We who live on the coasts of America rarely think of a beach vacation in the Midwest. But wonderful lakes abound in the Heartland and each one is special.
I flew into Milwaukee before being whisked off for a short hour drive to the village of Elkhart Lake to my accommodations at the Osthoff Resort. This sprawling AAA Four-Diamond Resort overlooks lovely Elkhart Lake. My room in the all-suite hotel included a full kitchen and dining area. The living room featured a gas fireplace which, I’m sure, comes in handy during Wisconsin’s frigid winters. A balcony stretched across the living room and bedroom and faced the lake.
The amenities at Osthoff Resort run the gamut from total relaxation to “rev-up-your-heart” action. There are indoor and outdoor pools, fitness centers, saunas, whirlpools, hay wagon rides, biking, beachfront bonfires, beach volleyball, nearby golf courses and more.
With all that liveliness available, I, on the other hand, preferred being pampered in the Aspira Spa. From a diverse list of traditional and innovative treatments, I chose the Moroccan Hot Oil Massage that left me absolutely rejuvenated and ready to head out for fun.
The other activity that I really enjoyed at the resort was the cooking school, L’ecole de la Maison. Under the tutelage of a chef instructor, a small group was taught how to prepare a full menu of French cuisine in a three-hour workshop. (Longer courses are offered also.) My assignment was to cook Coquilles St. Jacques au Gratin with Grand Cru Gruyere. I must admit that, for me, the best part of the lesson was consuming the meal.
The history of Elkhart Lake hails back to when Native Americans named it “the chosen place.” It sits fringed by a forest of cedar trees and is spring-fed. The water itself has always been a draw – turquoise-hued, 120 feet deep and crystal clear – so clear that fishermen can see what’s swimming below. Anglers now share the lake with boats, kayaks, canoes, pontoons, sailboats and other watercraft. Just two and a half hours from Chicago, this legendary getaway also offers an adventure in speed, fine dining, performing arts, and much more making it a great place for families, couples and friends.
Twenty-five minutes away is the city of Sheboygan that borders on enormous Lake Michigan. As soon as you see it, you’ll realize that you’ve arrived at a freshwater inland sea with more than 1,600 miles of shoreline. Serious fishermen arrive to test their skill at landing a 10- to 40-pound trout or Chinook (a.k.a. King Salmon). Ocean surfers arrive to test the unique lake waves that have dubbed Lake Michigan “the Malibu of the Midwest,” and wind and kite surfers soar high, propelled by strong gusts. But the soft sand beach is perfect for families and sunbathers.
The city competes with the shore for the visitor’s time and attention with its fishing shanty shops, performing arts scene, festivals, parades and eclectic restaurants. And it’s known as the “Bratwurst Capital of the World.” I noshed on a tasty brat at Miesfeld’s Brat Haus that’s been making the famous German sausage since 1941.
If these lakes appeal to your inner beach bum, check out travelwisconsin.com for even more options.