Top 10 Beaches in Minnesota

Published on July 22nd, 2021

What are the Most Popular Beaches in Minnesota?

Think states are far north as Minnesota don’t have anything to offer in the way of beach days? Think again. Minnesota is called the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a reason, after all — and given the state’s actual count of 11,842 lakes, there are nearly endless opportunities for days with sand, sun, and waves.

Top Beaches in Minnesota

1. Zippel Bay State Park

2. Lake Itasca State Park

3. Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area

4. Park Point Beach

5. Father Hennepin State Park

6. Square Lake Park Beach

7. Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach

8. Lake Harriet South Beach

9. Lake Nokomis Beach

10. Fort Snelling State Park Beach

Minnesota Beaches

While we can’t list all of Minnesota’s 10,000+ lakes, we can list these top 10 most beautiful and popular beaches to explore!

1. Zippel Bay State Park

Zippel Bay is a state park in far north Minnesota on the Canadian Border and Lake of the Woods

Tucked just about as far northeast as Minnesota gets, along the place where the international Lake of the Woods presses into Minnesota in the shape of Zippel Bay, Zippel Bay State Park offers a one-of-a-kind Minnesota lake beachfront on which, if you squint especially hard, you can actually see Canada out across the water, waiting on the other side. (Okay, you might have to use your imagination, but we swear it’s there!) The sandy shoreline is two miles long and scenically strewn with driftwood, with picnic tables available for those looking to enjoy their lunch or dinner with a view. Along with the beach, the park also offers hiking trails that double as cross-country skiing trails in the winter, and on-site campgrounds and marinas make it easy to extend your stay.

Things to do near Zippel Bay State Park: Want to see this lake from a different perspective? If you’re brave enough to come in the wintertime, when it’s frozen over, nearby outfitters offer “ice-o-miniums” for ice fishing that double as comfortable sleeping quarters — at least, as comfortable as you can get while perched on a frozen lake. If you’d rather stay on solid ground, check out these local RVshare rentals.

2. Lake Itasca State Park

LAKE ITASCA, MINNESOTA, USA - AUGUST 15: Lake Itasca and the source of the Mississippi River on August 15, 2013 in Itasca State Park, Northern Minnesota, USA.

Make no mistake: Minnesota has a great multiplicity of inland lakes, and they all have their special features and attractions. But Lake Itasca State Park is a truly unique and special place: this green space preserves the headwaters of none other than the mighty Mississippi River, and is also the oldest state park in the entire state of Minnesota. Despite the ferocity of the river it becomes, Lake Itasca itself is actually one of the best beachsides for those traveling with small children and not-so-strong swimmers; its shallow waters and soft sands are friendly for little feet and only come up to an adult’s ankles, a nearby playground has been installed for when the kids grow sick of splish-splashing. (If they do.)

Things to do near Lake Itasca State Park: Lake Itasca is situated in the midst of a variety of worthy wildernesses, many of which feature their own lakeside beaches. High on our list of places to check out: Two Inlets State Forest, Paul Bunyan State Forest, and Long Lake Park & Campground. Here are some local RVshare rentals to string together a whole trip of it with!

3. Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area

Cliff erosion on the shore of Lake Superior at Iona's Beach near Two Harbors, Minnesota, after a rainfall

Also known by locals as plain old Iona’s Beach, Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural (SNA) area is more than just a scenic Lake Superior waterside: it’s one of the least-disturbed beaches in the entire state of Minnesota and even the Great Lakes region as a whole, and is characterized by its unique shoreline of singing pebbles rather than grains of sand. (And yes, we do mean it when we say “singing;” these pink rhyolite and felsite bedrock stones rise with the wave and then fall together rhythmically with an iconic chiming sound, all while the ocean continually pummels and shapes the nearby grey basalt headland rocks.) This beach may not have a tropical getaway feel, but it’s a one-of-a-kind and wholly Minnesota experience you and your family won’t want to miss!

Things to do near Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area: Tucked right between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Gooseberry Falls State Park, Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area is truly surrounded by spots worth exploring — and it’s also only an hour away from Duluth. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider for your journey, and great nearby campgrounds to take them to!

4. Park Point Beach

Park Point is a six mile long White Sand Beach in Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior

We love an urban beach — and while we’ll get to a few of the many beachfronts available in Minneapolis and St. Paul in just a minute, first we wanted to stop by the Lake Michigan city of Duluth to visit Park Point Beach. Situated on a narrow spit of land that extends into the lake from the city, ending just shy of the Wisconsin border, this beach and recreation area offers both sandy beachfront and forested hiking trails, and at 6 miles long is one of the most ample shorelines in the state. The endless Great Lake views will make you feel like you’ve traveled to an oceanside, and you’ll be able to see both Minnesota and Wisconsin mainlands from the park, depending on exact where you are. This area is also home to the Minnesota Point Pine Forest Scientific and Natural Area (or SNA), this unique landscape is both beautiful to visit and ecologically fascinating.

Things to do near Park Point Beach: All of the must-sees in Duluth lie just minutes away, including the North Shore Scenic Railroad and the Great Lakes Aquarium. And the Wisconsin town of Superior has its own exciting things to explore, including the large and surprisingly wild Superior Municipal Forest. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider for the journey, and some great nearby campgrounds.

5. Father Hennepin State Park

Father Hennepin State Park beach
Image via millelacs.com

Covering more than 132,000 acres, Mille Lacs Lake is one of the largest in Minnesota — and is surrounded on all sides by preserved natural areas, wildlife preserves and state parks that exhibit the local flora and fauna. One of the best beachesides of this massive lake lies within Father Hennepin State Park, which is nestled onto its southeastern corner. The sandy shoreline is fairly small, but pristine and untouched, and although there are no lifeguards on duty, the water is clean and inviting. Vault toilets are available nearby, as are picnic areas, but generally, this park offers less in the way of developed amenities and more in the way of rugged, natural beauty. Either way, given its location just a couple of hours north of the Twin Cities, it’s a great place to make a getaway that’s a bit off the beaten path.

