Montrose Beach truly has something for everyone, any age, across a myriad of interests and hobbies. It is a great free or inexpensive Chicago destination, and has some unique features compared to other Chicago beaches. In addition to offering a ton of activities, the area is beautiful. You can also find some free parking, such as on Montrose Harbor Drive, Montrose Avenue, Wilson Avenue, and Marine Drive.
11 great features of Montrose Beach
Beach hours are 6am to 11pm, but lifeguards are present from 11am to 7pm from the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day. The waters at Montrose Beach offer safety for even the youngest swimmers, thanks to a shallow area and lifeguards. The Montrose Beach area is host to events such as 5Ks and festivals, so check before planning a weekend trip.
Here are the features of Montrose Beach:
- Seasonal long swimming, from north of the boathouse at Tower 4 and parallel to shore
- Bird sanctuary in walking distance
- Sand volleyball
- Jet ski rental from 10am to 7pm
- Seasonal bar and restaurant with live music
- Free off-leash dog beach, Chicago DFA tag required
- Cycling and jogging on trail
- Accessible, with accessible-only free parking lot and a path to the shoreline
- Access to Lake Michigan water trail for sports such as kayaking, stand up paddle boards, canoeing, and other non-motorized board or paddle sports
Montrose Beach, Chicago kiteboarding
Montrose Beach is the only launch location permitted for Chicago Kiteboarding. In order to kite here, you must be PASA or IKO Level II (Intermediate) Certified. The park district does not allow kiteboarding teaching here. However, the this portion of the lake supports beginner riders, as well as intermediate and expert. Chicago winds can be unpredictable. Good conditions for this location are N, NW, NE, ENE, and SE winds at 10-20 knots. Find wind directions, forecast, and other Chicago kiteboarding details on Kite Forum’s Montrose Beach page. Kiteboarders must use attached Kite Safety Leashes and abide by the 100-foot safety zone from occupied beaches, piers and other shoreline areas while riding.
Chicago kiteboarding lessons
If you cannot learn kiteboarding at Montrose Beach, are there Chicago kiteboarding lessons? The two closest locations offering lessons are Stoke Riders in St. Joseph, MI and Wind Power Windsurfing and Kiting Center in Fond du Lac, WI. Wind Power’s website hasn’t been updated since before the pandemic, so I recommend calling for information on lessons.
Unique to Montrose Beach
In addition to kiteboarding, other features that set Montrose Beach apart are as follows.
The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary and adjacent Dunes natural area is internationally recognized for birding. Over 300 species of birds are on record for the area, most of them migratory. The Chicago Park District gives the area a lot of care. They added a butterfly area in 2017. Plans for 2022 include restoring areas that have been trampled from visitors going off-trail.
Dunes Natural Area
The Montrose Beach Dunes Natural Area may not be what you envision when you hear “dunes”. This area is exceptional nonetheless. Not only is it part of what attracts so many migratory birds to the area, but it is seasonal home to several endangered plant species and the federally endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover.
The dog beach at the northwest corner of Montrose Beach is open during the regular Chicago Park District hours of 6am to 11pm. Benefits include a great view, a dog wash area, and a handicap accessible ramp gets you right there.