12th Street Beach is uniquely situated in the heart of city and nestled on the northern end of Northerly Island Park just south of Adler Planetarium on Chicago’s Museum Campus. A non-motorized boat launch is available at the beach along with a beach house. Beach goers can find concessions and restrooms at the beach.
Parking lot with pay gate and limited street parking
The following public bus & train routes serve this beach:
CTA Bus Route:
146 Inner Drive/Michigan Exp.
Beach house and restrooms
- Life guard first aid station
Food and beverage
Del Campo Tacos
8 AM - 10:30 PM
12th Street Beach has an accessible beach walk and restrooms.
Please follow the rules while you’re at the beach:
- Swim only when lifeguards are on duty.
- Follow lifeguards’ instructions.
- Only Coast Guard approved flotation devices are permitted.
- No smoking.
- No alcohol.
- No dogs on the beach.
- Do not feed birds or wildlife.
- Dispose of trash and recycling in appropriate containers.
- Grill in designated areas only and dispose of coals in red metal bins.
- Keep accessible beach walks clear. No bicycling, skateboarding or rollerblading is permitted in these areas.
- Access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail for sports such as kayaking, canoeing and other non-motorized board or paddle sports is allowed at 12th Street Beach. For more information, go to the rules page and download information on Lake Michigan water trails.
- Kiteboarding is not permitted at 12th Street Beach; kiteboarding is ONLY permitted at Montrose Beach.
12th Street Beach dates to the 1920s. In 1909, renowned architect Daniel Burnham envisioned a new park composed of several man-made islands between Jackson Park and Grant Park. Northerly Island was the only island that was actually built.
The South Park Commission began creating Northerly Island in 1920. By 1927, nearly the entire island was filled in. The island was later converted into a peninsula.
The Commercial Air Craft Association requested permission to use the island as a temporary landing strip. Shortly thereafter, a group of women’s organizations suggested a public bathing beach instead of a landing field. The commissioners agreed, and created 12th Street Beach.
In 1933 and 1934, Northerly Island and Burnham Park served as the site of Chicago’s second World’s Fair, “A Century of Progress.” In preparation for the fair, the commissioners increased the size of the island even more. The Alder Planetarium opened on the island in time for the fair. It is one of the few structures that remained open after the fair.
By the 1940s, in addition to the public beach, Northerly Island also had paths, walkways, scattered trees and grassy open spaces.
In 1948, a small airport called Meigs Field opened, but this site closed in 1996. The following year, after a new initiative called for the replacement of outdated facilities on the lakefront, the Chicago Park District constructed a new beach house at 12th Street.