When we think of Wisconsin, I bet your mind is filled with images of cows, cheese, and cornfields. But this American Midwest state has a lot more to offer than the typical countryside experience. In fact, Wisconsin has a lot of nature and outdoor activities to offer. With over 15,000 lakes, including two Great Lakes, Wisconsin features many amazing beaches that are worth a visit. In fact, in this post, we will explore the best beaches in Wisconsin!
Located in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, Wisconsin is bordered to the east by Lake Michigan and to the north by Lake Superior. Those are the areas where you will find most of the best beaches in Wisconsin. Not to mention the unique Door County and its neighbor Green Bay.
Besides its Native American culture, Wisconsin is also famous for its cheese production, which gives it the kind nickname of “America’s Dairyland”. Also, the state is home to Kraft Food Company and Miller Brewery, given its German heritage. With Madison as its capital and Milwaukee as the largest city in the state, Wisconsin delights travelers with its serene beauty, tradition, world-famous architecture, and family-friendly attractions.
Actually, I first became acquainted with Wisconsin when I was only 15 years old and moved there as a foreign exchange student. By living for a year on a farm with a typical Wisconsin family by Green Lake, I got to experience one of the most authentic Midwest lifestyles out there.
Best time to visit Wisconsin
To get to know Wisconsin, it is wise to go in late September or early October. The fall season is my favorite season for traveling to this region. The temperatures are not too hot and not too cold, and the foliage gives color to the trees and surrounding landscape. Also, prices are lower because it is not the peak season yet, which is perfect to explore the best beaches in Wisconsin.
Just for you to get an idea, winters can be quite rough there and temperatures are rarely above 30°F, even during the day. And the average snowfall is around 50 inches per year, almost double the average snowfall for the entire country. Meanwhile, summers are quite mild with only a few days reaching over 90°F in July.
The best beaches in Wisconsin by area
Best beaches on Lake Michigan
Simmons Island Beach, Kenosha, Lake Michigan
Located only 20 minutes driving from the border between Wisconsin and Illinois, Simmons Island Beach is Kenosha’s only beach. This sandy beach features bike trails, playgrounds, an open-air pavilion, and two historic lighthouses. If you simply follow the boardwalk, you will reach the North Pier Lighthouse. And the second lighthouse can be found along the harbor.
Besides being a great destination for swimming and castle building, Simmons Island Beach also offers a great sportfishing experience with Kenosha Charter Boat Association. After catching your fish, head over to Boat House Pub and Eatery and they will prepare it especially for you.
In addition to well-maintained restrooms, the beach is ADA accessible counting with portable mobility mats right on the beach. Just be aware that Kenosha beach does not count with lifeguards and pets, fires and grills are strictly forbidden.
Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan, Lake Michigan
Home to the largest dunes of the entire Lake Michigan, miles of golden sand, and sparkling blue waters, Kohler-Andrae State Park is one of the most popular beaches in Wisconsin. With lush greenery as a background, Kohler-Andrae is actually one of the prettiest beaches on this list and a change from the typical Wisconsin scenery. You can enjoy your time swimming, exploring the dunes, boating, kayaking, and canoeing.
Because of its unique dunes, the beach is home to rare plants and animals, including waterfowls, shorebirds, and many warblers. So, take your time strolling around the winding boardwalks and discover this unique habitat. The park also counts with a nature center, and the nearby John Michael Kohler Arts Center is also worth a visit.
The area features amenities such as picnic areas, shaded campsites, a parking lot, concession stands, grocery stores, and a few cafes. For instance, if you are looking for a place to have a brunch with local produce, head over to Fork Café for a delicious meal with natural ingredients.
Point Beach State Forest, Two Rivers, Lake Michigan
Home to the historic Rawley Point Lighthouse, Point Beach State Forest is close to town and yet secluded enough to provide tranquility. The whole area is very nice if you want to walk on the beach or through the woods as there are several trails to choose from.
The white sandy beach is over 6 miles long making for a perfect escape from city life. Besides cycling and hiking, there is not much to do other than sitting back and relaxing while watching the kids build sand sculptures. The beach also has several picnic areas.
At the northern end of the beach, you will find the Lodge Building selling necessities, grocery items, refreshments, and so on. And at the southern end, the city of Two Rivers is situated, and when visiting be sure to check out the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum.
Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Grafton, Lake Michigan
Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve is a stunning and well-preserved area on Lake Michigan offering many hikes and undeveloped bluffs to look at. What attracts most visitors to Lion’s Den Gorge are the many nature trails through the woods, marshland, and the bluffs themselves. From the top of the trails, you get scenic views of Lake Michigan. And if you wish to do so, you can go down the staircase, leading you to the rocky beach.
At the beach itself, you can have fun with the kids by collecting and skipping stones. This is also a great location to watch the waves crashing onshore. And best of all, the nature trails are all dog-friendly. Besides the easy access through boardwalks, you will also find amenities such as picnic areas and restrooms.
Schoolhouse Beach, Washington Island, Lake Michigan
At the north end of Door County, you will come across the pristine Washington Island where you will find Schoolhouse Beach, which stands out for its stones. Yes, this unique beach is not your typical sandy beach, you will not find sand there. Interestingly, the beach is made of very smooth and round limestone pebbles. And because of the lack of sand, the water is crystal-clear!
For obvious reasons, this is not the best beach to walk around or lay down to sunbathe, but it is a great place for swimming and diving, especially because of its 225 feet deep spot. And if you do not want to get wet, there is a perfect picnic area with stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The beach also has restrooms and a parking area.
Just keep in mind that it is strictly forbidden to take any of the rocks home with you. While visiting the island, look for the Washington Island Stave Church which honors Door County’s Scandinavian heritage. Also, Washington Island itself does not have many accommodation options and it is best as a day trip from the mainland.
Best beach in Green Bay
Nicolet Beach, Door Peninsula, Green Bay
Located along Green Bay, Peninsula State Park is one of the largest state parks in the area and one of the best spots to visit in the Door Peninsula. The park has many well-kept hiking trails and if you have limited time, you definitely need to check the Eagle Tower and the Eagle Trail.
Within the Peninsula State Park, Nicolet Beach is the most popular beach. With 944 feet of gorgeous shoreline, Nicolet Beach offers a plethora of activities for the whole family ranging from going on a bike ride or sailing trip to playing a match of volleyball. The beach’s amenities include a playground for the kids, picnic areas, showers, buoys, and a roped-off swimming area. There is also a rental stand where you can rent kayaks and canoes.
The beach is situated on the way from Fish Creek to Sister Bay Beach, both of which are worth visiting as well. Egg Harbor is yet another lovely town on the Green Bay side of the Door Peninsula.
Best beaches in Door County
Whitefish Dunes Beach, Door County, Lake Michigan
Whitefish Dunes Beach is one of the best beaches in Door County, perfect for families that love the outdoors. This is because the beach can be found in the Whitefish Dunes State Park which features sandy dunes surrounded by forests that can be explored through 14.5 miles of trails.
In fact, the park has three beaches, and Dog Beach is perhaps the nicest one considering the other two are a bit rockier. The water is very shallow, and the slope is very gentle, making this a great spot to go swimming. In general, the trail between the beaches is beautiful and picturesque.
And only 20 minutes away you will find the popular Sturgeon Bay, one of the most popular towns in Door County. Home to a charming lighthouse, the town is filled with history and dining options, including the Waterfront Mary where you can often find live music performances. Sturgeon Bay is also home to some of the best wineries in the Door Peninsula.
Newport State Park, Door County, Lake Michigan
With over 30 miles of trails along Lake Michigan, Newport State Park is one of the best places in the country to enjoy a full day of outdoor adventures. The park is filled with evergreen and hardwood forests, a rocky coastline, and wetlands. Besides the dense Conifer forest, the park is also home to a beautiful and pristine beach. Sitting by Newport Bay, this beach is truly secluded and as a result, it is one of the best areas to watch the sky at night in Door County. If you are lucky, you might even see the aurora borealis!
During the day you can enjoy lovely hikes amongst an array of wildflowers or go kayaking through the waves. This might not be the best beach for those who want to lay down and relax given that it is typically made up of pebbles. Also, the park has restrooms, a shelter, and picnic areas.
Baileys Harbor Ridges Park Beach, Door County, Lake Michigan
Sitting on the opposite side of the Door Peninsula from Fish Creeks, the hidden gem of Baileys Harbor Ridges Park Beach is in fact one of the best beaches in Lake Michigan. What makes it stand out is the fact that it is rarely ever crowded, and it is home not only to unspoiled nature but also to various species of plants and wildlife.
