Indiana Dunes Lakeshore
There are things we do every year as a family that my kids look forward to. Heck- I look forward to them as well. But these little events that we love are the ones that are filled with downtime, good food, no alarms set, beach reads and frisbees. Flip flops, 3 days straight in a swimsuit, no make up and no deadlines. You may think i’m describing a trip to the sandy beaches of Florida or a short weekend cruise- but i’m not.
Our weekend of choice, where we return year after year, is the Indiana Dune Lakeshore -Lake Michigan Shoreline. Specifically Chesterton and Valparaiso.
We stay in one of two places depending on their availability and this year we stayed at The Inn at Aberdeen. We have stayed in 3 different rooms there and each one was exactly what we needed: Quiet, clean, roomy, breakfast provided (and man is it a spread!),access to seating outdoors via deck or walk-out patio (because it IS summer and we like to sit outside), AND they each had a very large (and very clean) Jacuzzi tub. Do you remember 3 years ago when that was all Jacob cared about and he literally took 3 baths while we were there? (sorry about that water bill guys…)
The Inn at Aberdeen is our go-to choice for lodging when we are in this area. They just really take care of you there. From the moment you pull up you just get this feeling you are at someones English country garden house. Their landscaping is beautiful…..
The rooms are comfortable, well decorated and clean….
Their breakfast that they serve is incredible. Every day is something new that the chef makes in their huge in-house kitchen. From creme brulee french toast to fresh peach parfaits to breakfast sandwiches- the variety is well thought out. Not to mention you are served in their spacious dining room on china. How many places serve 4-course breakfasts? Not many and I should know- I travel a lot.
AND they use REAL keys!
Some of the things that we enjoyed while in the Chesterton/Valparaiso area:
Eating (of course)
The fantastic and well worth the trip European Market
Beautiful outdoor gardens and hiking opportunities like Taltree Arboretum
Hiking trails (you really need to go to the visitors center or click HERE for more info) and birdwatching
Indiana’s largest living dune sits at over 125 feet over the water. Currently you can climb along one side to the summit, which we did. Parking for the beach here is quite a hike from the water so be prepared and do not over pack. It is an interesting area because one minute you are in the lush woodlands of Northern Indiana then all of the sudden you walk out in the bright, blue-green sight of Lake Michigan.
3 Dune Challenge
We participated in the 3 Dune Challenge this year and in my opinion this is a MUST DO if you are in the area. Get all of the information HERE but suffice it to say this is something the whole family can do- at any age. It is free (with park admission), it is fun and it is challenging. My competitive boys (husband included) wanted to best one another to see who could hike the fastest, and so on. I just let them. They slept like a rock that night.
The 3 Dune Challenge is an adventurous 1.5-mile trail at Indiana Dunes State Park. Starting at the Nature Center, the winding path will take you through breathtaking views and exhausting inclines. At times you’ll be above the forest canopy and able to see for miles.
The hiking challenge is named for the trio of dunes, called The Tremonts, which highlight the trail. Mt. Jackson, Mt. Holden and Mt. Tom are each nearly two hundred feet above lake level.
Once we got there we headed straight to the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center, the mecca of all things related to family activities. We loaded up on information and drove the few minutes to the state park entrance. Here there is a large beach with lifeguards, a bathroom, light concessions, and best of all no hike to the water. When we walked out onto the beach the boys just gasped. What greeted us was clear, cool blue water and white powdery sand. The beach area was incredibly clean and we had no problem finding a place to lay a blanket and have lunch. It does get full so arrive early and plan on staying for the day. Note: floatation devices such as rafts, tubes and noodles are not allowed. Frankly- I don’t think they will need a lot of gear. Plus that is just more to carry. All my kids needed was water and goggles, since they are out of the toting beach toys phase of their lives. They ran straight for the water and incredibly enough, they waded out maybe 20 feet before it even went past their thighs, the water was so shallow. Also, be mindful of where your kids are in the water. The second day we were there is was nothing but lost child announcements. Kinda scary when near water. The large amount of lifeguard and water safety personnel that work there daily is impressive.
Who knew it could be so beautiful. I feel like in the last 10-15 years we have seen more breathtaking sights, in our own backyard, that we didn’t know existed. All because we decided to be a tourist in our own home state. This trip was another one for the record books and just what the doctor ordered. Not over planned and very laid back. I even read one whole trashy magazine while laying on the beach so I count that as a small victory. Plus, we went 2 whole days without a complaint from the kids. Sun, sand, and water, what more do you need?