10 Manitowish Waters Secrets Only Locals Know


Nestled between the pine trees and surrounded by water, Manitowish Waters is a place you visit and never want to leave; with spotty cell service and “Northwoods” internet speed, uncovering the area’s best kept secrets is sometimes just tough. With tourist season revving up, we queried the best kind of insider sources - local residents with an adventurous palate - on how to get off the beaten path to discover a few of northern Wisconsin’s hidden gems. Do you know the local secrets for your favorites on the Best of Manitowish Waters List!


ONE - Chico’s North of the Border 

A rustic cabin with vintage Hamm’s signs and colorful sombreros sets the atmosphere for Chico’s North of the Border, located at the end of a quiet road after a twenty-something minute drive from Manitowish Waters. Surrounded by tall pines, this northern Wisconsin Mexican oasis will leave you with a story to tell over and over again. Local tip - Sit at the bar and start with a pitcher of their famous margaritas. You’ll be back again, we promise.


TWO - Van Vliet Hemlocks State Natural Area  

Walk among giants as you wander through an old growth hemlock forest to clear your mind and appreciate Wisconsin’s natural beauty at Van Vliet Hemlocks State Natural Area.  Tip: Find directions before departing, located at the end of a backroad without good cell phone service. Always open and beautiful in all seasons.


THREE - The Manitowish Waters Challenge 

Swim in every lake on the Manitowish Chain of 10 Lakes as an annual celebration of summer in northern Wisconsin. Go at your own speed and on your own time (seriously, any day works!) for this local bucket list item. Bonus points if the dip includes a rope swing (we see you, Spider Lake), jumping off a friend’s swim raft, or going down a waterslide (hint: Alder Lake). As you cruise the water trying to complete the task in ONE day, we recommend chatting with the local crowd, learning which sandbars to relax on, where the late night destinations are, and... just maybe, you will make such great friends along the way, you’ll scrap the challenge altogether. But that’s the point, get out and enjoy. 


FOUR - Live Music 

Locals like to celebrate summer on the water with plenty of live music across the Manitowish Chain! Enjoy local musicians, lakeside, at The Lower Unit Bar & Grill at Greer’s Pier Marina each weekend. Come by car or boat to Music in the Park in Koller Park, happening every Sunday. Enjoy tunes by Bret & Frisk on Friday evenings at White Oak Grill at Chippewa Retreat. Looking for late night jams? Pea Patch Salon has plenty of that! 


FIVE - Sunset from Sandy Beach Campground

Make the short drive through the woods to enjoy the evening as the sun slips beneath the horizon at Sandy Beach Campground. Head for the beach on the eastern shore, we suggest bringing a picnic and a bottle wine. 


SIX - Hurricane Club at Blue Bayou Inn 

Join the ever-growing group of members in the Hurricane Club at Blue Bayou Inn, a Louisiana cookery located on the shores of Manitowish Lake. A signature rum drink created in New Orleans post-prohibition, the Hurricane is dangerously tasty so per Rita’s rule, you can only have 2 per night. With prizes after every few drinks, you’ll be hooked and quickly become a regular. 


SEVEN - Late Night Food at The Howling Dog Saloon

After a night on the town, head to Howling Dog Saloon to experience the local culture alongside pizza, egg rolls, and other bar time favorites. Be prepared to turn up the jukebox and have a great time. Remember cash, no plastic here.  


EIGHT - Midsummer Bluegrass Music Festival

Experience bluegrass music from Traditional Acoustic to Americana right in Manitowish Waters! The Cozy Cove Tavern hosts the MidSummer Bluegrass Festival every summer, attracting famous artists from across the country. Come for the entire festival or stop in late evening to listen to lively tunes. Act like a local and order a ham sandwich, just don’t expect the lunch kind, you’ll be served a Hamm’s beer and 2 shots of Jagermeister.  

NINE - Powell Marsh Wildlife Area 

With over 4,000 acres of flowage, unforested wetlands, grassy uplands, and restorative forest trails, Powell Marsh Wildlife Area takes the cake for the best kept secret, hidden just under your nose. Grab your camera, lace up your shoes, and head out for a stroll, the marsh offers something for everyone. Spring on the marsh brings birds, otters, and blossoming plant life; summer changes to fields of gold as wildflowers bloom (on my list as a top area favorite!) and berries ripen. Powell Marsh Trails near Spring Pond/Sherman Lake are great for walking the dogs or exploring the ridges on your mountain bike. 


TEN - Old Settler's Inn Coffee Shop at Voss’ Birchwood Lodge

Enjoy homemade soups and sandwiches surrounded with northwoods memorabilia.  Make sure you save room - some of the best pie and ice cream shakes come from their kitchen! While you’re there, walk through L’Array and Chucky Lou’s Last Dance antique shops for a glance into the past and some up north finds.  

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