When you think of terrific family vacation hotspots in the United States, does Sheboygan County, Wisconsin come to mind? It should! Sheboygan County, home of spectacular Elkhart Lake, has tons of outdoor activities to get the kiddos running around. Enjoy lakeside fun, pretty parks, an amazing outdoor book garden, mini golf, and fun playgrounds!
There are also luxurious, creative, artsy and invigorating ways to spend time here as an adult. Whether you hit the water, trail or park, Elkhart Lake is central to the beauty and fun of Sheboygan County. Not only will the pretty scenery reel you in; the plethora of ways to enjoy the great outdoors here will keep you coming back.
Getting There: Elkhart Lake in Sheboygan County, WI
Spending time near Elkhart Lake is easily one of the more enjoyable things to do in the area. By car, Elkhart Lake is about two and a half hours from Chicago and two hours from Madison ,WI. The drive from Milwaukee is roughly an hour.
The area has transformed from a place where city dwellers used to get away for the summer to a year-round vacation destination. Elkhart Lake is now rich in art, music, and culinary treats, as well as indoor and outdoor activities for all ages. Visitors across the region come for the natural beauty, the activities on the lake, and special events for all ages.
Visit once, and you’ll find yourself making plans to visit again. Try fishing, swimming, kayaking, stand-up-paddleboarding, canoeing, wading in the waters, or just splashing the day away by the shore. The possibilities are endless.
See more of the state. Here are the best things to do in Wisconsin with kids.
4 Popular Things to do Outdoors Near Elkhart Lake, WI
1. Hike Near Elkhart Lake in Sheboygan County
Kettle Moraine State Park
A visit to Kettle Moraine State Park is another great way to enjoy the great outdoors near Elkhart Lake. Hike the Ice Age Trail, which traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age. The park has almost 30,000 acres of rolling hills, lakes, forests, and grasslands.
Visitors enjoy a whole host of activities including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding, camping, and snowshoeing. The forest is internationally known for its unique glacial features and offers opportunities to trek to your heart’s content. I walked roughly a mile of it and loved all the fall colors and peaceful natural terrain. I bet you will, too.
One place you’ll want to be sure to take your little ones to in Sheboygan is Bookworm Gardens. It’s an adorable place the whole family can appreciate, especially those who love to read. The gardens are attractive, welcoming, interactive, approachable, and affordable.
Bookworm Gardens works to bring recognizable children’s books to life and invite fun and imagination to play alongside them. The gardens are open from the beginning of May to the end of October. Admission is FREE! Donations are requested but not necessary. This assures no one is prevented from enjoying it due to cost.
2. Fulfill Your Need for Speed
Saturdays from April to September you can watch Racing at Road America on a 1/3 mile clay dirt oval. A big draw in the area, this track’s origins came to be can be traced back to the 1950’s. Back then, this type of racing took place on the streets!.
Top sports car drivers careened around curves and sped down the streets of town while fans stood (frighteningly close by) and cheered them on. Eventually someone realized that this might be a dangerous idea, and racing was moved to Road America.
The venue is billed as one of the longest road racing tracks- four miles and 14 turns. It’s a fun activity for anyone who loves watching fast cars, go karts, and motorcycles. There’s even a driving school and geocaching.
3. Experience the Region’s History
Learning about history in school is one thing, but when kids get the opportunity to actually experience it, it can be magical. The Wade House Historic Site & Carriage Museum can give them an opportunity to learn Elkhart Lake area history.
This 1860s site is a 240-acre open air museum that celebrates the time of stagecoach travel. The site features a 27-room nationally-landmarked stagecoach hotel where you can get a guided tour with the help of a costumed attendant.
There’s also a water-powered sawmill, a blacksmith shop and a carriage house with Wisconsin’s largest collection of carriages and wagons. Eat here, attend a special event, get a group tour, or just come on by and enjoy a step back in time you’ll never forget.
4. Tee off at a Local Golf Course
The Elkhart Lake region is gaining fame for its world-class golf courses. It is home to Whispering Straights, the location of the 2020 Ryder Cup, after all! There’s a buzz in the air, folks are excitedly prepping for it, and stores have amped up their golfing supplies in celebration.
Parents who golf can hop on many of the courses here, and take kids that have interest in the sport for a spin. It might be a great way for Dad and sons to bond, or for a daughter to pick up a new pastime. Hey, who knows? College scholarship for golf, anyone?
Where to Stay Near Elkhart Lake In Sheboygan County
What would an outdoorsy vacation location like Sheboygan County be without a little overnight camping? Perfect for families as far as ease and affordability, camping allows a whole bunch of you to settle in for the night by the campfire or in a camper with windows open breathing in the fresh air.
Some nearby sites include those at Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan Broughton Marsh Park, Benson’s Campground, Sundance Farm Campground, and Plymouth Rock Camping Resort.
The American Club
For a luxury experience near Elkhart Lake that encompasses a whole lot of history, the renowned American Club wins out. This five-star, five-diamond resort is owned and operated by the Kohler Company. It’s more than a hundred years old and the only Forbes five star resort in Wisconsin.
Be sure to check out the Greenhouse, which is actually an antique solarium that was meticulously dismantled and relocated from England to stand here. It’s now an adorable cafe. The rooms here are clean and spacious, and connecting rooms are available if you’d like them. There are 11 dining options on site or a quick free shuttle ride away, and there are no shortage of activities; think golf, spa, kids games and events, shopping, fitness, outdoor fun, and history.
The Osthoff Resort may just be one of the prettiest resorts you’ll ever stay at. Conde Nast voted this spectacular Elkhart Lake venue one of the top resorts in the Midwest.
It has terrific amenities like a private beach, a beautiful spa, two restaurants, a cooking school, and plenty of outside terrain to walk, sit, play and enjoy. Their 245 guest suites range from one- and two-bedroom options with connecting rooms possible, with either lakeside or woodland views.
Each features a kitchen, dining and living room space, a fireplace, and private balcony. It’s like a home away from home – one that you don’t have to clean! Indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, whirlpools, fitness center and a game room also add to the fun and entertainment. Be sure to ask about their Simple Pleasures program that offers terrific family-friendly activities depending on the season.
Blue Harbor Resort
For something fresh and fun, try Blue Harbor Resort. Located 30 minutes from Elkhart Lake, the backyard of this gem is right on Lake Michigan! No accommodations in this area are closer to the water.
It also has a water park that kids will love, a sandy beach area, an outdoor pool, a full service spa and salon, multiple restaurants and snack bar, mini golf, fitness center, gift shop, laundry room, and sprawling grounds with fire pit and scenic lakeside seating. It’s airy and bright and full of opportunities to relax and unwind.
There are 244 rooms, as well as two- and four-bedroom villas that come with kitchens. Sail boats here, paddle around the waters, ride a bike, fish, take a walk, enjoy roasting s’mores, or simply relax on your balcony by the lake or on their large terrace. It’s truly a breath of fresh air here.
Disclosure: The author visited Elkhart Lake, Sheboygan County and the surroundings as a press trip guest. No other compensation was received, and opinions are her own.