Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Chesterton, Indiana, gushes with so much charm it would be a great place to visit even if it wasn’t three miles from Indiana Dunes National Park.
This northern Indiana city is home to 14,000 people but the population surges during the summer travel season.
You’ll need hiking boots to explore all the beachfront areas and surrounding trail systems.
While most beach cities will ask you to stay off the dunes, Indiana insists that you explore them.
Downtown Chesterton feels like a Hollywood movie with classic facades and welcoming locally owned businesses.
You can even sip a glass of locally made wine while deciding which activity is next on your list.
You can hunt for gnomes ( fake ones, not real – obviously) or explore the weekly European Market (think farmer’s market, but fancier).
There’s also a Upsadaisy Market that is “upcycling” items for sale.
This means products have been recycled and improved for customers.
Chesterton is in an area known as the South Shore of Indiana for its proximity to the shores of Lake Michigan.
You can also drive or take a train to Chicago in 90 minutes.
This is the best of small-town charm, beachfront vibes, and big-city exploration all wrapped up into one area.
Warnings & Dangers in Chesterton
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk in Chesterton. The crime rates are very low and the city has only had one homicide since 2010. There's a lot to do, safe places to stay, and crime risks that are a fraction of the national and state averages.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The South Shore Rail Line goes all the way from Chicago to South Bend and has a stop in Chesterton. There's also easy highway access from here. You can get a taxi or rideshare, which might be a little more of a wait than in bigger cities, but during the summer tourist season, it shouldn't be an issue. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The theft rate here is two and a half times lower than the national average, so there's a low risk. I would warn that the risk is going to be higher during peak travel season with a lot of lines and crowded spaces. You should always protect your wallet or purse, but there's not an overwhelming risk it's going to get taken here.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
An average day is going to be seasonally appropriate. However, you do face increased risks of flash flooding, winter storms, severe thunderstorms, and possibly tornadoes throughout the year. If there's a watch, warning, or advisory, then the risk goes up to medium.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There was just one robbery in 2020. I feel bad for the one person who got robbed because what are the odds, right? There's a low risk it's going to happen to you. Keep in mind that not all surrounding communities are as safe as Chesterton, so this advice only goes as far as the city limits.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of Chesterton being a target of a terrorist. The bigger risk would come with any trip to Chicago, which is a hard target because of its population size.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a warning about elderly people falling victim to scams in Chesterton, but they are targeted by scammers that could hit anywhere. There's a low risk for a tourist, but you should always confirm that someone renting a room or home has a permit to do so. Never send money via wire transfer to reserve a rental home. That's a sure sign of a scam.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe traveling here with a low risk of having anything bad happen. The sexual assault rate is less than half the national average. There are plenty of ways to safely get around and avoid having to walk alone at night.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
American Water provides the tap water here and, according to the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report, there is a low risk in the water. The American Water report is worth reading because you can learn about how water is treated and how you can help keep it safe, even when on vacation.
Safest Places to Visit in Chesterton
Indiana Dunes is the top attraction in this area, but it’s not just as simple as going to the dunes.
There is a state park and a national park.
The national park surrounds the state park.
You can stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on the way to the dunes to determine which one is best for you.
You should consider things like:
- How close do I want to park to the beach?
- How much am I willing to pay for parking?
- How much do I want to walk during this visit?
- Do I want to bring alcohol to the beach?
- Am I going to cook my own food or need a food vendor during my visit?
Each park has pros and cons, and you can walk between the parks, but you’ll need to pick a parking lot.
West Beach has the biggest parking lot right on the water, but it’s far away from the state park and many of the attractions that bring people to the dunes.
Back in Chesterton, you’ve got options to explore as well.
The Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve is open from sun up to sundown every day of the year.
There’s a newly restored and environmentally-friendly boardwalk to take you through.
In the winter you can cross-country ski here.
Fishing, bicycling, hiking, and pets are welcome at the preserve.
Running Vines Winery is located downtown and the winemakers order wine from all over the world and then make the wine fresh here in Chesterton.
Researching restaurants here, I stumbled on a page that claimed to have the “Best Restaurant List in Chesterton.”
Number one was White Castle and McDonald’s made the list twice.
I looked at the travel and tourism page for the city, which as of mid-2022 must be under construction because there’s nothing listed in the Visit Chesterton Eat & Drink section of the website.
However, I’ve got your back on this.
Here are some of the restaurants I researched:
- Octave Grill: Three words – “Bacon Fat Fries”
- Peggy Sue’s Diner: Surround yourself in the 1950s vibe while eating affordable food with generous portions
- 219 Taproom: One of several brew pubs in Chesterton with live entertainment
There’s also the popular Around the Clock Diner – that’s open (wait for it……) from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Places to Avoid in Chesterton
The higher crime rates are around I-90, south of downtown Chesterton.
That is a highly residential area and even the worst crime rates here are some of the safest rates in other cities.
