More Than Swimming: Lake Fun in Lake County

In Lake County we are lucky to have 75 lakes and 25 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, in addition to countless ponds, streams, and the Fox River. Born and raised in Lake County, I spent my summers on the water: fishing, boating, exploring, playing on the beach, tubing, and water skiing.

With so many activities and places to visit, it is hard to know where to start! We’ve put together some highlights for lake fun in Lake County.

lake fun in lake countyLake Fun in Lake County

Lake County Beaches

My kids love the beach, but not for swimming–they’d rather swim in the pool. For them, the beach is all about getting dirty, building sand castles, nature exploration, and digging for treasures. When we go to Illinois Beach State Park they love to climb on the rocks, too. If you go there, I’d suggest bringing rugged water shoes if your kids will want to explore off the sand-beach area.

Illinois Beach State Park
1 Lakefront Dr., Zion

  • Free
  • Picnic areas and grills off the beach
  • Restrooms
  • 6.5 miles of shoreline, including picturesque dunes
  • Trails
  • Camping
  • 4,000+ acres
L. Thomas | | 2015
©L. Thomas | | 2015

Jones Island Beach
243 Harvey Ave., Grayslake

  • Free
  • Playground
  • Picnic pavilions
  • Boat ramp
  • Sand volleyball courts
  • Fishing channels
  • No bathrooms
Diamond lake beach
© T. Rubel | Little Lake | 2015

Diamond Lake Beach
1016 Diamond Lake Rd, Mundelein

  • Daily admission or annual pass
  • Playground
  • Shade umbrellas
  • Inflatable obstacle course
  • Special events throughout the summer
  • Restrooms
Independence Grove, Libertyville
Photo Source Lake County Forest Preserves Website

Independence Grove
16400 W. Buckley Rd., Libertyville

  • Restrooms, showers, and lockers
  • Daily admission fee or annual pass
  • Cafe
  • Special events throughout the summer
  • Playground and real stone climbing wall
  • Lifegaurd on duty during beach hours
  • Trails throughout the 1,151 acre park
  • Marina with boat rentals
fishing in Lake County
© M. Haak | Little Lake | 2016

Fishing in Lake County

First and foremost–adults fishing on public lakes, rivers, and properties must obtain a fishing license from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. While children under age 16 are not required to have one, the adult supervising them must. If you’re new to fishing, the Illinois DNR has an informative page set up to get you started. Lake County Forest Preserves have put together a thorough printable guide with information, and maps to help get you started.

The Marina at Independence Grove
16400 W. Buckley Rd., Libertyville
The Marina at Independence Grove is your one-stop shop for novice fisherman. Rent a small watercraft, obtain a fishing license, and buy your bait here.

Fishing with Kids in Lake County

Lake County Forest Preserves Fishing Camp
900 W. Belvidere Rd., Round Lake
Equipment is provided at Nippesink Lake.

CJ Smith Resort
25315 W. Grass Lake Rd., Antioch
This place is a classic–straight out of Grumpy Old Men. Locals have been fishing here for 86 years.  Boat rentals, bait and tackle shop, fishing licenses, boat launch, shore fishing, boat launch, snacks, and knowledgeable regulars are all on location.

If you’re new to fishing, try one of the Lake County Fishing events for kids. It’s a great way to try it out and learn more.

© H. Garvey | Little Lake | 2016
© H. Garvey | Little Lake | 2016

Small Watercraft in Lake County

Destinations to bring your own small watercraft are plentiful in Lake County, including select locations in our Lake County Forest Preserves with ramp access, and throughout Chain O’ Lakes State Park. Renting for a day can be a great way to experience our lakes and see the beauty of our natural areas.

Independence Grove, Libertyville
Photo Source Lake County Forest Preserves Website

The Marina at Independence Grove
16400 West Buckley Rd., Libertyville
Rent a pontoon, fishing boat, kayak, stand-up paddle board, or pedal boat on the 115-acre lake with a sand swimming beach.

Gill’s (Chain O’ Lakes State Park)
8916 Wilmont Rd., Spring Grove
Rent canoes, row boats, or paddle boats on the Fox River at the park’s bait, tackle, and camp store. Sign up for a guided canoe trip here, too!

Waukegan Harbor
Photo Source Waukegan Harbor on Facebook

Best Lake Views in Lake County

Sometimes you can’t get out on the water, but you still want to take in the view. Go for a walk in one of our parks, or check out the boats. Dine by the water! Check out our 2015 article on Dock-and-Dine Restaurants.
Waukegan Harbor
55 N. Harbor Place., Waukegan
If getting out on the water isn’t your thing but you’d like a nautical experience, Waukegan Harbor is the place for you! Little ones will be in awe of the rows and rows of big boats and sail boats. Take a stroll along the lake front and watch the boats come and go.


What are your family’s favorite lake activities? What lakes do you visit in Lake County?

About Holly Garvey 78 Articles
Stay-at-home mom who works! On again/off again work in family real estate business, babysitter, dog rescue and historical society volunteer all while chasing my new-found dream to be a writer.I live in Antioch with my husband, Jake, and kids, Cecilia (5) and Mark (3), and our dog Isabella. I'm an aspiring vegan (I cheat a lot), Jazzercise addict and runner. As a family, we love to travel and spend time outdoors. I love to go antique shopping and garage sale-ing, cook, and read in my (rare) free time.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.