Top 10 Beaches in Iowa

Published on July 6th, 2021

What are the Most Popular Beaches in Iowa?

Those who dismiss Iowa as a “flyover” are sorely missing out — and yes, there are plenty of beautiful lake- and riverside beaches here to make for a seemingly tropical vacation right in the heart of the midwest. In this article, we’ve gathered some of the very best Iowa beaches you don’t want to miss out on!

Top Beaches in Iowa

1. Ainsworth Beach

2. Gull Point State Park

3. Emerson Bay State Recreation Area

4. Big Creek Beach

5. North Overlook Beach

6. Whitebreast Beach

7. Kent Park Beach

8. Lake Macbride State Park

9. West Lake Beach

10. Honey Creek State Park

Iowa Beaches

Without further ado, here are 10 Iowa beaches that belong on the bucket list of everyone who tours or lives in the Hawkeye State.

1. Ainsworth Beach

Ainsworth-Orleans Beach along Big Spirit Lake in Iowa
Image via vacationokoboji.com

Located along the southern shore of the large and scenic Big Spirit Lake, Ainsworth Beach (also known as the Orleans Beach Area) isn’t a large stretch of sand… but it is an absolutely gorgeous one, and one of the best places in the state to bring a family looking for a classic beach day. Along with the gently-lapping waves and ample sunshine, this park offers playground areas to keep the kids happy even once the novelty of sand and shoreline wear off, as well as picnic tables for munching on meals together. Well-maintained restrooms and a boat ramp complete the destination, making for the perfect waterside getaway no matter who you’re visiting with.

Things to do near Ainsworth Beach: One of many waterside recreation areas that’s sprung up alongside the cluster of lakes in this area, Ainsworth Beach is within easy reach of many other worthy outdoor destinations and preserves, such as the Jemmerson Slough Wildlife Management Area, the Spring Run State Game Management Area, the Hales Slough Wildlife Management Area and more. Here are some local RVshare rentals to check out if you’re looking for accommodations while you explore the area!

2. Gull Point State Park

Gull Point State Park is located on Lake Okoboji in Northwest Iowa

Just 15 minutes south of Ainsworth Beach, another well-loved stretch of Iowa beachline awaits inside the confines of Gull Point State Park, which is nestled along the western shore of West Lake Okoboji. Soft sands are backed up with lush Iowa forest cover, and the lake itself is a popular option for those looking to take to the water onboard a kayak or canoe. Along with its beachfronts, this state park also boasts hiking trails complete with interpretive signage, restrooms, showers, an on-site park lodge and, yes, a well-developed on-site campground. It’s also the host of a Lutheran Bible camp!

Things to do near Gull Point State Park: Because this complex of lakes is such a popular vacation destination for folks in Iowa (and Minnesota, for that matter), the cities in this area are replete with tourist-friendly resources and attractions, including the nearby Arnolds Park amusement park. As always, there are some great nearby RVshare rentals to consider to make your vacation more comfortable and convenient.

3. Emerson Bay State Recreation Area

Emerson Bay State Recreation Area
Image via reserveamerica.com

Yet another beautiful beach in this part of the state (and the last we’ll cover on this list, although these are far from the only three beaches in this area to explore), the beach at Emerson Bay State Recreation Area is another one that’s known for its kid-friendly facilities. Along with its sandy stretch of shore, this beach also features plenty of picnic tables for hanging out or grabbing lunch in between splash sessions, as well as a playground, bathrooms, and an on-site campground. It all takes place right alongside Emerson Bay, a large stretch of the larger West Lake Okoboji, and is also a great place to launch your boat or attempt to reel in some dinner! The lake teems with fresh bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, sunfish, perch, muskie and northern pike.

Things to do near Emerson Bay State Recreation Area: Only a few miles inland from this beach, you’ll find the Cayler Prairie State Preserve, which protects the unique ecosystem characteristic of this part of the state as well as many species of waterfowl and pheasants who live here. As always, check out these local RVshare rentals to make a stylish vacation of it.

