No matter your feelings on city life, we can all appreciate a quiet moment with nature in the heart of the city. You can find one of the most sublime retreats into nature at Chicago’s South Shore Nature Sanctuary. Maintained by the Chicago Park District, the South Shore Nature Sanctuary is six acres of dunes, wetlands, woodlands, and prairies within South Shore Beach Park.
This small nature preserve sits peacefully on the shores of Lake Michigan, home to a short boardwalk and some magnificent views of the lake and the skyline. It is a great location for a short walk in the city or to make part of a larger day in the community. There are two rest areas within the nature sanctuary if you want to bring a picnic.
The nature sanctuary is one of more than 50 natural areas found across Chicago parks. The Park District has committed to protecting and expanding these natural areas to allow residents richer experiences with the nature around us, to provide habitat, and to preserve some of the landscapes that existed in our region before European settlement. The nature sanctuary is also one of the city’s best locations to spy an amazing array of migrating bird life. Our location along the shores of Lake Michigan makes Chicago an important intersection for birds as they make seasonal migrations along the Mississippi region and across the Great Lakes. Spots of green along the lake here or at places like Montrose Point are just beckoning to them!
The South Shore Nature Sanctuary is located behind the Cultural Center (7059 S South Shore Drive). Both are accessible from the Metra Electric South Shore stop or the 6 and 71 buses. It also sits at the southern end of the Lakefront Trail (details below)! Parking is available on site.
Activities and Amenities
In addition to the nature sanctuary, you can make use of some of the other features within South Shore Beach Park.
- Hit the Beach: Shore South Beach is adjacent to the nature sanctuary and the cultural center. During beach season, it is open daily from 11am-7pm. Swimming is allowed and the beach house is located just to the east of the Cultural Center along the beach.
- Birding: Birds nest to the nature sanctuary year-round and if you are interested, you can contribute to a community bird count. Be sure to bring a camera or binoculars because you won’t want to miss the colors!
- Photography: The landscapes and vistas here offer some great perspectives of Chicago. If you’re a photographer or just an avid Instagrammer, bring your camera or phone and share what you find at the nature sanctuary! Tag your Instagram posts with #DiscoverYourPlace to be featured on our stream and please share with us the highlights from your adventure.
- South Shore Cultural Center: Considered to be the jewel of the neighborhood, this facility features a solarium, formal dining hall, Paul Robeson Theater, Washburne Culinary Institute, the Parrot Cage Restaurant, and the Dr. Margaret Burroughs gallery.
- South Shore Golf Course: the park is also home to a nine-hole public golf course. Home to some phenomenal mature trees, South Shore Golf Course is certified as Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International.
Make a Day of It!
- DuSable Museum: The DuSable Museum of African American History is dedicated to the Collection, Documentation, Preservation, Study and Dissemination of the History and Culture of Africans and Americans of African Descent. One of Chicago’s finest museums, this makes a great addition to a day on the south side.
- Lakefront Trail: Stretching from South Shore to Edgewater, Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile stretch public open space showcasing one of the city’s absolute treasures, Lake Michigan. If you’re planning out distance, the nature sanctuary is at 7100 South, but definitely consider the trip!
- Jackson Park: Take a trip through the historic Jackson Park! Designed by landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead, the 500-acre Jackson Park was home to the 1893 World’s Fair and today holds a variety of landscaping features worth exploring. Hint: Be sure to check out the Garden of the Phoenix.
- Lake Michigan Water Trail: The Illinois section of the Lake Michigan Water Trail stretches 68 miles from the Indiana border, at Calumet Park on the south side of Chicago, to the Wisconsin border, north of Winthrop Harbor in Lake County. There are numerous places to launch from on the South Side including 63rd Street Beach and Jackson Park Harbor.