A Summer Getaway | Beaches You Can Drive to from the QCA


Summer is a time where I just want to grab my people and go run free. And what better place than a beach to do that?! If you prefer to drive – or just want to dip your toes in much closer to home, here are some great beach spots near the Quad Cities. It’s true–a summer getaway is within your reach!

Girl sitting by the lake

Big Hollow Recreation Area, West Burlington, Iowa: Although more known for fishing, target practice, hiking and camping, you can definitely get on the lake and get some water time in this beautiful outdoor oasis not far from the QCA! This is a popular canoe area and a super fun place to teach your kiddos to fish!

Coralville Lake and West Overlook Campground & Beach, Iowa City, IA: When we moved here 10 years ago all we heard about is how we had to visit Iowa City. We get it now–they have a Trader Joes. But do you know what else they have? A fantastic campground and lake! You can enjoy this for the day or stay the weekend and then also enjoy the shopping and restaurants of Iowa City!

West Okoboji Lake, Arnolds Park, IA: A chain of glacier-carved lakes and beaches bordering Minnesota and Iowa! Your kids will love the miles of beach, multiple lakes to choose from, pier with carnival attractions and you’ll love the restaurants and shopping! This is a true hidden gem for summer midwestern getaways! There is something fun to say “YES!” to around every corner!

Carnival by the beach

Coconut Cove Resort, Hazel Green, Wisconsin: A brand new attraction in this area, this campground and beach was just completed in 2018 and has multiple ways to enjoy it. But hurry–reservations fill up REALLY fast. This is a beautiful way to enjoy the Mighty Miss!

North Overlook Beach, Pella, IA: Just under three hours away is this fun beach/campground combo managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and within sight of the huge earthen dam at Lake Red Rock! This area is known for white pelican and bald eagle sightings. Only $5 per carload of people!

Lake Story Beach, Galesburg, IL: A favorite of locals just 45 minutes away, this beach hosts fun events through the summer such as summer concerts, fireworks and more! COVID may have cramped its style for a bit, but we’re crossing all our fingers and toes that summer 2021 is a sweet time at Lake Story!

Door County, Wisconsin: Having grown up north of Chicago as a kid, “going to the beach” meant living in Lake Michigan for the summer. The Lake may seem far away, but it’s very doable if you have 3 or 4 days to work with! Door County is gorgeous and has lots of little towns nestled in the bay with adorable lake-side Air B&B’s for your family to have a peaceful weekend getaway. 

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: Another favorite for us kids from the ‘Burbs is Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The downtown shops and eateries are nice and all, but what your kiddos will love is the public access beach! And good news–if you get sick of Lake Geneva crowds, you are only a stone’s throw from the beautiful Kenosha waterfront!

The UP, Michigan: I suppose we shouldn’t call this close, but wow–is it beautiful! How cool to put your toesies in the very top of Lake Michigan! There are some amazing waterfalls and beaches to explore and only about a 6-7 hour drive depending on where you stop. Not a bad trip to get that “transported to another world” feel right here in the Midwest! While you’re in the UP, enjoy some Vernors ginger ale, a pastie, amazing {local} craft beer, Hudsonville Ice Cream, Mackinac Island fudge and a slice of cherry pie! I’d also recommend bringing home some Michigan asparagus! 

girl playing in sand

Charles Mears State Park, Pentwater, Michigan: Again, not super close, but worth the 6.5 hour drive! The westside of Michigan is a white beach and evening sunset paradise. Pentwater is a town close to our family’s heart–where we went every summer as kids to visit our grandparents. If you go, you have to climb Mount Baldy, visit the House of Flavors Ice Cream shop (HOF employee alum right here!), shop the shops downtown, get some amazing ground coffee and fudge at Oldewick Post and clap as the sunsets on the beach! Oh, and this is a dog friendly beach and campground, so bring your fluffy kids too! On your way home, you’ll have your pick of beautiful beach towns along the waterfront to stop and stretch your legs. One of our faves is Grand Haven State Park!

Pentwater Michigan beach

Indiana Dunes State Park, Chesterton, Indiana: If you visit the top of Lake Michigan, you should probably visit the southern end too, right? Indiana Dunes State Park is a few hours drive to a beautiful beach and gorgeous waters! Climb the large sand dunes towering up to 200 feet above the lake. Wear those kids out and have a peaceful drive back home! 

Loyola Beach, Chicago, IL: If you find yourself in Chi-town and want a second to breathe and just relax, you’ll love this piece of beach near the Loyola lighthouse! There are also playgrounds for the kids to stretch their legs. You can see the Chicago skyline just up the shore and enjoy the calm waters with sailboats in the distance! 

This coming summer we are taking our kiddos on a beach-hopping trip around Lake Michigan stopping first north of Door County, then heading into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, next staying two nights in Mackinac City/Mackinac Island area and ending with 4 nights in Pentwater, Michigan. Where are your Midwest favorite summer spots? Any brilliant beach getaway or travel hacks to share?

****Check with each location individually for hours and prices. Stay safe and have fun!

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Becky Clark is a local Rock Island mama to 2 kids--ages 10 and 6. Becky has been married to her high school best friend, Derek, since 2005. Becky and Derek have been Quad Citians for 10 years, although they originally hail from the northern Chicago suburbs. Becky is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and provides therapy services part time at South Park Psychology in Moline as a contracted private practice clinician. She also teaches Social Worker courses online for Ashford University. Becky is very active as a volunteer at the kid's school as well as at their home church, Bethany Baptist in Moline. Becky loves spending time with her family, friends and her church family. She also enjoys being a tourist in her own town, reading, crafting and volunteering for ALL the things--much to her husband's dismay. The Clarks hope to add a furry {baby} family member to their brood this summer, ensuring that no one will ever sleep again. To follow Becky's clinical therapy business on Instagram, visit her at: https://www.instagram.com/12stonescounseling/ To schedule a psychotherapy session with Becky for you or your family member, call South Park Psychology in Moline at 309-797-2900 and ask to be scheduled with Rebekah Clark



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