When you think of our State of Missouri, beaches probably aren't the first thing you think of. Missouri and beaches aren't intuitively connected. I'd tell you to think again, but after seeing Trip Advisor's list of "The 5 Best Missouri Beaches" I'm not so sure it's a bad thing Missouri and beaches aren't intuitively connected.

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Missouri does have beaches and there's no shortage of articles on them. Yet, getting a definitive number of beaches Missouri has is rather difficult. I couldn't find a definitive source for the total number of Missouri beaches online, and even posing the question to ChatGPT didn't give me a number.

ChatGPT told me that since Missouri's beaches are man-made, the number and availability of beaches in our state may vary. That reasoning makes sense to me, although I can't verify it.

I can tell you there are currently 18 beaches in Missouri State Parks. Not to mention beaches in Columbia, Jackson County, Rolla, and Creve Coeur, operated by others.

So what beaches are the best in Missouri? I thought Trip Advisor's "The 5 Best Missouri Beaches" might shed some light on beaches that are must-visit. I may have thought wrong.

Moonshine Beach

Branson.com says there are plenty of beaches and swimming areas at resorts and campgrounds near Table Rock Lake, however, Moonshine Beach is large and gives people who visit it an ocean-like beachfront experience. The cost to use Moonshine Beach is nominal, $5, and the beach is open from 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM CDT. Moonshine Beach is also the only public sand beach on the lake.

The bad news, Moonshine Beach is listed as indefinitely closed on the Branson.com website. An article in the Pea Ridge Times said the beach had been closed because of E. coli and high water. If you're looking to visit Moonshine Beach, you might want to check with The Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau first to make sure it's open.

Regardless, I can see why it topped Trip Advisor's list. It certainly was the best beach on their list.

Fugitive Beach 

Fugitive Beach in Rolla has been captivating those who visit it since 2014. They have a variety of attractions suitable for all ages including a beach, slides, cliff jumps, and more. Admission is $15 per adult, $13 for kids, first responders, and military personnel. The beach is open daily 10 AM - 6 PM CDT through August 13, then weekends through Labor Day.

Trip Advisor's user reviews varied on how much people liked the beach, or how good it actually is, however, families and folks with kids seemed to like it and have a good time. From the reviews I checked out, water shoes seem to be a good idea, since it's a rocky place with cliffs.

Smithville Lake

Smithville Lake in Clay County is about 20 miles from downtown Kansas City and is a 7,200-acre lake overseen by the Clay County Park Department. Smithville Lake contains two beaches for swimming, as well as facilities for camping, reservable shelters, 2 marinas with boat rentals, a dockside restaurant, trails for biking and walking, and more. The daily entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.

Users who reviewed Smithville Lake on Trip Advisor had very favorable things to say about Smithville Lake, especially when it comes to camping, outdoor activities, and picnics. That said, there was not a lot of information on swimming or the beaches.

Van Buren Riverfront Park

Van Buren Riverfront Park is a small park managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation and The City of Van Buren. Frankly, from the pictures I saw it wasn't very impressive. I'm not even sure there is an actual beach. There were a couple of Trip Advisor reviews that spoke favorably of swimming in the Current River here, and many liked the tranquility of the area.

Shady Beach

Shady Beach is a campground and beach in St. Clair on the Meramec River and they offer daily beach use and camping. Trip Advisor's reviews are mixed, with two or three reviews mentioning some customer service problems, however, reviews about the campground and swimming, and having fun in the river are generally favorable

Shady Beach's Facebook page talked about new owners last year, so perhaps whatever issues some had with their experiences there have been solved. I couldn't find a website associated with the business.

My Takeaway

If these are the Top 5 beaches in Missouri, I'm not impressed. The most impressive beach on the list may or may not be open. Van Buren Riverfront Park may not really even be a beach. Of course, Trip Advisor may have erred in choosing their Top 5 beaches. Or perhaps, I'm expecting too much from Missouri's beaches.

If I have one key takeaway for you, I'd look beyond one travel review site to figure out what beach is going to be the perfect place for you and your family to visit. Perhaps you could try these other best-of lists:

15 Best Beaches Near St. Louis

14 Top Rated Beaches in Missouri 

Best Beaches in Missouri 

10 Best Family Beaches In Missouri 

This Cabin On The Meramec River in Missouri Is The Perfect Escape

Sometimes when you want to escape it all, a getaway is the perfect medicine. This cabin on The Meramec River is perfect if you want to swim, canoe, kayak, or check out the area's wineries, and Steelville's quaint main street. Check out the pictures and learn more about how this cabin can help you and your family relax and rejuvenate. The cabin is offered on Vrbo by Property Manager Susan Bunch.

Enjoy Missouri's Nature When You Stay In This '70s Era Tour Bus

Looking to get away and do some hiking? Or swimming in a crystal clear stream? Or if you just want to pretend you're a rock star on tour in the 1970s. You'll enjoy a stay in this restored 1973 MCI bus called The Silver Bullet which includes a great deck with a hot tub and mirrors on the ceiling. You are responsible for the pink champagne.

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