Green Lake, Wisconsin is a city in Green Lake County, settled on the shores of Green Lake…the lake. It’s actually the deepest natural inland lake in Wisconsin at 237′ deep and almost 8,000 acres. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay, Wisconsin.
I discovered Green Lake about 10 years ago after researching venues for our wedding. My husband’s one wish was that we get married on a lake and we didn’t want to do it in Madison — we looked at Green Lake and were sold on the Heidel House Resort, a beautiful old historic resort that dated back to the 1940s. Sadly, the resort closed in 2019 (hey any followers sitting on several million dollars, want to buy it and revitalize it so I can visit and reminisce??) but we have some pretty great memories of the day and a special fondness for the Green Lake area.
Justin and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary with a weekend stay in Green Lake, but haven’t been back since. We’ve only been here in the fall (which is absolutely beautiful!) so we were excited to see a summer day. This past weekend was the perfect day for day trip so we packed up our “adventure bag” and bikes and drove up.
We started at Hattie Sherwood public beach and parked. Not a large beach, but the kids still had fun playing in the sand and running around. There was a pier for fishing, along with a shelter and bathrooms. It was too chilly and windy on this day for any swimming but my kids can entertain themselves for hours with sand and water and sticks and bugs!
From here, we debated hopping on our bikes to check out some of the bike trails but the kids were getting hungry. Since it was about 3pm, we decided a little pick-me-up treat was the way to go…for everyone 🙂
We walked along the path on S. Lawson Drive over the bridge and into town, about a 5-minute walk past the Hattie Sherwood Campground, Action Marina and met up with the downtown streets. There is about a 2 block area in town lined with shops and restaurants. We haven’t been to many of these, but dined at Little Corporal on our wedding weekend for breakfast and also had our wedding rehearsal dinner at the Goose Blind (the whole upstairs is banquet space and it was perfectly casual and fun!).
We grabbed ice cream and went to sit at a picnic table at Deacon Mills Park, a large grassy area along the water near the marina.
After the kids (ahem, and me) filled up on ice cream, we walked back to the car and debated what to do next. Green Lake has extensive bike trails, including a 24-mile “Loop the Lake” trail that would be awesome to try without kids. There is a city circuit trail that goes around the downtown area but our kids are still novices when it comes to riding along city streets. We had been wanting to see what the Green Lake Conference Center was all about, having only seen it listed on the map so we made the 8-minute drive to check it out. It’s located on the grounds of Lawsonia Golf Course, one of the “Top 100 Golf Courses” in the country.
The Green Lake Conference Center is settled on over 900 acres of forest and prairie, along the lake. I gather that it is used primarily for retreats and conferences, but had no idea how vast this area actually was. We parked near “Friendship Beach” and let the kids run and explore a bit. Walking along the lake, there is a peninsula called Lone Tree Point (as the name implies) next to the Kraft centre (named for Mr. James Kraft, of Kraft Foods…you know, mac & cheese!)
The grounds had SO much to take in, so I’ll just let some of the photos speak for themselves as we wandered around. We didn’t even scratch the surface of the area – there were so many buildings and areas to explore. An extensive trail system runs through woods and prairie, but we stuck to roads since many of the trails were roped off. Here is a map of the Conference Center Grounds.
The Conference Center grounds would have been better explored by bike, but the kids were content strolling around on foot so we stuck to that. Basically our general rule when doing activities with kids… if they’re content, roll with it!
On our way out, I saw a road on the grounds map called “Aisle of Pines Rd” and the name, along with the little hand-drawn pine trees lining the road on the map, really got to my heart! Well, let’s just say it was an adventure. My husband was driving our truck that day and nearly needed the 4-wheel drive! These are really old roads — single lane, full of potholes, no shoulder, winding in and out of the woods for miles. At one point, we abandoned Aisle of Pines Rd because we were sure we were going to blow a tire, but road closures had us doubling back and we did ultimately get to drive down Aisle of Pines “Road”. And it looked just like every other wooded road 🙂 After about 20 minutes of driving on these rough “roads”, I finally directed us to civilization and my husband was convinced he was driving along a bike trail the entire time! Still not really sure what we did wrong, but I don’t recommend!
After that adventure, my husband was ready for a beer! We had eaten at Christiano’s Pizza in the past so we drove there. They have a large deck out back, overlooking a big grassy lawn for the kids to play. This was our first dining out experience since Covid, so we were happy to see this big patio and we were the only people out! Our plan if it had been busy was to just get curbside takeout, but we sat down and my husband happily drank his beer while they kids played. The apps and pizza were good, and everyone was stuffed and tired out so we called it a day and went home.
Overall, a great day re-exploring a familiar place with many happy memories attached from our wedding day. We felt that we barely scratched the surface and could have easily spent a weekend in Green Lake, so we hope to return. There are so many private rental homes that are ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL in Green Lake, so I had fun browsing home rental sites and real estate sites looking at them all. It really is a hidden gem of Wisconsin and highly recommend a day trip or weekend here!
For more to do in Green Lake, check out this blog by The Wisconsin Family – a couple with young kids who live in the area and have all kinds of ideas and activities, like Hiking in Green Lake and Mitchell Glen and the Green Lake Conservancy.