Tucked away in the heart of Wisconsin is a true hidden gem boasting miles of waterfront beauty: Waupaca and the Chain O’Lakes, the perfect weekend getaway for families. Easily accessible off Wisconsin State Highway US 10, this outdoor lover’s paradise is about two hours’ drive from the Milwaukee or Madison areas. Whether you want to relax and unwind or find adventure and recreation in a great Midwest roadtrip destination, Waupaca and the Chain O’Lakes has something for everyone in your family.
Where to Stay
There are numerous options in Waupaca County for your weekend getaway accommodations. Airbnb and Vrbo offer an abundance of rentals, from rustic cabins to luxury lake homes. Book your accommodations in advance, as the summer months tend to be busier! If you plan to stay at a campground, there are ten different campgrounds/RV parks in the county with a variety of scenery and amenities.
If you prefer to stay in a hotel, Par 4 Resort in Waupaca boasts an 18-hole bent grass golf course on site, as well as a bistro for casual dining.
Experience the Chain O’Lakes
There are 22 separate beautiful lakes that make up the Chain. Water sports enthusiasts will find no end to recreational offerings or waterways to explore. Numerous boat launch sites and fishing docks can be found at the multitude of parks in the county.
Families that want to take to the water in a pontoon, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard can find watercraft rentals at rental agencies like Ding’s Dock or Adventure Outfitters. My family enjoyed renting a pontoon for an afternoon and cruising the Chain. (If you do plan to rent a watercraft make sure to bring life jackets for any children age 13 and under, per federal law.)
Hartman Creek State Park offers 1,417 acres of nature on the Chain O’Lakes. This beautiful respite offers camping, boating, swimming, mountain biking, picnic areas, a playground and scenic hiking trails surrounded by Midwest nature. If you have younger children, I recommend the paved trails for the perfect family hike; the Dike Trail was the perfect level of challenge for my two young children, offering scenic views of two lakes. There are also more challenging trails throughout the park if you’re up for a trek!
South Park also makes for the perfect afternoon getaway for families looking to have a swim at the beach, cast a line on the fishing dock, or have a picnic. My kids loved climbing on the playground and running on the sandy beach. Bring sandals!
If you’re feeling adventurous, Wolf River Trips & Campgrounds offers tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and camping all along the scenic Wolf River. Spend a day (or more!) here experiencing a fun river trip.
If you want to take in some local history during your visit, there are many offerings available in Waupaca County. Make sure to stop by Hutchinson House Museum to glimpse back in time and see Victorian artifacts and furniture. Kids aged 5 to 12 can participate in photo scavenger hunts and other activities.
Or if you have any train enthusiasts in your family, head on over to the Railroad Depot to check out a G-scale model train display, historical artwork, and a vintage baggage car.
When it’s mealtime, a number of restaurants right on the Chain O’Lakes offer food and entertainment with a view.
Clear Water Harbor Waterfront Restaurant & Bar has both family-friendly dining as well as entertaining nightlife on the lakefront. For a fun family activity, check out their 90 minute narrated historical boat tour of the Chain O’Lakes!
The Wheelhouse Restaurant, also overlooking the Chain O’Lakes, is known for great pizza and sandwiches; and after your meal, head right next door to Scoopers for some ice cream. If you want to pick up some locally grown produce, Turners Fresh Market & Greenhouse sells a variety of plants, fruits, and vegetables.
If you ever find yourself in the northeast Wisconsin area, Waupaca County and the Chain O’Lakes are well worth a weekend trip. Start planning your trip by checking out the Waupaca Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Leia Cullen is a content writer and proud mom of two. She is passionate about sharing travel tips and information to help others plan their own vacations