where to eat in Petoskey
Petoskey offers a range of eateries that go from casual to gourmet. Julienne Tomatoes has sandwiches and salads that are perfect for a picnic by the lake. But if you’re craving something fancier, Beacons Bistro offers an exquisite menu with a variety of options and gorgeous lake views.
Where to eat in Grand Haven
Grand Haven’s food scene is a mix of classic American and coastal fare. The Toasted Pickle is a must-visit for their scrumptious sandwiches, and Morning Star Cafe is the breakfast place of choice for many visitors. If you like checking out breweries, consider this fun bike and brew tour so you can enjoy several! Finally, you can’t leave Grand Haven without grabbing some ice cream from Dairy Treat. It’s like a rite of passage!
What sets the Lake Michigan Beaches apart
What’s unique about Michigan beaches, especially Petoskey and Grand Haven, is that they offer more than just a sandy stretch to lay your towel. Each location provides an array of activities that appeal to different interests, from the thrill of hunting for Petoskey stones to the relaxation of watching a dreamy Grand Haven sunset. Both beaches have their unique charm but offer that quintessential ‘Pure Michigan’ experience.
We enjoy long weekends in the Petoskey area all year – we end up there at least four or five times a year, and it’s truly one of my favorite places in the world. Grand Haven, Michigan is a fabulous choice for a long weekend – especially from Indianapolis as it’s an easy and reasonable drive. So, are you all set to go beach-hopping in Michigan? I can already hear the waves calling!
Florida Beaches: Worth the Trip!
If you are a Hoosier like me, I suspect you’ve been to the panhandle – many times. It amazes me how many of my friends and family (including me) head down to these Florida beaches at Spring Break. In fact, last year, my son hung out with (no exaggeration here) over a dozen of his friends who happened to be vacationing in Destin while we were there.
Best Beaches Within Reasonable Travel Distance
If you’re looking for beaches that feel like a world away but are actually within a reasonable travel distance from Indiana, Destin and Fort Walton Beach are your go-to destinations. A direct flight to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is about 2 hours from major Midwest cities like Indianapolis or Chicago. Just enough time to get into your vacation reads!
Flight Versus Road Trip: Time and Convenience
A flight is undeniably faster and drops you right into vacation mode. But if you’ve got some time on your hands and are up for an adventure, a road trip could be a fun option, spanning about 12 to 14 hours from Indiana. It’s a long day of driving, but totally doable in one day – probably why so many Midwestern families head to the panhandle over Spring Break.
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Things to do in Destin, Florida
Since we are looking for the closest beach to Indiana, I’m guessing the beach is going to be on the top of your list of things to do, however, there are plenty of other activities to keep your group happy.
Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is a fantastic oceanside town. And lucky you’ll feel when you see those gleaming waters! The HarborWalk Village is a hit among families. We tried our hands at fishing, and guess what? We actually caught something! It’s also a hub for boat rentals, dolphin cruises, and snorkeling excursions.
Things to do at Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach is all about that laid-back Florida vibe but with an educational twist! The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is a must-visit; the dolphin and sea lion shows were a massive hit with the kids. We also visited the Indian Temple Mound Museum, and it was like a mini history lesson disguised as an adventure – plus I loved the Americano I picked up across the street to enjoy while exploring the grounds.
Dining: From Seafood Shacks to Fine Dining
Places to eat in Destin
Seafood, anyone? Fish On Sea Food House offers not just mouth-watering shrimp but also a comfy casual atmosphere. When I was there, I enjoyed a simple shrimp boil and a glass of crisp white wine while sitting on the outdoor patio. Perfection! For a fancier evening, Beach Walk at Henderson Park Inn serves up gourmet dishes that match the stunning ocean backdrop.
Places to eat in Fort Walton Beach
Stewby’s Seafood Shanty is where you’ll get the local flavor—casual and utterly delicious, although always crowded. Every time I drove by there was a line- which told me it was a place I had to try! For something a little different, try Ali’s Bistro. On my last visit, I picked up a pizza to go (the bar was a lovely place to wait for my pizza) and enjoyed it on the beach while the sun was setting.
What sets the Florida Panhandle Beaches apart: The Florida Vibe
What sets Florida Panhandle beaches apart is that unique Florida vibe—the blend of Southern hospitality with tropical allure. In Destin, we got to experience a live band playing beach tunes right by the ocean, and I’ve never felt more ‘Florida’ in my life!
In Fort Walton Beach, the pace is slower, allowing us to truly soak up the local culture and vibe. My son even joined a spontaneous game of beach soccer with some locals!
Destin and Fort Walton Beach will wow you with their sugar-white sands and emerald-green waters. So, if you love an ocean vacation, with gentle but beautiful waters, then the panhandle of Florida is the closest beach to Indiana to give you that experience.
The Carolinas: A Mix of Adventure and Relaxation
The other popular ocean beach within a day’s drive of Indiana is Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. And, if you are looking for something a little quieter then consider my favorite North Carolina beach, Wrightsville Beach.
