Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake offers vacationers unparalleled natural beauty and recreational diversions with true Midwestern hospitality. This article by Michael J. Solender was published in the November 2015 issue of Lake Norman Magazine. PDF
If Lake Norman and the communities that surround it had a classy Midwestern cousin, it very well could be Elkhart Lake, Wis.
A stunning crystalline lake formed by a glacier, Elkhart Lake remains pristine because it’s unfed by rivers or streams. The third-deepest lake in the state, it’s a favorite with those who want to laze the day away on the water. Elkhart Lake capivates all who come to know her.
This surprising resort destination, just an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee, is particularly appealing to families because of the variety of recreational activities, dining options, and opportunities to explore are almost inexhaustible. Here are some of our favorites.
Kettle Moraine State Forest – Hike the Ice Age Trail or take a scenic drive along a stretch of Kettle Moraine, a fascinating greenway meandering along Wisconsin’s glacial landscape. Well-marked trails lead hikers through scenic bluffs, rocky outcroppings, alongside creeks, and past natural landscapes shaped over generations.
Road America – Elkhart Lake and racing have a history that goes back to the early 1950s, when the village transformed into an open-road race circuit destination that attracted top drivers from around the globe. Road America, the 640-acre “National Park of Speed,” opened in 1955 after the state legislature banned racing on public roads. The centerpiece 14-turn track hosts NASCAR’s Xfinity Series Road America 180 annually. The park offers more hands-on options year-round for visitors including go-karting, geocaching, paintball, ziplines, driving schools and camping.
Quit Qui Oc Golf Course – Hit the links at Quit Qui Oc, the Menominee Tribe name for “land along the crooked river.” Twenty-seven holes in a classic-style layout challenge novices and scratch golfers alike at this family-run course.
Elkhart Lake – The star attraction here offers many options for enjoyment. Fireman’s Park and public beach has picnic tables, volleyball pits, and plenty of sandy shore for seasonal access to the lake. Angling to fish for walleye or bass? Jay’s Guide Service is just the ticket as top guide Jay Brickner had spent more than 35 years fishing the lake and gladly shares his secrets. If boating is your thing, all manner of rentals – speedboats, kayaks, and even paddle-boards – are available, as are daily and evening pontoon tours.
Osthoff Resort – This historic grand dame of Elkhart Lake was originally constructed in 1885 and completely rebuilt 100 years later with special attention to its original history and styling. The luxurious all-suite hotel boasts a four Diamond rating from AAA and has photo-worthy lake views at every turn.
Aspira Spa – The true holistic spa combines ancient feng shui philosophies with the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. This world-class spa offers a dazzling array of treatments that leave guests pampered and blissful.
L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School – Learn finer techniques of bistro cooking, bread, and pastry making at the direction of Osthoff Resort’s master chef, Scott Baker. Hands-on programs make simple even the most complicated recipes. Feasting on your creations afterward is the ultimate reward.
Henning’s Cheese Factory – No visit to Wisconsin is complete without cheese. Henning’s, in nearby Kiel, has been crafting artisanal cheeses since 1914. Drop in for a tour and gain an in-depth understanding of how the freshest milk from nearby cows becomes award-winning cheddars, Monterey Jack, and Colby cheeses.
Lake Street Cafe – This California-style bistro has tasty wood-fired pizzas, terrific burgers, and one of the best wine lists in town.
Lola’s on the Lake – It’s only fair that Osthoff Resort’s Chef Baker should cook for you after your hard work at his cooking school. This fine-dining restaurant at The Osthoff will tempt with signature dishes such as pan-seared quail with roasted corn coulis and crispy ricotta gnocchi.
Paddock Club – Seasonal ingredients star h ere at this Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning European -style bistro. Sharing small plates like mushroom risotto fritters and tellegio flan is a wonderful introduction to main events such as calabrese smoked pork shoulder and Hanger steak with skinny fries.