In the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast on the Near North Side, Oak Street Beach is one of the city’s best beaches. It’s well equipped with everything you’ll need for a day on the shore, including chair rentals, concessions, bike rentals, volleyball rentals and restroom facilities. All are welcome, and there’s an ADA accessible beach walk. There’s access to the Lakefront Trail via the Oak Street Beach underpass, which is adorned with the “You Know What You Should Do” Jeff Zimmermann mural.
Oak Street Beach History
Oak Street Beach dates back to the late 1800s. One of the city’s oldest parks, Oak Street Beach was park of the Lincoln Park land that was designated for parks from what began as a public cemetery. In 1869, the land began to be managed by the Lincoln Park Commission. Meanwhile, Lincoln Park and Lake Shore Drive suffered from lakeshore erosion damage. In the early 1870s, the commissioners built a breakwater from pilings, planks, stone and brunch at the lake’s edge.
During this time, the Army Corps of Engineers worked to design a seawall between Fullerton and North Avenues to protect the shoreline. Residents here asked the park commission to extend Lake Shore Drive from Oak Street to Ohio Street. Landowners even helped pay for landfill extension and gave up their right to use the water in front of their homes. The result, constructed in the 1890s, include a 50-foot roadway, stone sidewalks, bicycle paths, and, of course, the small sandy Oak Street Beach.
By the turn of the century, Oak Street beach was one the most popular bathing locations, despite its small size. So popular, in fact, that by 1923, the city planned a project to extend Ohio Street Beach to relieve congestion on Oak Street. Over the years, Oak Street Beach has remained one of Chicago’s favorite swimming respite. It’s always a popular place to see and be seen, as well.
Oak Street Beach Details
Located near the Gold Coast and Streeterville neighborhoods at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive, drivers can find limited street parking surrounding the beach. Or, access the park via public transit on the Clark/Division Red Line station or on one of the following CTA bus routes: 22 Clark, 36 Broadway, and 151 Sheridan.
Once you’re here, there’s plenty of amenities for a full day at the beach. The park is equipped with restrooms, WiFi, and has an ADA accessible beach path. For concessions, find Oak Street Food and Drink and Boucher Brothers. Boucher Brothers also offers beach chair and umbrella rental. Really looking to relax? Stop into Coup De Main on the beach for a massage.
There’s no paddle sport access at Oak Street Beach, but it is popular for volleyball over a spectacular view of Chicago. The park hosts an array of amateur and professional volleyball tournaments throughout the summer.
Swimming is permitted during lifeguarded hours, daily from 11am to 7pm. Distance swimming is allowed parallel to the shore from Division Street to the Chess Pavilion to the west of the buoys.
The posh park is also home to a 2011 mural by Jeff Zimmerman called, “You Know What You Should Do.” The artwork is located along a wall parallel to the lakefront trail at the Oak Street Beach underpass. The mural is intended to raise awareness about beach health and water quality, asking the public not to litter. If you’d rather experience the water by the trail, simply take a walk or rent a bike to enjoy the scene.
Oak Street Beach Events
Oak Street Beach is a popular location for beach volleyball, and it hosts several professional and amateur volleyball tournaments throughout the season.