As long as I’ve lived in Indiana, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally get to Indiana Dunes! Staying in the area a couple of nights allowed some time to explore the area a bit and experience some of the sights and foods in the Michigan City area.
I booked a house on Airbnb for less than $100 a night, maybe 3 weeks before the trip, and consider myself extremely lucky to get something that was only a few minutes drive from the beach for that price, especially during peak season in July! All of the big-name hotels and the bed and breakfast type of places near the beach were $300+ per night. I was also able to save some money by stopping at the local grocery store for food make some of my own meals and snacks during my stay — double win!
Union Pier, Michigan
The first evening, I left the Michigan City area to go check out some of the wineries a little farther north in Michigan. The original plan was to check out Round Barn Winery, St. Julian, Free Run Cellars and Shady Creek Winery since they are all located in the same general area.
Round Barn Winery
After buying four bottles of wine at Round Barn Winery, as well as enjoying a fairly long tasting experience there, I decided my tolerance level and budget had reached their max for the day and I’ll just have to save the other wineries for another trip.
I decided to eat in Michigan and a highly rated place in the area was Frankie’s Place. It wasn’t busy around dinnertime on a Saturday, which I thought was unusual, but I enjoyed having the patio to myself for about half an hour before the dinner crowd started pouring in. I ended up ordering the catfish special that was available that night, and it was pretty good. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to return, but this restaurant is a good option for the area.
Washington Park Beach
The next morning, I had a quick breakfast, then packed a bag and made a beeline for the beach – Washington Park Beach in particular. It was fairly quiet when I arrived around 10 am or so, but quickly started to fill up with people by lunchtime. The weather happened to be high-80’s and sunny, so it was the perfect beach day! The water was cold enough that it took a few minutes to get used to, but by early afternoon, it was a necessary escape from the sun for people that didn’t have a tent or umbrella.
I really liked this beach! Parking was only $7 or $8, and there were decent restrooms and changing facilities. There is also a restaurant on the beach, that I didn’t take advantage of, but can see it as a bonus if you want to spend an entire day there and didn’t bring your own food.
The next day, I headed to Indiana Dunes. The plan was to have a day of hiking before driving back home, but after less than an hour of climbing dunes in near 90-degree temps, I quickly decided a whole day of that would be impossible. Luckily, Indiana Dunes Beach was close by to accommodate a last minute change of plans!
This beach was much less crowded than Washington Park Beach, even though the entry fee was comparable to the parking cost of around $8. I was able to find a quiet spot near the edge of the swimming area to park my chair & umbrella, then walk around a bit to see what amenities were available. This area had a much nicer setup for restrooms and changing areas than Washington Park, and also had vendors selling food. There were also chairs and umbrellas available to rent here, though, if you happen to have forgotten those things.
Overall, I preferred the Indiana Dunes Beach of the two — if I visit the area again, this is definitely where I want to go! Though I didn’t take advantage of it much, the one entry fee gives you access to the whole park, so it’s a good value for a place to spend a day.