4. Big Creek Beach

Big Creek Spillway Polk City, Iowa December 28th 2019

Moving south into the heart of the state of Iowa, beach-goers will find themselves inexorably drawn toward Big Creek Beach at Big Creek State Park, which is nestled along both sides of Big Creek Lake and the Big Creek Spillway. The lake covers a vast 814 acres, but with a mean depth of just over 17 feet (and a maximum depth around 50), it’s a pretty friendly one — and the park’s wide, soft sandy shoreline makes it easily accessible even for the littlest beachgoers. Along with the playground it boasts for very young guests, this park is also well-appointed enough to keep older kids, teenagers, and adults entertained: the lake is a popular site for paddleboarding, canoeing, and even wild-surfing, to say nothing of fishing and sunbathing. Meanwhile, along the shoreline, find a disc golf course and a variety of boat ramps. It’s safe to say you won’t get bored at this vacation super-stop.

Things to do near Big Creek Beach: The fact that this beach is just 30 minutes outside of Des Moines certainly owes to its status as one of the most sought-after getaway destinations in the state, though it would be worth driving much further for. There are many other beautiful state parks in the area to visit, as well, such as Ledges State Park, Rock Creek State Park, and Margo Frankel Woods State Park. Here are some local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to consider for the journey!

5. North Overlook Beach

North Overlook Park in Iowa
Image via recreation.gov

Another important and popular beach getaway for Iowans near Des Moines (and otherwise) is Lake Red Rock, the largest body of water in the state of Iowa, which boasts a variety of beautiful beaches. One of the best along the miles of coastline that surround this 15,000 acre lake? North Overlook Beach, which is nestled on the extreme east side of the northern shore, offers a wide sandy swath perfect for sunbathing, swimming, building sand castles, and all in all just enjoying a gorgeous waterside day. The park the beach is contained in also offers hiking paths, a playground, and a sun dial — a great opportunity to teach the kids how to tell time (or why the sun causes the shadows to move around like that). Or give the education a break and just relax by the water. Either way, it’s gonna be a great day.

Things to do near North Overlook Beach: This beach is mere minutes away from the Bos Landen Golf Course, if someone in your party would rather be looking over a sea of green hills than a stretch of golden sands. Don’t forget to check out the Red Rock Dam that lives just around the corner from the beach along Highway T15, either. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider!

6. Whitebreast Beach

Whitebreast Beach Iowa
Image via recreation.gov

Another beloved Lake Red Rock beach: Whitebreast Beach, which is tucked along a curve of shoreline that separates the largest part of the lake from the place where it’s fed by White Breast Creek. This beach offers a serene and calm shoreline view as well as a nice, broad stretch of sand — there are plenty of places to set down your towel. It’s also known for its showers and wash stations, as well as grills and picnic tables, which makes it easy to spend a whole day along the water with all the conveniences of home. Just be sure you bring plenty of sunscreen!

Things to do near Whitebreast Beach: Nearly visible from the shores of Whitebreast Park lies Elk Rock State Park, another beautiful preserved wilderness along this massive lakeshore. A popular place to set out on the water in a kayak or canoe, Elk Rock State Park also offers more robust forest-covered hiking opportunities for the landlubbers in your crew, as well as a campground. Here are some nearby RVshare rentals to consider.

7. Kent Park Beach

OXFORD, IOWA / UNITED STATES - July 3 2018: Picnic table overlooking meadow in F.W. Kent Park
Along with its beach shoreline, Kent Park also offers exellent green areas for playing games and hanging out with the family.

As epic as some of Iowa’s lakes may be, Kent Park Beach, located inside Kent Park just outside of Iowa City, proves that good things do come in small packages. While there may not be miles and miles of wide, sandy shoreline to walk along pensively, there’s still plenty enough white sand for a fun day in the sun with the family, or just to curl up with your favorite novel and a whole lot of sunscreen. The park also boasts a long and meandering walking and biking trail, and manicured green lawn areas make for the perfect opportunity to play a game of frisbee or hide-and-go-seek. Also, be sure to drop by the Conservation Education Center, where you can learn more about educational and entertaining youth programming available in the park.

