“We were provided overnight accommodations to facilitate this story. All opinions, photos, and all kinds of other shenanigans are our own.”
Indiana Dunes – The Fun, Affordable & Gorgeous Beach Near You
Ah, beach vacations… Perhaps the most desired type of vacation of them all. Whether it’s because of the summer heat, Mother Nature’s beauty, or because most beaches manage to entertain the young and old, everyone loves a beach family vacation.
But, there’s a kicker. What if you live in the Midwest, which isn’t remotely close to an ocean? Are you’re stuck buying expensive plane tickets for the family, or enduring a 10 to 15 hour drive to the coast? Wrong! There are over 20 miles of sandy beaches waiting for you at the northwest corner of Indiana. And, the Indiana Dunes area isn’t all about the beach, there are also quaint towns to explore, trails to hike and awesome attractions to visit!
That means that if you live in Indianapolis, you can have your feet buried in the sand in less than three hours by road, or two hours if you live in Fort Wayne. No plane tickets required and most of all, no TSA checkpoint!
We recently had the opportunity to do just that, so we packed up a 2016 Toyota Sienna with everything we needed, and even a lot of things we didn’t, and headed north for a relaxing, fun, and nature-filled summer beach vacation.
Even though our journey started on a 4th of July, our drive up to the City of Valparaiso was a breeze. We had never been to the area before, so we were quickly in love with the charming small-town feel of Valparaiso, but nothing could prepare us for the place where we would spend the next three nights. A lovely Bed & Breakfast called ‘The Inn at Aberdeen.’
I don’t know about you, but I’d never stayed at a Bed & Breakfast, so I didn’t exactly know what to expect, which for seasoned travelers like us, is quite a weird feeling.
The Inn at Aberdeen is a beautiful 1850’s home with the kind of look and feel that juts makes you fall in love at first site. The home was remodeled in 1995 to bring it up to date and expand it to its present size. Although the property offers the regular modern amenities, we were pleased to see that the quaint and Victorian feel has remained throughout the property, including its 11 beautiful suites, sun room, dining room, library, and the beautiful garden full of hydrangeas that surrounds the home.
Those hydrangeas though… Aren't they gorgeous?! They at everywhere here at the Inn at Aberdeen. I'm in love!!! We will be staying here for the next few nights. This place is so gorgeous and full of history that I decided to do a Facebook live tomorrow to show you what I'm talking about. Stick around for more details! @indianadunes #indianadunes
Our “Edinburg Suite” featured two 4-post queen beds, and one extra bed they accommodated for one of the kids. The suite also featured a vintage wooden work desk, a small balcony, and a massive bathroom with a full size shower and a two-person Jacuzzi tub, which was a big hit with the kids.
Everyone at the Inn was very friendly and the breakfast was delicious, although we found it a bit weird that you wouldn’t know what to expect for breakfast until it was served. This would be especially weird for picky eaters, kids, or people with allergies. Food requests are welcome, but not guaranteed.
As if our experience wasn’t already incredible, the Inn stocks a sunroom full of snacks, drinks and even cheesecake available at no extra cost. It’s almost like being in your own house but you don’t have to do the cleaning!
“When the owner of the property overheard I loved the hydrangeas around the property, she surprised me with a vase full of them at our bedroom door later that evening. It was the nicest gesture anyone has ever done at any property I’ve ever stayed!”
What is there to say about the beach? It’s beautiful, calm, relaxing, and bathed in sun rays.
The Indian Dunes State Park consists of 2,182 acres of primitive Hoosier terrain, which includes sand dunes that elevate up to 200 feet, marsh, prairies and the main attraction, the Lake Michigan Shoreline.
You can easily access the State Park by taking Highway 30 North from Valparaiso, and it’ll take you straight into the main park entrance. If you’re an Indiana resident, it’ll cost you $8 bucks to get in, a little more for out-of-state residents, or you can do what we do and buy a yearly Indiana State Park pass for $50 dollars.
Life was simple during our visit to the park. We brought a tent, some chairs, yummy food, cold drinks, beach toys, and we were good to go for hours upon hours of fun. Tired of the sun? Jump in the water. Tired of the water? Get some sun, or build a sand castle, or even better, run up a sand dune, it’ll make you realize how out of shape you might be!
Believe it or not, I had never experience the magic that is a drive-in movie theater, and what a better way to claim my first time than at the 49er, just a few miles away from Lake Michigan.
This was a completely foreign concept for me. Starting with having to tune in to the radio to hear the movie, backing up the car, and specially the honking of the horn to let everyone know we’re ready for the movie to start! We had a blast watching ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Independence Day.’
Prices at the 49er in Chesterton, IN start at $5.00 for ages 4 to 11, $10.00 for ages 12 and up, and free for little ones 2 and under. Not necessarily “cheaper” than the regular movie theater, considering it might be too hot during the summer months (and the mosquitos), but definitely something everyone should experience!
Last Day in Paradise
After four days of running all over the place, we started to know the area like we do Indianapolis, so it was time to slow the pace down a bit, enjoy a nice relaxing day, a delicious meal and have a last hoorah.
Our final day at the Indiana Dunes consisted of eating breakfast in bed, firing up the Jacuzzi tub for the kids, and of course, learning more about their spooky resident ghost, and even visiting the Broken Wagon Bison Farm and trying some yummy bison jerky.
— Missi (@LifeisPoppin) July 6, 2016
At evening time, we went for a short bike ride to build a little appetite before heading to Chesterton to dine at Lucrezia. Lucrezia is a charming restaurant with a lovely patio that offers outdoor dining. We showed up around 7:30pm and it was definitely busy, in fact, we were sat at the front porch, as the restaurant is basically a single family home. While most dishes sounded delicious on the menu, we weren’t blown-away with our choices (lamb shank, crab cakes, fettuccini Alfredo) or the prices.
After dinner we headed over to ZAO Island, which is every kid’s dream come true. ZAO Island features a go-kart track, mini-golf, arcade games, bumper carts, batting cages and more. Seriously, we spent over two hours there having a blast!
All in all, we were stoked that after living in Indiana for four years, we had finally visited the Indiana Dunes and we had loved it.
Whether you’re planning a couple’s getaway, a girl’s weekend, or of course, a family beach vacation, the Indiana Dunes is the perfect location. Not only is it close to home, but it won’t break the bank account.
My only question is, when can we go back?