Wisconsin’s Lake Elkhart is full of surprises, by travel writers

By Doug Hansen

Wisconsinans would be right to protest Minnesota presenting itself as the champion of the lake states, because it turns out that Wisconsin has many more lakes than its neighbor. Among them, I discovered a true gem of a central Wisconsin resort – Elkhart Lake.

With a population of just 1,000, the eponymous town of Elkhart Lake is the definition of a quaint and peaceful small town in the Midwest. Naturally, the main attraction is the adjacent Elkhart Lake, a 300-acre spring-fed lake that’s reputedly one of the cleanest lakes in America. I am told that on a clear summer day, its waters rival the splendid azure hues of the Caribbean Sea. A pontoon boat cruise at sunset provided a tranquil introduction to the lake and a view of the houses lining the shore.

I was surprised by the amount and quality of hotel options, restaurants, bars, water sports, hiking and race car related activities there. I could see why race car fans, anglers and fun-seeking families come from near and far during peak season, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Compact beaches line the coastline behind the three main hotels. Summer visitors can rent kayaks, paddleboards, or pedal-powered watercraft at two of the beaches to keep the fun going. The best place I found to enjoy a view of the lake and a cold drink was at the Shore Club Tiki Bar with its inviting wooden deck and picnic tables perched above the beach. private from the hotel.

All three hotels have long pedigrees dating back over 100 years. Each has a restaurant, bar, and other commendable amenities, though only the more recently built Osthoff Resort offers a variety of luxury spa services. Stay in a hotel, but feel free to visit the facilities of nearby hotels.

The city’s character has been shaped by its motor racing history and the presence of Road America, reputedly one of the best racetracks in the world. The road races that snaked through the streets of Elkhart Lake attracted thousands of fans in the early 1950s, but after the third year were deemed too dangerous and discontinued. Community leaders sprang into action and acquired the 640 acres where they built the longest, most active and most diverse motorsports track in the country.

Throughout the summer season, Road America offers visitors a wide variety of activities in addition to car racing, including go-karting – which I thoroughly enjoyed – disc golf, camping and even evening parties. inexpensive exercise where anyone can walk, jog or ride a bike. the 4 mile racetrack.

Fans of vintage automobiles, motorcycles and cars in general shouldn’t miss the Throttlestop Museum. The name is somewhat of a misnomer, as in addition to a solid collection of vintage cars and motorcycles, they also have an ever-changing display of jaw-droppingly expensive, stylish cars that are stocked at their facility and sometimes offered for sale.

Options for spending time in town instead of the lake include a wine store – Vintage – with high-quality tasting options as well as over 600 wines for sale. Gina’s Fine Gifts and Framing should win an award for displaying a plethora of well-chosen items in a limited space. On a hot day, head to the nearby Switchgear Brewery and indulge in one of their many varieties of craft beers.

The town has a small row of restaurants housed in century-old buildings – the Lake Street Cafe and its new sibling, the Mexican restaurant Amasa, as well as my favorite Paddock Club, where I had the best dinner I’ve had in a very long lasting. The terrace next to the Lake Street Cafe is the perfect place for a summer evening. Just outside of town, the 27-hole Quit Qui Oc golf course also has a restaurant where locals hang out with an extensive menu, affordable prices, and a pleasant, no-frills vibe. If I was there, I wouldn’t miss the locals’ much-vaunted Friday night fry.

Especially for foreigners like me, no trip to Wisconsin is complete without a visit to a cheese factory, given that the state is America’s cheese capital. 12 miles out of town, Henning’s Wisconsin Cheese Factory gives an in-depth presentation on cheese making, after which it’s hard to decide which of the multitude of cheeses I would buy from their shop. I especially liked that this fourth generation company supports the local community by purchasing milk from small local dairy farms.

Hikers like me can head to the Ice Age Trail which traverses 31 miles of Kettle Moraine State Forest. It’s an easy trail through a nice wooded area.

The old homily about “big things in small packages” certainly applies to Lake Elkhart. For such a small place, it offers some big surprises when it comes to a fun getaway.

WHEN YOU GO

For more information: www.elkhartlake.com

Kayaking on Elkhart Lake is just one of the many outdoor activities to do in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.

    Learn how cheese is made at Henning's Cheese Factory near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.

Learn how cheese is made at Henning’s Cheese Factory near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.

    Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., opens its track to go-karts, walkers and cyclists when no races are in progress.  Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.

Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., opens its track to go-karts, walkers and cyclists when no races are in progress. Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.

Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer. See more photos and stories at www.hansentravels.org. To read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Kayaking on Elkhart Lake is just one of the many outdoor activities to do in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.

Comments are closed.