When you imagine a day at the beach with your family, do you picture lots of other people? Probably not. But finding a picturesque yet unpopulated beach—especially on Lake Michigan or Lake Superior—requires a little extra effort.
Luckily, we did the work for you. We’re letting you in on the best-kept beach secrets on Wisconsin's Great Lakes.
Newport State Park - Ellison Bay
Unlike Door County’s other mainland parks with great beaches, Newport is far less crowded. It is typically frequented by nature-enthusiasts and hikers. But you can also find secluded pebble beaches off many of Newport’s wildflower-laden trails.
If you’re not interested in hiking to your beach, park in Lot 3 and take the paved path down to Newport’s main beach. Its gradual, sandy slope makes it excellent for swimming with kids.
Insider Tip: Plan to be there during and after sunset. Newport is one of the only designated Dark Sky Parks in the Midwest; stargazing from Newport’s beach is unforgettable.
Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve - Grafton
Locals consider Lion’s Den Gorge a hidden gem. Its dog-friendly nature trails cut through woods, marshland, and bluffs, and the hilltop trail provides stunning views of Lake Michigan. At the end of this trail, you can descend into the gorge via a long staircase—all the way to the rock beach.
Your kids will love to collect and skip stones. You will enjoy walking along lake, with waves crashing to shore. Together, you can all bask in the peace and quiet of this local beach.
Insider Tip: Mornings are often less busy, so you’ll have even more privacy if you go to the beach early.
Rock Island State Park – Washington
Trust us—this island beach is a challenge to get to, but it’s worth it. The journey to Rock Island State Park begins by driving onto the ferry to Washington Island and then catching a second, passengers-only ferry to Rock Island. With no vehicles allowed on Rock Island, plan to carry your food and gear to the beach.
Why make the effort? Because most others don’t. You’ll find more than 2,000 feet of uncrowded, sandy beach on the south side of the island, perfect for picnics, sandcastles, and rollicking in the sun.
Insider Tip: Rock Island also features Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse and a Nordic-style boathouse. Challenge your kids to find the Icelandic rock carvings near the beach.
This Lake Superior beach isn’t as much hidden as it is unappreciated. Meyer’s Beach is the launching point to see the Apostle Islands’ famous sea caves. Hundreds of kayakers and hikers immediately leave the beach to venture along the coast, leaving behind a huge stretch of gorgeous sand and surf. Walk a few minutes away from the parking lot, and your family will have an ocean-like beach to yourselves.
Insider Tip: If you choose to hike the 2-mile Lakeshore Trail you can gaze at the caves from above and walk back along the beach.
Simmons Island Beach – Kenosha
Simmons Island Beach is the only beach on this list located in a city. Unlike the popular but often busy Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, Simmons Island Beach is a bit further off the radar. The beach itself is wide and well-groomed, and an adjacent boardwalk connects to the North Pier Lighthouse, making it accessible to those who’d rather not navigate the sand. While on Simmons Island, check out the second area lighthouse (the Southport Lighthouse), follow the sculpture walk along the harbor, or hop on the bike path for a tour of downtown Kenosha.
Insider Tip: Spend the afternoon fishing on the island, and then take your catch to the nearby Boat House Pub & Eatery. They’ll smoke your fish for you!
Find more fun on the Great Lake's shores at these 5 Ocean-Like Beaches, or keep browsing with our beach directory!