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Your guide to Dune Acres
All About Dune Acres
On the shores of Lake Michigan in northwest Indiana, the small town of Dune Acres is home to natural sand dunes, lush woodlands, and freshwater beaches. It’s hard to believe that this beach town, which is nestled within the Indiana Dunes National Park and on the doorstep of Indiana Dunes State Park, is only 45 minutes from Chicago. With two miles of shoreline, the soft sand beaches are a major draw for visitors, and lifeguards patrol the safe swimming waters in the summer. Hiking, biking, and paddling are also great ways to enjoy the outdoors here. With one of the highest levels of plant diversity in the Midwest, the ecosystem within the marshes and woodlands surrounding Dune Acres creates a haven for birdlife. Birders flock here to spot herons, songbirds, woodpeckers, and warblers.
At the heart of town is the Dune Acres Clubhouse, built in 1925, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits high on Lake Michigan’s tallest dune, and so from here, you’ll be rewarded with views of the lake — on a clear day, the Chicago skyline appears across the water.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Dune Acres?
Summertime in this part of Indiana offers the perfect setting for a stay in one of many available beach rentals. From June through August, you can expect warm and sunny days for enjoying the sand and water. The area hosts many popular events in July, including Fireworks on West Beach and the Sand Sculpture Contest, which showcases amazingly creative works of beach art. Late July through August can get hot and surprisingly humid, so you may want to be on or around the water as much as possible.
Spring is a great time to visit, with mostly mild days and wildflowers blooming along the Heron Rookery Trail. During fall, temperatures tend to drop into the chilly regions, and rain is more likely, but the changing colors of the leaves provide a stunning backdrop to the dunes. Winter brings the chance of snowfall, and you can expect cold temperatures and significant winds coming off the water, so make sure you’re prepared with plenty of layers. Nearby Valparaiso puts on a holiday light show and festive activities all through December.
What are the top things to do in Dune Acres?
The 3 Dune Challenge
Take on the famous 3 Dune Challenge, a hike across the three tallest dunes in Indiana Dunes State Park, which is harder than it looks. You’ll travel 1.5 miles, climbing more than 550 feet, including 192 feet to the top of Mount Tom. At the top of each dune, you’ll be rewarded with expansive views across the blue water of Lake Michigan. For this challenging hike, bring plenty of water, sturdy footwear, and sunscreen.
Great Marsh Trail
Explore the Great Marsh Trail, a one-mile trail through wetlands, where you can spot an abundance of local birdlife, including mallards and rusty blackbirds as well as herons and egrets. A population of beavers also calls the marsh home and can often be spotted from the observation deck. If you’re visiting in the spring or fall, you’ll witness large flocks of migratory birds stopping here.
Located in Indiana Dunes National Park, West Beach offers a swath of sandy shoreline with sheltered picnic areas, grills, and a bathhouse. This Lake Michigan beach is a popular swimming spot. West Beach is also home to 2.5 miles of trails to explore, including the Dune Succession Trail, a boardwalk hike up 270 stairs that reaches a viewpoint overlooking Lake Michigan.