Along the picturesque trails and hikes, you can explore the beautiful marshland and forests. The beach is actually quite hidden within the park, meaning it is even less crowded than the park itself. Some of the activities you can enjoy at the beach include kiteboarding, paddleboarding, picnicking at the soft powdery sand, and admiring the stunning views of Lake Michigan. Also, an easy walk down Ridges Road gives you access to the long boardwalk that takes you to the Range Lighthouse and various nature trails. This is also the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Best beach in Milwaukee
Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Lake Michigan
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is rich in historical and cultural attractions, a perfect American city to spend a weekend. For those looking for fun, know that Milwaukee is surrounded by breweries, festivals, and outdoor activities.
Milwaukee’s most popular beach, Bradford Beach is your typical urban beach by the lake. With golden sand and sparkling water, the beach offers many recreational activities. In fact, Bradford is one of Milwaukee’s gathering spaces hosting year-round events, such as volleyball tournaments and music festivals. There is even an annual karaoke concert held in the summer.
Also during the summer months, the beach has lifeguard supervision. Its amenities include restrooms, a parking lot, and concession stands. And there are also many tiki bars along the shoreline.
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Best beaches in Madison
Bernie’s Beach Park, Madison, Lake Monona
Located on the shores of Monona Bay, Bernie’s Beach Park is especially sought-after by families with kids. This is because the waters are relatively shallow and there are specific roped areas for swimming. Not to mention the golden sandy beach which makes for a perfect castle building station. In addition, the beach is not too isolated so if you forgot to pack a snack you can simply stop by Pick ‘n Save, which is less than 5 minutes driving from the beach.
Also, along the shores of Lake Monona, you can visit the spectacular Monona Terrace, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1938. The rooftop provides panoramic views of Madison’s downtown, the Capitol, and Lake Monona itself.
Vilas Beach, Madison, Lake Wingra
Featuring several fishing sites with accessible piers, Vilas Beach is a park on the northern shores of Lake Wingra. With beautiful arched bridges, the park is not only a beach destination in Wisconsin but also a great place for a walk to watch the blue herons and all the wildlife thriving within the urban scenery of Madison.
The sandy beach itself is perfect for a summer swim and during winter this is a great spot to go ice skating on the frozen lake. Or even to play ice hockey!
The area also has tennis courts, picnics areas, a large grassy area, and two amazing playgrounds for the little ones. They can adventure themselves with all the dinosaur equipment and the large Indian mound.
Fireman’s Park Beach, Verona
Verona is a quiet and fun retreat just outside of Madison and Fireman’s Park Beach is one of the most family-friendly beaches in Wisconsin. The town of Verona itself has that unique beach town vibe you do not want to miss out on.
Offering many recreational facilities, Fireman’s Park Beach has a water slide leading straight into the lake! Also, there is a very fun semi-enclosed playground where the little ones can safely play while the grown-ups relax. The beach even has a volleyball court, paddleboards, and kayaks for rent, and concession stands selling delicious snacks.
Just be sure not to mix this beach in Verona with the Fireman’s Park Beach by Elkhart Lake. The latter is also a unique beach to visit but when traveling with family, Verona is the place to go.
Best beach in Racine
Racine North Beach, Racine, Lake Michigan
Located between Kenosha and Milwaukee, Racine North Beach is definitely the most famous beach in Wisconsin! Located in southeast Wisconsin, this was the first American beach to earn the “certified Blue Wave clean beach” title. This means that it holds a high-quality status and environmental value.
The beach itself is a great spot to go swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The sand is soft, the water is clear and calm, and the overall shoreline is very spacious. Besides lifeguard supervision, restrooms, and free parking, there is also an amazing playground set up like a pirate ship with a separate area for smaller kids. However, the beach is only open from June to September.
The area also counts with plenty of dining options, including the popular Beachside Oasis with its live music events under the palm trees.
Best beaches on Lake Superior
Meyer’s Beach, Cornucopia, Lake Superior
And at the top of the best beaches in Wisconsin at Lake Superior, there is no better choice than Meyer’s Beach, located on Apostle Islands. This is definitely one of the most scenic beaches in Wisconsin, a true postcard of Lake Superior. The highlights there include visiting the sea caves of the Bayfield Peninsula. The 4-mile hike to the caves can be quite challenging, but the cliffs’ views are spectacular.