You don’t really have a part of town that is too dangerous to be in.
If the parking lots at the dunes are full when you visit, avoid parking on the roadways or highways leading to them.
You’ll get ticketed and possibly towed if you do.
Some restaurants here don’t take reservations and the lines can get long in the summer, so plan ahead.
Don’t wait until you are famished and risk sitting in a 30-minute waiting line.
If you choose to go to West Beach instead of the other park areas, that’s fine, but you should know ahead of time there is no path to the rest of the national park or state park.
There is an industrial area and a steel plant in between them with no walking path.
You’ll have to re-park at the other parks if you want to see more.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Chesterton
- There’s a crime map and crash map on the police department’s website. This can show you the latest reports of crimes in the area, which is very helpful since crime trends can change quickly. The crash map can show you the most accident-prone parts of the city.
- Before visiting the beach, call the park service and ask about water quality on any given day. That number is (219) 926-1952. There will be signs posted at the beach as well, but isn’t it better to know before you go through the hassle of parking?
- There might be rip current advisories or warnings on the beach. Just because Lake Michigan is a lake doesn’t mean the rip currents are any less dangerous than the ocean. Lake Michigan can have some pretty impressive waves, too, because it’s just so big.
- Even though the tallest dune to “climb” is just 192 feet, don’t write it off as an easy hike. Much of the ground to get up the dunes is sand, and walking in sand is an extra kind of exertion. Be sure to bring bug spray to the dunes as well, because mosquitoes will eat you up. I actually watched a video on the dunes and the person making the video kept getting bitten by mosquitoes.
- You can sign up for alerts for community events, issues, and emergencies through the NotifyMe section of the city website. There are some other categories you can choose as well, like a weekly newsletter of events happening.
- The area where the hotels are located has several train tracks running nearby. People who live in a railroad town get used to the noise, but it can be disruptive for a tourist. There are plenty of apps available to produce white noise that might help drown out the sounds. You can also ask at your hotel check-in for a room away from the tracks.
- You can sign up for Smart911 service in Chesterton and a variety of cities in the nation. I have signed up for it and it’s a great tool if you ever have an emergency. You can add your medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts, and any important information that would pertain to a specific personal emergency situation.
- Sledding is a fun activity in the winter, but you have a limited number of places where it’s legal to do it and you do so at your own risk. West Beach is the only national park that has a sledding hill. The Indiana Dunes State Park has a hill called “Devil’s Slide” that is pretty steep. You might find long lines in the winter, as it’s one of the most popular spots on all of the South Shore.
- Parking is banned on city streets or designated snow routes when more than two inches of snow have accumulated. This is so the snow plows can get through. You don’t want to risk getting sideswiped by a snowplow, so park in a lot if there’s any snow in the forecast.
- Lake Michigan produces a really cool-looking ice shelf each winter. It’s tempting to walk out on it but don’t. This is dangerous and, no matter how cold it is, there could still be spots where the ice is thin. If you fall through, there’s a risk of not being found in time.
So... How Safe Is Chesterton Really?
Chesterton is very safe.
Violent crime and property crime are just a fraction of the state and national levels.
This is also somewhat of a tourist town, so it’s in the best interest of the community, police, and city leaders to keep it that way.
Even things like dogs being on the loose make the police department’s Facebook page.
The hard part about visiting the South Shore area is that there are many safe cities, but also some very dangerous ones.
It’s important to research every city you plan to visit and we’ve got an in-depth look at them on this website.
In some cases, the sand’s most dangerous areas can be just a few miles apart.
Here’s how the risks come out based on the crime numbers vs. population:
- Violent crime: 1 in 749 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 14,241 risk
- Theft: 1 in 206 risk
You still need to lock doors and roll-up windows when you park.
You still should use caution when you are out at night.
Basic safety steps are going to go a long way here.
How Does Chesterton Compare?
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- Visas - The visa process to visit the United States takes about four months, so start planning early. Once you've passed through Customs at the airport, you won't need a visa until you return home, so store it in a safe place.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency allowed here. Credit cards are widely accepted and you can buy things like a parking pass for the parks and a fishing license online ahead of time.
- Weather - The winters can be amazing or brutal, depending on how you feel about cold weather and snow. You should pack plenty of warm layers. This isn't a place to visit in the winter with cheap sweaters and gloves. You need thick, waterproof attire. Summers will be warm but still might have a chill in the air at night or in the morning. Bringing a few sweatshirts isn't a bad idea.
- Airports - The Chicago area airports are less than two hours away and you can get just about anywhere from them. There's also a train that can take you to Chicago, so you won't have to do the drive. South Bend International Airport is about an hour east.
- Travel Insurance - It's a good idea to explore a variety of travel insurance options to see which one fits a trip to a place with outdoor adventures and risks with extreme weather possible throughout the year.
Chesterton Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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