Things to do near Kent Park Beach: The bright lights of Iowa City are shining just half an hour away, and given the University of Iowa’s important place in the literary world, this is a great place to hear some incredible readings (or just shop the local bookstores). The nearby Devonian Fossil Gorge gives visitors the opportunity to experience ancient history in real time. Here are some local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to consider.

8. Lake Macbride State Park

Water rushes over the Lake MacBride Waterfall
A beautiful waterfall at Lake Macbride State Park

Another complex of lakes offering miles of beautiful, diverse lakeshore lies just north of Iowa City, and Lake Macbride State Park is the perfect place to call home base while you explore the area. Along with its on-site lodge, RV-friendly campground, boat ramp and boat rentals, this park also boasts one of the most scenic stretches of beach in this area — and true to form, if you visit in the summer, you’re likely to encounter a shoreline well-populated with excited beachgoers and swimmers. Because of its shallow water and very light wake, this lake beach is a perfect place to bring young swimmers just getting their feet wet (literally). There’s even a roped-off area to help you and your kids feel even more safe and secure in the water — plus all the park amenities you need to make a long, comfortable beach day of it.

Things to do near Lake Macbride State Park: Another beach location just half an hour outside of Iowa City, Lake Macbride State Park is surrounded on all sides with equally intriguing nature preserves, like the Macbride Nature Recreation Area to the south and the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area to the west. Meanwhile, there are some excellent RVshare rentals and campgrounds in the area to keep you comfortable during your stay.

9. West Lake Beach

West Lake Beach inside West Lake Park, Iowa
Image via scottcountyiowa.gov

While most of Iowa’s beaches are pretty kid-friendly, thanks in part to the fact that they’re all inland lake and river beaches rather than cantankerous oceansides, West Lake Beach is among the very safest: along with its shallow, tame waters, this beach also boasts a separate swimming area for the youngest visitors, as well as on-duty lifeguards to jump in and help save the day just in case anything does happen. There’s plenty of room along the shoreline to set down your towel and build your favorite sand sculptures, as well as playground equipment and public art to keep things interesting all day long. Larger West Lake Park hosts camping cabins as well as traditional campsites, including big-rig-friendly pull-thrus. Fun fact: although it’s not the biggest in the state, this park actually boasts four lakes, as well as creeks, ponds, and other bodies of water!

Things to do near West Lake Beach: Located just outside of Davenport, this lakesides getaway is within easy reach of all the urban resources and attractions you need. The larger expanse of Wildcat Den State Park is just a few miles away, too; here are some local RVshare rentals to check into.

10. Honey Creek State Park

Honey Creek State Park Beach
Image via reserveamerica.com

Located in the south-central stretches of Iowa along the rugged shoreline of Rathbun Lake, Honey Creek State Park is home to one of the most scenic beaches in the state, complete with a volleyball net, nearby boat rental facility and boat launch, and miles of manicured greenspace along the golden sands of the shore. The beach at Honey Creek State Park is a perfect opportunity for RVers: there’s an on-site campground with full-hookup sites for just $19 per night during peak season. That’s a hard deal to beat by any means!

Things to do near Honey Creek State Park: Located about an hour and a half southeast of Des Moines, Honey Creek State Park is far enough afield that you’ll feel like you’ve gotten away from it all… but also still nearby to smaller cities which boast all of the amenities you need to feel comfortable. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider for your journey!

Planning an RV Trip to Iowa

Planning an RV trip to Iowa to see its beaches — and more? We’ve got everything you need to make for a great trip! Here are the best RV rentals in the state, as well as some of the tip-top campgrounds and state parks to explore with them. We’ve also penned guides to the state’s major cities, just in case you need a break from the great outdoors. (Yeah, we didn’t think so.)

Enjoy your trip!

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