And if you are simply not that interested in the caves, you can relax at the beach, go for a swim, or even go kayaking. The beach features toilets and parking lots provided you pay the park fee.
Julian Bay Beach, Stockton Island, Apostle Islands, Lake Superior
Also located on Apostle Islands, Julian Bay Beach has so many attractive aspects. For starters, it is not very popular so even during peak season you can easily find a spot to put down your towel and relax. The second aspect (and perhaps the most curious one) that makes Julian Bay Beach stand out is its singing sands! This natural phenomenon will blow your mind. The whistling sound is a result of wind blowing over the sand or, sometimes, people walking on the sand. A truly unique experience.
And from there you can also access the Apostol Island Sea Caves. During the summer, you may reach the caves by boat. But if you choose to go during winter, you can go on foot and admire the unique ice sculptures inside the caves.
The beach’s highlight activities include renting a kayak or bringing your own inflatables. The Apostle Islands also offer many hiking and camping opportunities. Not to mention, cruises between the islands.
Other amazing beaches in Wisconsin
Riviera Beach, Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva is actually one of the most sought-after touristic destinations in the state and it is no wonder that it has some of the best beaches in Wisconsin. The most popular one is Riviera Beach, which has a 600-ft strip of golden sand by the waters of Lake Geneva.
To maintain the beach and the lake, the city charges a daily fee to those who visit Riviera Beach during the peak season. Besides keeping the place clean, this fee also supports the lifeguards who work there in summer and weekends. Riviera Beach is easily accessible and counts with a metered parking area and public restrooms.
One of the highlights in Lake Geneva is to do an audio tour of the Lake Shore Path. Another popular activity is to rent a boat for a day and enjoy this pristine pool-like lake. There are also many restaurants and resorts around the entire lake.
Lake Geneva is also home to world-class spa hotels which makes it also one of the most unique places to visit in December in the US, where to get pampered while watching the picturesque winter landscape over the lake.
Pattison State Park Beach, Superior, Interfalls Lakes
Located on Interfalls Lakes, Pattison State Park is only 20 minutes south of Superior, in the north of Wisconsin. The Pattison State Park Beach itself has a 300-ft long strip of sand. Even though the beach is quite small, it is one of the prettiest beaches in Wisconsin. It has amazing blue waters and powdery sand with a grassy area and very tall trees as the background. This is a very scenic-looking beach. Besides a picnic area and a playground, the beach counts with showers and flush toilets during the summer and a parking area year-round.
The park also offers nature programs, guided hikes, a nature center, and camping. Along the 9 miles of trails, you can admire all the abundant wildlife northern Wisconsin has to offer. There, you will also find one of the highest waterfalls in Wisconsin, the Big Manitou Falls.
Devil’s Lake State Park Beach, Baraboo, Devils Lake
Located in Baraboo and welcoming around 3 million visitors per year, Devil’s Lake State Park is another very popular state park in Wisconsin. Besides the lake itself, another highlight the park offers is the breathtaking view from the 500-ft quartzite bluffs, also known as the Baraboo Quartzite. And if you are into hiking, this is a great choice for your weekend getaway since it combines great mountain trails only half an hour from Wisconsin Dells and the pleasant Devil’s Lake State Park Beach.
At the beach itself, you can enjoy some canoeing action, paddle boarding, and cliff jumping. But be aware that there are no lifeguards on site. And the beach resorts around the park offer concession stands and beach beds during the summer months. As for amenities, you will find restrooms with showers, picnic areas with grills, playgrounds, and much more.
Located along the Baraboo River, the city of Baraboo hosts the Ringling Brothers Circus in winter. Meanwhile, during summer you can visit the Circus World Museum with its daily parades and performances.
Even though Wisconsin is thousands of miles away from the nearest ocean, you can still find beautiful and secluded freshwater beaches. Since Wisconsin has thousands of lakes and waterways, it is no surprise that there are many amazing beaches within the state. Besides unique natural features such as the bluffs, caves, and signing sands, you can find plenty of entertainment for the entire family. So, when planning your next summer holiday, why not consider Wisconsin instead of those traditional ocean beaches?
About the author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).