Monitoring beach waters for human health has led to an increase and evolution of science in the Great Lakes, which includes microbiology, limnology, hydrology, meteorology, epidemiology, and metagenomics, among others. In recent years, concerns over the accuracy of water quality standards at protecting human health have led to a significant interest in understanding the risk associated with water contact in both freshwater and marine environments. Historically, surface waters have been monitored for fecal indicator bacteria (fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, enterococci), but shortcomings of the analytical test (lengthy assay) have resulted in a re-focusing of scientific efforts to improve public health protection. Research has led to the discovery of widespread populations of fecal indicator bacteria present in natural habitats such as soils, beach sand, and stranded algae. Microbial source tracking has been used to identify the source of these bacteria and subsequently assess their impact on human health. As a result of many findings, attempts have been made to improve monitoring efficiency and efficacy with the use of empirical predictive models and molecular rapid tests. All along, beach managers have actively incorporated new findings into their monitoring programs. With the abundance of research conducted and information gained over the last 25 years, “Beach Science” has emerged, and the Great Lakes have been a focal point for much of the ground-breaking work. Here, we review the accumulated research on microbiological water quality of Great Lakes beaches and provide a historic context to the collaborative efforts that have advanced this emerging science.