Travel Wisconsin ~ 7 Things To Do in the Northwoods

In: Destinations, Travel
Travel Wisconsin - 7 things to do in the northwoods

Last week I wrote (and admittedly raved a bit) about our family vacation to our cottage in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  So this week I figured I would give you some more insight as to why we love northern Wisconsin and give you a list of things to do if you’re so inclined to check it out for yourself.

travel wisconsin boating 4 lr

Our cottage sits on one of the lakes on the Manitowish Chain of Lakes, which is a chain that includes 10 lakes in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin.  Manitowish Waters is a tiny town of about 700 people, but the population grows with the influx of vacationers over the summer months.

But even at the peak of the summer, it is never anywhere close to crowded.  In fact, when we see more than three boats on our lake we consider it a busy day.  It is a quiet and peaceful town, with the slowness and laid back atmosphere you would expect to find in a small southern town or island.

travel wisconsin

The town of Manitowish Waters looks like a something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Rustic cottages and log homes line the water’s edge with children playing on rafts and jumping into the fresh lake water, while a dog happily barks on the shore. These scenes harken back to days when boys and girls were shipped off to summer camp at a lake, a slice of quintessential Americana if you will.

The beauty of nature is all around this small town.  Towering pine trees and white birch trees add a majestic feel to the woods and lakes.  Bald eagles soar over the clear and fresh lake water.  Colorful wildflowers line winding roads through the forests.  The air is so fresh and fragrant it makes you wish you could bottle it and bring it home with you.

travel wisconsin- cottage on a lake

If all of this sounds appealing to you, then read on.  Here are 7 things to do when you visit the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

travel wisconsin boating 1 lr

travel wisconsin boating

1. Boating on the Chain of Lakes

This activity is an absolute must, not just because of the obvious joy of spending a day on the water, but also because this is the best way of seeing the Northwoods.  From your water vantage point you’ll be able to view the many quaint cottages surrounded by woods, not to mention seeing eagle’s nests and loons swimming with their young.

little bohemia 1 lr

little bohemia 2 lr

little bohemia John Dillinger

2. Little Bohemia Restaurant

For a town as small as Manitowish Waters, you’ll find a surprising amount of good dining options, but of all the options this restaurant is my favorite.  Not just because the food and location (on the shores of a lake) are great, but because it has a ton of history.

This lodge and restaurant were built in 1929, and in1934 it was the site of the infamous shootout between notorious Chicago gangster John Dillinger and the FBI.  The movie Public Enemy featuring Johnny Depp as Dillinger was shot at this location.

Inside the restaurant you’ll find items Dillinger left behind when he fled from the FBI into the woods, along with movie memorabilia.  In addition, they preserved the bullet holes in the windows from the actual shootout.

For menus, hours, and more click here.

stargazing 1 lr

stargazing in the northwoods of wisconsin

3. Stargazing

The Northwoods at night are nearly devoid of artificial light, which makes the stargazing spectacular!  The nights can be a bit cold, so bring some warm clothes and setup camp around a fire to witness thousands of stars and even be able to view the Milky Way on a moonless night.

The photo above is an actual photo I took while visiting this year and you can clearly see the Milky Way.  Our vacation also coincided with a meteor shower, so the shooting stars were bright and plentiful.

wildwood wildlife park 4 lr

wildwood wildlife park 3 lr

wildwood wildlife park 2 lr

wildwood wildlife park bear

4. Wildwood Wildlife Park

This is the second largest zoo in the state of Wisconsin with over 1,000 animals including deer, giraffes, mountain lions, tigers, tamarin, bobcats, kangaroos, otters, zebras, leopards, and camels.

I’ve been coming to this zoo since I was two years old and it has really expanded over the years.  This is the first year we took Baby Girl and even though she is still very young she loved it.

What makes this zoo unique is the opportunity to interact with the animals.  You can feed a black bear a bottle of “bear brew”, feed carrots to giraffes, pet and feed deer, and even pet a skunk.

You can get more information here.

waterskiing 1 lr

tubing on a wisconsin lake

5. Watersports

One of our favorite family activities at our cottage is engaging in watersports including tubing, water skiing, and jetskiing.  The lakes on the chain don’t have very much boat traffic so they are great lakes to water ski on, unless of course you’re looking for a wild ride in which case you’ll have to make your own waves.

bike trail 2

travel wisconsin - manitowish waters bike trail

6. Bike Trail

There is a fantastic new bike trail which extends through miles and miles of wooded forest and it is simply gorgeous.  If you’re looking for some exercise I highly recommend either biking, walking, or running on this trail.  You can even rent bikes from Coontail which has several locations along the trail.

For more information about the trail as well as maps click here.

(photos courtesy of

dixie's coffee shop 4

dixie's coffee shop 2

dixie's coffee shop 1

7. Dixie’s Coffee Shop

If you’re looking for a place to curl up in a comfy chair beside a fireplace with a good book, hot cup of coffee, and a great view… look no further than Dixie’s.  Good coffee, even better location!

This old home was refurbished and transformed into a coffeehouse along the banks of a small lake which you can see from the large windows of the coffeehouse.  Or you can venture outside to a spacious deck or even on the dock of the lake to enjoy your coffee.

Click here to check it out for yourself.

(photos courtesy of

Heidi - A Beauty Full Life signature

you might also like


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.