There are hundreds of miles of beaches in the National Park System, but which ones are tops for families? According to Parents Magazine, only one of America's "Ten Best Beaches for Families" is found in an NPS area.
The NPS winner is West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The magazine says the area, located only about an hour by car or train from downtown Chicago, offers a number of features that make it ideal for families.
So, what makes a beach "family friendly?"
According to the Parent's Magazine website, the publication's staff "combed through water-quality reports, closings, and advisories for more than 1,000 U.S. beaches." Key factors included ratings of restrooms, calm surf and lifeguards; extras such as nature trails helped narrow the field.
A park spokesperson said the magazine "cited the clean water, the usually calm surf, Junior Ranger activities, and the presence of lifeguards as reasons to put West Beach on the list. Miles of nearby stroller-friendly trails were also listed as reasons to visit this national park."
West Beach is open 365 days a year, and during the summer season offers lifeguards and a bath house with showers and lockers. Rest rooms are available year-round. During most of the year, West Beach is free, but from Memorial Day to Labor there is a $6 per car fee. Walk-in visitors and bicyclists pay a dollar. The most heavily developed section of beach in the park, West Beach includes only a small fraction of the 15 miles of beach in the park.
“We’re honored but not surprised because the beaches of the national lakeshore are treasures of the region and the nation,” said Superintendent Constantine Dillon.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s West Beach was ranked as the number five beach for families in the United States on this version of a Top Ten list. Other beaches getting the nod are located in Florida, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin and South Carolina.