Things to do near Father Hennepin State Park: Other wildernesses worth checking out in the area include Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, the Mille Lacs State Wildlife Management Area, and Snake Creek River — just to name a very few. Here are some local RVshare rentals so you can have your own private getaway bungalow on wheels for the adventure!

6. Square Lake Park Beach

Square Lake Park Beach minnesota
Image via co.washington.mn.us

If you ask us, it’s really more of an elongated oval… but either way, Square Lake offers an incredible beachside at Square Lake Park, with soft, golden sands, a clean and well-maintained bathhouse, lush forests and well-manicured lawns backing up the shoreline, and more. This beach, which is within an easy drive of Minneapolis for city-dwellers looking to get away from it all, is another excellent option for those with small children along for the journey; its powdery sands are free of sharp pebbles that can lead to wailing toddlers, and the clean, calm waters are patrolled by on-duty lifeguards just in case anything does go awry, heaven forbid.

Things to do near Square Lake Park Beach: Just three quarters of an hour from Minneapolis and just over the St. Croix River from Wisconsin, Square Lake Park Beach is conveniently located to urban areas while still being surrounded by lots of wilderness greenery. Check out nearby Pine Point Regional Park for more lakeside views, and check out these local RVshare rentals and campgrounds.

7. Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach

Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach
Image via minneapolisparks.org

Its name might be a mouthful, but the draw to this beach is both simple and strong: this sandy shoreline lies right under the towering skyline of Minneapolis, offering an urban beach adventure that feels like a getaway without requiring you to, well, get away very far. Once known as Lake Calhoun Beach, this is one of three beachfront access points along what was once named Lake Calhoun, which has since been changed back to its original Dakota name of Bde Maka Ska, which translates to White Earth Lake.  Neary outfitters rent bicycles to ride around the lake’s perimeter as well as pedal boats, paddle boards, and other vessels to take to its (small) waves. Either way, it’s a great spot for city dwellers to head for a fun afternoon in the sun.

Things to do near Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach: Tucked into the southwestern quadrant of Minneapolis, this lake beach is close to must-see city cultural attractions like the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the SooLOCAL Art Gallery. Here are some nearby RVshare rentals and campgrounds to consider for your stay!

8. Lake Harriet South Beach

Lake Harriet South Beach
Image via minneapolisparks.org

Lake Harriet is another long-standing Twin Cities destination favorite. While the lake has two easily-accessible beachfronts to choose from — South Beach, our pick, and the equally creatively named North Beach — we think the southerly choice stands out for its soft sands and, ironically, its relative lack of development. While North Beach is backed up by a massive green space including a bird sanctuary, a cemetery, and more, South Beach is quieter, calmer, and offers a roped-off area for young children just getting used to the water. Lifeguards are also on duty to keep worried parents feeling extra well supported.

Things to do near Lake Harriet South Beach: Only 14 driving minutes from downtown Minneapolis, and only 30 from downtown St. Paul, Lake Harriet South Beach is easily accessible to a wide range of those who call the Twin Cities home, whether permanently or just as part of a camping trip. Speaking of which, here are our best picks for local RV parks, and some nearby RVshare rentals to take to them!

9. Lake Nokomis Beach

Wide shot of beautiful lake nokomis in the summer time.

Yet another beloved Minneapolis urban beach option, Lake Nokomis Beach is a comfortable and inviting shorefront, offering a wide swath of soft sand perfect for laying a towel down and also a nearby restraunt, as well as restrooms with showers and changing areas. The larger Lake Nokomis Park is a popular option for Minneapolis residents looking to get in their daily steps or go for a quick scenic cycle, and during warm summer days, the beach is nearly always populated by families, couples, and solo beach-goers looking to cool off, calm down, and enjoy the natural surroundings of this part of Minnesota.

Things to do near Lake Nokomis Beach: At the north end of the lake, the Lake Nokomis Community Center offers a playground and a variety of community activities to help draw people together, offering everything from arts and crafts to cooking to gentle exercise classes. Here are the best local RVshare rentals and campgrounds to choose from for your vacation.

10. Fort Snelling State Park Beach

Fort Snelling State Park Confluence

A beautiful and sweeping green space preserved just next to the busy airport, Fort Snelling State Park has a whole lot to offer, not the least of which is its sandy lake beachfront where you can lie back and watch the bellies of the planes as they take off and land. The Minnesota River also runs through the park, making it a great place for those looking to take a long, ambling riverside walk or bike ride. The beach, which is located along Snelling Lake, has nearby restrooms and also access to the aptly named Picnic Island, which would be a great place to spread out a blanket and a spread.

Things to do near Fort Snelling State Park: It’s not every city that can boast gorgeous greenways just a mile or so from an attraction as urban as the Mall of America — but that’s Minneapolis for you. Want to stay and explore a while? Check out these local RVshare rentals and campgrounds.

Planning an RV Trip to Minnesota

As beautiful and bountiful as its beaches are, they’re just one of the many reasons to visit Minnesota — and organizing an RV trip is the perfect way to see it all! We’ve got the comfy-coziest peer-to-peer RV rentals in the state available, as well as guides to the best state parks and campgrounds to see and stay in with them. Additionally, we’ve written guides to Minneapolis and St. Paul, so you’ll never run out of things to do whether you’re going urban or rural.

Enjoy your trip!

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