Beautiful Lakes Worth a Visit in Wisconsin

Lake Michigan sparkles during the day and at night
Lake Michigan sparkles during the day and at night | © Bill Chizek Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alice Johnston
Food Editor3 August 2020

Wisconsin is blessed with an abundance of beautiful nature, including its many incredible lakes. From the great Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan to its smaller, more unassuming spots, all are worth a visit. Culture Trip has sized up the best of the bunch.

Lake Winnebago

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Ice cold sunrise over a partially frozen Lake Winnebago.  The highly reflective part on the horizon must either be open water ne
© Andrew Sabai / Alamy Stock Photo

This beauty is Wisconsin’s largest inland lake and among the best places in America to fish for sturgeon. At 137,700 acres (55,725ha), Lake Winnebago is large and home to boating, water sports, hiking, camping, picnicking and even an amusement park, so no matter your poison, you’ll find something that suits you here. With a public beach and many beautiful houses on the shore, it’s a sure-fire winner.

Petenwell Lake

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Coming in at approximately 23,000 acres (9,308ha), Petenwell Lake is the state’s second-largest lake. Dating back to 1948, this man-made lake – thanks to the construction of a hydraulic dam – provides hours of fun and beautiful scenery. Sailing, water-skiing and fishing are all popular lake activities. It’s also a great place to spot wildlife, especially bald eagles. The surrounding land is relatively undeveloped and wild, so it’s a great place to get lost and unwind. There’s also a campsite in the lakeside forest if you’re keen to stay.

Lake Michigan

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The lake Michigan coast in Door County Wisconsin. This picture is taken at Cave Point County Park.
© Mosto / Alamy Stock Photo

You can’t write about lakes in Wisconsin without mentioning Lake Michigan. As one of the five Great Lakes and a major tourist attraction, it’s a massive landmark, with dozens of cities sitting along its shoreline and its endless horizons reminiscent of the sea. It’s famous for its beaches, with some of the most popular being North Beach, Schoolhouse Beach and Point Beach State Forest. Any manner of lakeside activity can be found here, from kitesurfing to diving.

Lake Wingra

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Small but no less beautiful for it, Lake Wingra is located in Madison and is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, which sits along its shoreline. An important fishing lake, it’s known for its muskellunge, panfish, northern pike and largemouth bass. With beaches, parks and even a zoo along the north side of Lake Wingra, it’s an ideal spot to kick back and relax while admiring the trees on the lake’s shoreline. There’s nothing like being near the water to put things in perspective.

Lake Chippewa

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Great blue heron on the Chippewa Flowage in northern Wisconsin
© Linda Freshwaters Arndt / Alamy Stock Photo

Also known by the rather less glamorous name of the Chippewa Flowage, this lake is famous for its gorgeous natural scenery – which includes undeveloped islands along its shoreline – and is the third-largest lake in the state. It was first filled with water in 1924 and has since been pulling in the crowds. Along with walleye fishing, you can also go birdwatching, hiking, camping, canoeing and even cross-country skiing in winter.

Wazee Lake

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Wazee Lake is the deepest lake in the state, as it was a former iron mine. It’s home to the Wazee Lake Recreation Area, which draws scuba divers from all over the US. Fishing is also popular, with everything from trout to catfish up for grabs here. As well as a beach, Wazee Lake is home to 12 campsites and innumerable Instagram-worthy spots. There are also 15mi (24km) of hiking trails and bike paths to keep yourself active.

These recommendations were updated on August 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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