Harrington Beach State Park has seven miles of hiking trails and one mile of Lake Michigan shoreline to explore. Walking the beach along Lake Michigan, hikers can see the remains of a 700-foot pier that was used in the early 1900s for shipping limestone quarried and processed at the park. The old pier is on the point which is the dividing point between the north and south beaches.
Biking is allowed on the shuttle bus route from the Pucket's Pond area to the Ansay Welcome Center as well as the public park roads.
On hot summer days the prime attraction of Harrington Beach State Park is the mile of Lake Michigan shoreline. Visitors enjoy the refreshing lake breezes while picnicking on the groves of trees within walking distance of the lake.
Beautiful views of Lake Michigan are a feature of the point and south picnic areas. These areas and the Puckett’s Pond picnic area by the upper parking lot have reservable shelters. There are also sand volleyball courts available in the park.
On display in the point picnic area overlooking Lake Michigan is the anchor of the freighter Niagara that was consumed by fire just off the shore in 1856, killing as many as 169 people (the purser did not have records of the number of passengers). Scuba divers will want to explore the remains of this wooden steamship, located a few hundred yards offshore in about 80 feet of water.
The bridle trail at Harrington Beach runs one mile through the park. There is no horse camping at Harrington Beach. Horses must remain on the bridle trail and are not allowed to ride off trail or on the beach.
Geocaching is an outdoor sport that requires a GPS device to find a location or a hidden, preferably waterproof container, also known as a cache. HBSP has several caches available for visitors to find. Grab your GPS unit, hike the trails, and find those caches. Keep an eye on the park calendar for upcoming Geocaching classes and events. For more information on geocaching in general, please visit geocaching.com.
There is not a boat launch at the park. Users of small watercraft or floatation devices should be aware of the wind conditions on Lake Michigan. Strong west winds can blow watercraft away from the shoreline. Parents, watch your children at all times. Rubber rafts and other boats require personal floatation devices.
Swimming in Lake Michigan is a sure way to cool off during a hot day. Please use caution. The lake can be dangerously cold, so use good judgment in deciding whether to swim and, if you do, how long to stay in the water. No lifeguards are present.
Swimming and boating are not permitted in Quarry Lake or Puckett's Pond.
Surf fishing for salmon and trout draws visitors to Harrington Beach and Lake Michigan. Anglers will also enjoy fishing from the shore of the 26-acre Quarry Lake and Puckett’s Pond. People can catch trout, crappies, bluegills and other panfish. Quarry Lake and Puckett’s Pond are part of the urban fishing program.
A fishing license and a Great Lakes salmon and inland trout stamp, available at local hardware stores and other outlets, are required for anglers. Fishing licenses are not presently sold at the park office.
A cross-country ski trail runs from the lower parking lot along the shuttle bus trail to the Hardwood Swamp trail and then back east along the service road. A snowmobile trail crosses the western end of the park. Even the park’s Lake Michigan beach remains an attraction in the wintertime, when a fantastic architecture of ice rims the shore.
The Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory was dedicated on July 21, 2007. The observatory has a 20-inch telescope that weighs over 2000 pounds. The telescope is designed to provide an extremely stable platform for instrumentation. The telescope accommodates four foci: two Newtonian, one Cassegrain and one Coude. The telescope is named for its primary benefactors, Alvin and Hilda Panarusky.
A unique feature of the observatory is the roll-off roof design. The roof rolls off of the building on heavy rails, exposing the full sky.
The Northern Cross Science Foundation operates the observatory at Harrington Beach State Park. From this peaceful location, the group is able to pursue a variety of astronomical studies and conduct several educational and outreach programs. Throughout the summer and early fall, the foundation holds several astronomy evenings that are open to the public.