Best beaches within reasonable travel distance
Looking for beaches within a drive or a quick flight from Indiana? Both Myrtle Beach and Wrightsville Beach are around a 10- to 12-hour drive from the Midwest. Alternatively, you can catch a roughly 2-hour flight into Myrtle Beach International Airport or Wilmington International Airport for Wrightsville Beach.
We’ve driven to Myrtle Beach from the Indianapolis area many times – and although we sometimes stop overnight, it can absolutely be done in a day. As for Wrightsville Beach, we’ll typically combine it with a trip to the Raleigh-Durham area as it’s only a two-hour drive from there and it’s an easy airport to fly into. Years ago, we lived in Cary, NC and it was exactly two hours from our driveway to Wrightsville Beach. It was heaven!
Myrtle Beach: The Grand Strand awaits
Myrtle Beach is often referred to as “The Grand Strand,” and it lives up to its name with a sprawling 60-mile stretch of coastline. The soft sandy beaches are welcoming, but Myrtle Beach offers more than just sun and surf.
Things to do in Myrtle Beach
For families, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is a slice of heaven. Ferris wheel, arcade games, and the nearby Ripley’s Aquarium —boredom isn’t even in the vocabulary here. We always enjoy a game of mini-golf as well as plenty of time playing in the surf when we spend our vacation in Myrtle Beach.
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Wrightsville Beach: An ocean paradise
Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina offers a quieter, more laid-back vibe, perfect for those looking for relaxation. Add in the nearby town of Wilmington, NC and you’ve got an ideal spot for a lazy long weekend.
Things to do in Wrightsville Beach
The beach is wide and clean, making it ideal for sandcastles and frisbee. And if you decide you’d like a break from the sun, check out the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History and learn a bit about the area. The sunsets are spectacular at Wrightsville Beach, so consider a sunset boat tour for an entirely different sunset experience.
Dining: From shrimp boils to fine dining
Places to eat in Myrtle Beach
If you’re in North Myrtle Beach, a visit to Buoys on the Boulevard is a must for seafood lovers. Their peel-and-eat shrimp? To die for! I actually ate there TWICE on our last visit and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant twice while traveling before. Another great seafood spot in Myrtle Beach is Rockefeller’s Raw Bar – my son was unsuccessful in catching a lobster, but we all loved the food!
Places to eat in Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville offers its own set of dining experiences that you won’t want to miss. Craving seafood? Fish Bites is a perennial favorite. It’s small, but worth the wait for fresh seafood. Over in nearby Wilmington, don’t miss Elijah’s. I’ve spent many a leisurely evening enjoying the view of the Cape Fear River while indulging in their delicious crab dip.
What sets the Carolina Beaches apart: The Carolina charm
The Carolinas offer that sweet Southern charm but in a coastal setting. In Myrtle Beach, we stumbled upon a beachside live music event where everyone was dancing, from toddlers to grandparents – and I have never seen so many golf carts in my life! It felt like one big happy family as locals walked from cart to cart visiting!
Wrightsville Beach offered its own brand of charm—a local advised us to wake up early to catch the sunrise, and it was like the sky was showing off just for us. In fact, the first beach we took our daughter to was Wrightsville Beach when she was just over a year old, and we were definitely up for those sunrises!
FAQs: The Closest Beaches to Indiana
What is the closest beach to Central Indiana?
The beach at Michigan City, Indiana is the closest beach to Central Indiana.
What is the closest ocean beach to Indiana?
Depending upon where you are leaving from, either one of the Florida Panhandle Beaches or Myrtle Beach, SC would be the closest ocean beach to Indiana.
How many beaches are in Indiana?
There are 24 beaches in Indiana.
Does Indiana have nice beaches?
The beaches at the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Park are quite lovely and well worth a visit.
Conclusion: The Closest Beach to Indiana
And there you have it—your ultimate guide to the closest beaches to Indiana, offering everything from sun, sand, and surf to mouthwatering cuisine and family-friendly activities.
Whether you’re craving the freshwater allure of Michigan City and the Indiana Dunes, the quintessential ‘Pure Michigan’ experience in Petoskey and Grand Haven, the tropical paradise vibes of Florida’s Destin and Fort Walton Beach, or the irresistible Southern charm of the Carolinas’ Myrtle Beach and Wrightsville Beach, there’s a beach destination tailor-made for you.
Each location has its own unique attractions, activities, and food scenes that can turn any day into a special memory. Looking for something really close to home? Michigan City and the Indiana Dunes are just around the corner. Want to feel the ocean breeze in your hair? Florida, and the Carolinas beckon with their own distinct flavors of coastal paradise.
So what’s it going to be? I’ve visited and enjoyed all of these beaches – many times and am confident that whichever one you choose will be a trip to remember! Take your pick from this list of the closest beaches to Indiana and start planning!