The Lake Isn’t the Only One Sparkling: Explore Hidden Gems in the Village This Summer

April 17, 2024

It’s April. Summer is the nearest it’s been all year. Soon the lake will be warm enough for a dip (or maybe a few brave souls have already plunged?!) and the days will be long enough for swimming, paddling, gardening, the farmer’s market, al fresco dinners, taking a walk without a jacket, wearing flip flops, plus additional daylight for lounging beside the water while diving into the beach reads we’ve collected during the long winter. Growing up in Elkhart Lake, the anticipation of summer was always something everyone could feel beneath their skin. The village and its people live for the summertime excitement that brews inside of everyone knowing that memories will be made on the water and in town.

As a small town Wisconsonite who remembers the joy of jumping into the water and listening to the wind blow through the trees every summer once school let out, my advice to anyone who visits the village this summer is this – listen to the lake. What do I mean by that? Pay attention to depth – the sights, sounds, and aromas of the local village, as well as the stories of the local people. Let the layers of the lake and the community seep into you. Take notice of how the water changes color depending on the time of day and the weather. (That is an activity in and of itself if you can believe it.) Take a walk with the only goal being the chance to smell the hydrangeas in bloom.

Here are a few hidden gem experiences your family can enjoy within the village. Between the local cuisine, art, nature and history, there are lots of ways to enjoy the laid-back way of life.

How to take in views of the lake:

Is the lake blue or is it green? I’ll let you decide after you skim across the surface with a paddle board or kayak! While motorboats get a lot of credit as being the most exciting way to experience the lake, I actually prefer to kayak or paddle board when I get the chance. Reason being, you can be closer to the water and move more slowly across the surface. You can also access shallow areas more safely. This gives you a great opportunity to experience the lake’s wildlife more intimately. If you make it to Turtle Bay to see the lily pads, be sure to approach them with care as not to uproot them with your paddle. They are a beloved and protected species in Wisconsin and a rather enchanting sight, especially when in bloom.

Paddleboard Through Turtle Bay

If you are interested in experiencing a fuel-powered watercraft, the sunrise and sunset pontoon cruises offered at the Osthoff Resort are an excellent option to enjoy the lake during calm hours of day. It’s a great way to cruise around the perimeter of the water. Cruises are open to the public and take the stress out of having to operate a boat on your own. Sheboatin’ is slightly newer on the scene here providing a pedal-operated pontoon experience. They can accommodate groups up to ten.

No matter how you choose to venture onto the water, remember that Sundays are a no-wake day (only electric motors or human powered boats are allowed). Swimmers should stay inside the buoys and paddlers should proceed past the buoys with caution all other days of the week. It’s a good idea to read the full list of lake and boating regulations before you head out on the water here:

How to take in views of the land:

In other places you may need to be an expert golfer or at least dress the part of an expert to enter the clubhouse. Not at Quit Qui Oc Golf Course. They even have a deal on Tuesday evenings where after 5:30 p.m. you can play “The Loop” (the first five holes of the course) for less than ten dollars. I am far from a pro and find the course to be a welcoming place to enjoy the rolling hills and trees that turn electric green in early summer.

If you are more interested in simply walking instead of swinging a club, the Ice Age Trail should not be missed. It’s an impressive trail system through the state forest that provides an excellent peek into the glacially carved terrain that the village is nestled within. I’m a fan of the Greenbush section (see map here). Pro tip – get your heart pumping on the trail and then head back to the beach to cool off in the lake. (Depending on the time of year you venture into the forest, it’s a good idea to bring insect repellent or wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.)

June Vollrath Park

June Vollrath Park is another option where you can wander beneath Wisconsin’s beautiful tree canopies. The trails behind the baseball fields feel like a little hidden jungle, are often quiet, and a very short drive (or a doable walk or bike ride) from the village center.

Where to taste laid-back local fare:

One of the most impressive parts about Elkhart Lake’s local culture is the amount of quality dining options within a small area. While I recommend trying all of the restaurants, sometimes when town gets busy it can be nice to have an option for a quick snack. Consider wandering through the Saturday Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market and checking out the egg roll stand (they are usually posted up near the train tracks).

Siebkens Cocktail Bar

Another casual option for a snack or lunch are the famous sandwiches at the Siebkens Stop-Inn Tavern. Locals were raised on these sandwiches featuring cold cuts between rye bread. After biting into one on a summer’s day you will see why. Just down the little hill from the tavern, in the back of P.A.M.’s restaurant, is Siebkens “Secret Bar”. It’s tiny and hidden and takes you back in time. 

Where to learn a new craft and a little bit of history:

The village has a strong tradition of art and culture. It’s one of the things that keeps people coming back and curious to continue learning more. If your family is into experiencing new flavors together, the Osthoff Resort’s cooking school is the perfect place to make memories (and hopefully improve the meals you make in your own kitchen.) Two Fish Gallery, the local ceramic studio and sculpture garden, offers pottery classes through the Two Fish School. Their classes do fill up quickly, and word has it they have some new technique classes in the works, so visit their website to stay up to date on when sign ups launch.

Throttlestop’s Cycle Museum

In addition to the village’s natural beauty and art, it is also uniquely influenced by a history of road racing. The Throttlestop has an impressive collection of historic motorcycles, vintage cars, and engines. It’s a great place to visit whether or not you make it out to Road America.

Although summer is a time to go, go, go, sometimes to truly get the most out of a place, you need to venture below the surface, give the less obvious experiences a chance. Sometimes slowing down and doing less is actually what brings our souls more. Sometimes you need to take the long way for the sake of soaking in a view or having a conversation with someone new. The village can’t wait to welcome you into its hidden gems and special way of life.

Kate Vollrath

Meet The Author

Kate Vollrath was born and raised in Elkhart Lake. After several years of working and adventuring in Anchorage, Alaska and a year studying in Italy, she has returned to her favorite freshwater shoreline. Wisconsin will always be home. The incredible local culture, extraordinary community, and summer Sundays on the water are what keep her rooted and returning no matter where life takes her.