What To Do In Porter, Indiana: Check Out Porter Beach Inside Indiana Dunes National Park


Visiting Porter Beach inside Indiana Dunes National Park is a must-do activity if you’re spending time in Porter, Indiana, or any of the surrounding towns in the 46304 zip code. This beautiful beach offers stunning views of the lake and the Chicago skyline located along the south shore in Northwest Indiana, and it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring both the Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park offerings.

I’m going to give you the inside insight on Porter Beach because I live here! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below.

Porter Beach is located in the Indiana Dunes National Park and borders Indiana Dunes State Park.

The beach itself has soft, golden sands that are perfect for playing in, sunbathing on, and exploring.

The surrounding area is also beautiful, with stunning views of Lake Michigan and my favorite view: the Chicago skyline from across the water.

There are lots of great hiking trails in both the Indiana Dunes National Park and inside the Indiana Dunes State park that you can explore.

Insider tip: You can park in the National Park and access the trails of Indiana Dunes State Park by foot without having to pay for access to the Indiana Dunes State Park. There is no fee charged for passersby who enter the Indiana Dunes State Park by foot or by bike. This rule only applies to the Indiana Dunes National Park, formerly known as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

What is there to do at Porter Beach?

Porter Beach is a small beach contained within the Indiana Dunes National Park. The beach is known for being a hidden gem in this area because most people don’t know that driving down Waverly Road just off of Route 12, weaving your way down Wabash Avenue, and nearly dead-ending at Johnson Beach Road will bring you to the two lesser-known parking lots for people to park in.

Most of the activities to take part in involve swimming, sunbathing, walking along the beach and sand dunes, and watching the beautiful sunsets. Being so close to the State park gives you access to State Park amenities like hiking trails with rare plants that connect to other beautiful places within the Dunes National and State parks like Cowles Bog or swimming in gigantic Lake Michigan all located in Northwest Indiana.

Definitely come and visit for the nice beach area, but the true gems are access to the hiking trails and flora and fauna within the parks.

Where can I obtain an Indiana Dunes National Park pass?

If you’re visiting this area, I recommend checking out the Indiana Dunes Visitor’s Center located at 1215 N State Rd 49, Porter, IN 46304. You cannot purchase a State Park pass, but you can get a National Park pass at this location. The Visitor’s center offers free parking and a chance to connect with employees who can give you valuable information about the National park.

Is Porter Beach in Indiana closed?

Porter Beach is open all year. On chilly days, you may not want to swim or tan on the beach; nevertheless, it is available all year. I like going there in off-peak seasons to shoot photos, go for a walk along the beach to get some exercise, and hear Lake Michigan’s waves splash on the shore.

What is the least crowded beach at Indiana Dunes?

Porter Beach is one of the least crowded beaches in the Indiana Dunes.

Do you have to pay to get into Porter Beach?

Yes, and no. Access to the beach used to be free. However, effective 4/1/22, you have to pay a fee to park at the National Park and walk along the beach. There are a few days that are free, but other than those few select days, you must pay the Indiana Dunes National Park fee to park in the two adjacent parking lots that are within walking distance to the beach.

This is true for Town of Porter residents as well. I am a Town of Porter resident. We have the option of paying to park in the small parking lot adjacent to Porter Beach at $45 per car for an annual National Park pass through the Town of Porter’s website to obtain a parking sticker to park in this private lot. However, now we also have to pay the Indiana Dunes National Park pass fee of $45 per year or $25 for a pass that’s good for 7 days to have proper access to use the beach.

What time does Porter Beach Open?

Porter Beach is open from 6:00am-11:00pm year-round if you are parking in the National Park’s lots. Parking in the Town of Porter parking lot adjacent to the beach with the parking permit required offers you parking from 6:00am-10:00pm year-round.

Different Parking Lots to Access Porter Beach

There are two small parking lots that are open to the public for parking through the Indiana Dunes National Park that are within walking distance to the beach.

There is a third lot that is directly adjacent to the beach but this lot is only for people who’ve purchased the proper parking permit through the Town of Porter. Violators will be towed or ticketed. Be careful not to park in the parking lot closest to the beach that is owned by the Town of Porter.

Are there restrooms available at Porter Beach?

Yes, there are seasonal restrooms available in the parking lot owned by the National Park that is closest to the beach. There are also bathrooms in the State Park Pavillion which is within walking distance from Porter Beach.

Should I pack a picnic if I plan to stay all day at Porter Beach?

I recommend you pack a picnic with some food if you are taking a day trip. Parking in the peak times of summer right at the beachfront can be more difficult to find in the summertime. If you want to spend the entire day at the beach and not worry about losing your parking spot, then I’d bring some snacks and a cooler filled with food. The Indiana Dunes Pavilion does have dining, but it is hit or miss right now and is usually only available during the summer season.

Is Porter Beach safe, and kid and family-friendly?

Absolutely! There are many friendly faces of both visitors and locals you will find on Porter Beach. Many families visit the beach with their kids and make it a day trip. Porter Beach is a small beach that is very kid-friendly and family-friendly.

What should I know about Lake Michigan’s conditions for swimming and walking along the shoreline?

I highly recommend you check the National park website for more information about rip currents before swimming or walking along the shoreline. There are no lifeguards on duty at Porter Beach during the summer season or any other time. There are lifeguards on the adjacent State Park beach, but not on Porter Beach. I’d check with local municipalities or with the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to see about lake conditions before heading out to the beach. You and your family’s safety is key. If you are planning to spend the day swimming in the water then find out about that day’s lake conditions before heading to the beach. You enter at your own risk. If you don’t check before you go, then gauge the water accordingly, and plan other activities for the day. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly what the water conditions are like and if they appear safe. But it never hurts to check with the National Park or State Park before heading out for the day.

Why are there so many residences along Porter Beach, and are the beaches public or private?

The beaches are open to the public. The beaches are owned either by the National Park or the State Park depending on where you’re going in the park. There are many private residences located along the lakefront. You have the right to walk along the beach and use the beach despite what the homeowners along the beach would like to tell you. Use common sense and don’t get too close to someone’s lakefront residence and disturb their real or personal property. However, know that you have the right to use the beach and walk along the beach despite what the local homeowners will tell you. This has been an issue in dispute about who owns the land the beach sits on between the lot lines on the plats of subdivision that these homeowners own and where their land ends. Do the homeowners own the beach from their property line down to the shoreline of Lake Michigan? No, they don’t. The Supreme court ruled that the beaches are open to and can be accessed by the public. You may see fencing put up along the beach. As long as you respect the homeowners and don’t disregard their rights and property, you will be fine. Just know that you have the right to access the beach.

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