The Most Beautiful Spots in Wisconsin

The Trojan horse is one of the rides at Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park in the Wisconsin Dells
The Trojan horse is one of the rides at Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park in the Wisconsin Dells | © Dennis MacDonald / Alamy Stock Photo
A. J. Samuels

Sitting on the shores of not one but two great lakes – Michigan and Superior – Wisconsin is all about beautiful coastlines, untouched landscapes and historic settings. If taking a grand tour of this midwestern state isn’t feasible, we’ve lined up the top 10 you won’t want to miss.

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Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Witness Wisconsin nature is in its purest form in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Camp on Madeline Island before spending a day exploring sea caves along the banks of the islands. Drifting over Lake Superior in a kayak is like floating across blue glass; the water is so pristine that you can see the pebbled details on the floor of the lake 10m (30ft) below. Come back in winter when the lake is frozen to discover the striking caves on foot.

Experience how truly tranquil nature can be within the Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. This ecosystem, created when a glacier melted thousands of years ago, is home to a vast amount of species. Its biodiversity includes more than 300 different species of birds, which is why it has been designated a Wetland of International Importance and a Globally Important Bird Area.

House on the Rock

Perched on a column of sandstone in Wyoming Valley is architect Alex Jordan’s masterpiece House on the Rock. In what may have been an effort to impress architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a Wisconsinite, Jordan filled the gorgeously complex house with rooms brimming with eclectic collections of artefacts such as old automobiles, a carousel, nude figurines, ornate glasswork and more. Don’t miss the infinity room, so named because it appears to span the whole estate and beyond.

Door County

If you wish to vacation like a Wisconsinite, spend a weekend in what’s been dubbed the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Door County, the state’s eastern peninsula and its adjacent patches of island. While you’re here, try the fresh cherries if they’re in season – they’ll be the best you’ll ever taste. Explore the charming shops of Egg Harbor, Sturgeon Bay and Ephraim, or learn about maritime history by touring one of the lighthouses dotting the shores of Lake Michigan.

Cave of the Mounds

In 1939, quarry workers accidentally discovered an enormous limestone cave system filled with colorful mineral formations while removing rock in the hills of the Blue Mounds. Rumors of the cave spread quickly and thousands of visitors flocked to what is now called Cave of the Mounds, a National Natural Landmark. Take a guided tour of the 400m-year-old cave system to see the mystical beauty beneath Wisconsin’s surface.

Big Manitou Falls

Hike the trails of Pattison State Park near Superior, Wisconsin, to watch Big Manitou Falls pour into the Black River. At a little over 164ft (50m), Big Manitou Falls is the highest waterfall in the state. Its twin waterfall, the 31ft (9.5m) Little Manitou Falls, is also located within the park. If you’re interested in exploring more of Pattison State Park’s 9mi (14.5km) of trails, reserving a campsite for the night is an enjoyable option.

Devil’s Lake State Park

The 500ft (152m) quartzite bluffs, overlooking the 360-acre (145ha) lake, make Devil’s Lake State Park the perfect locale for rock climbing and hiking. Along the park’s more than 29mi (46km) of trails, you’ll also find stunning sandy beaches and picturesque campgrounds. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, a portion of the 1,000mi Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs through the 103-year-old park too.

Taliesin

Architect and interior designer Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps one of the most famous Wisconsinites to date, renowned for his mastery of harmony and organic shapes within the field of architecture and in Spring Green, you can tour his estate, Taliesin, and get a look at his work. The beautiful setting of nearly 500 acres (200ha) overlooks a lake and a rich emerald forest.

Wyalusing State Park

Wyalusing State Parks breathtaking location, overlooking the junction where the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers meet, provides incredible views of the landscape. Camp in the park for the opportunity to hike extensive trails, go fishing and boating, or learn about the Native American burial mounds located throughout the park. Taking a day trip down the Wisconsin river, stopping at sandbars to swim and snack throughout the day, is highly recommended.

Wisconsin Dells

There are no excuses for being bored in the Wisconsin Dells. Besides being the self-proclaimed water-park capital of the world, there are opportunities to go on Duck tours – when you take an amphibious vehicle on a ride through the pretty Wisconsin river and Dell Creek – as well as spectacular cross-country ski trails, horseback rides through the countryside, zipline tours and plenty more. Prepare for an adrenaline rush as you look at natural Wisconsin from a more thrilling perspective.

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