A Local Guide to the Northwoods: 3 Small Towns

Hailey Rose

August 10, 2022

Photo Credit: Eagle River Chamber of Commerce via Instagram

Looking for a weekend getaway before summer ends? The Northwoods is the perfect place for you with three local small towns offering their own unique outdoor activities, family fun, and excellent dining experiences. Jump on in to find out more about what the Northwoods has to offer!

Stop by St. Germain

Photo Credit: Elmer’s Fun Park

During your visit in the Northwoods, stop by the charming small town of St. Germain! This town is surrounded by the great outdoors and offers a plethora of activities to have some fun outside. There are many hiking trails to explore through the scenic Northwoods wilderness so be sure to click here to check them all out and choose your adventure! Speed it up and grab your bike to hit the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail System offering 52 miles of paved, smooth trails. Or you can kick it up to high gear and hop on an ATV to explore the St. Germain ATV Club’s Trails. Get your map here.

For family fun, St. Germain has got you covered with two local places! Elmer’s Fun Park is sure to be a fun time with activities like go-karting, 18-hole mini golf, horseback riding, bumper boats, and so much more, including ice cream! Another must-visit family fun spot is 19th Hole Ice Cream & Mini Golf, offering two different miniature golf courses, a Par Three Golf Course and Wilderness Miniature Golf Course. And when you’re done, they also offer a sweet reward, ice cream!

St. Germain has a variety of local restaurants serving each meal of the day. Start your day and eat breakfast or lunch at the famous Wolf Pack Cafe, which has “the best pancakes in the world.” Another local favorite is Spangs Italian Restaurant, serving all things pasta and one of a kind pizza for 50 years. And if you’re looking for a classic Northwoods meal, head to the Whitetail Inn for dishes including steaks, prime rib, seafood, and of course, Friday Fish Fry.

Save room for dessert because St. Germain is home to one of the most iconic sweet shops in the Northwoods, Cathy’s Ice Cream N’ Candy Shoppe! In fact, they were ranked one of the top six ice cream parlors in the whole state of Wisconsin. Since 1985, they’ve been serving all sorts of candys, chocolates, and ice cream treats that’ll keep you coming back for more every summer!

Explore Eagle River

Photo Credit: @harmonmarienfishing via Instagram

Just a few miles away from St. Germain is Eagle River and it is an amazing summertime destination, especially for getting outdoors and on the water. Eagle River is home to the world’s largest chain of 28 connected lakes. Enjoy the water and rent from Boat Sport Marina the vessel of your choosing. Or float down the Wisconsin River with Hawks Nest Outfitters on their equipment including tubes, kayaks, and canoes. And if you’re feeling lucky, try and cast a line in these waters holding a variety of species including panfish, walleye, and bass. Book a guide trip with Harmon Marien Fishing Guide Service to learn the lakes from a local fisherman!

Eagle River also has so much family fun that awaits! Eagle Falls Adventure Golf & Laser Tag offers an adventurous 18-hole mini-golf course for a sunny summer day, and also has laser tag, especially perfect for a rainy day! Kartway also offers mini-golf for the whole family to enjoy as well as several other family activities to make many summer memories including go-karting, bumper boats, and so much more… even ziplining to new heights! Right next door, Rocking W Stables provides visitors with the opportunity to ride on their very own horse through the beautiful Northwoods wilderness.

When you get hungry, dine for breakfast or lunch at Leif’s Cafe for delicious skillets, sandwiches, baskets and burgers. Also be sure to check out The Blue Heron Restaurant and keep an eye out for their specials including fish fry, and prime rib on Saturdays. For lakeside dining, Kickback Grill is the place for you serving both lunch and dinner and signature specials like the two-hand specialty, Volcano Chicken or entree Norwegian Salmon. The dining options don’t stop there! The Craftsman American Tavern serves crafted smash burgers and crafted entrees like their Blueberry Cheddar Stuffed Chicken Breast.

Make Memories in Minocqua

Photo Credit: Wildwood Wildlife Park Zoo

Right in the heart of the Northwoods area, Minocqua also provides endless opportunities to get outdoors like paddling your way through the 2,300 bodies of freshwater in the area. In addition, the Minocqua area is home of the North Highland-American Legion State Forest, the largest state forest in Wisconsin. Check out the many paddling lakes here. Or learn how you can pedal your way through the scenic woods on some of the best biking trails here. You can also explore by foot and hike while enjoying the natural beauty. There are 6 noteworthy trails to choose from, find them here!

For family fun, Minocqua’s arguably most famous family attraction is Wildwood Wildlife Park Zoo & Safari. They are home to over 1,700 animals and 229 different and unique species. There are up-close experiences with these animals that will leave you with memories of a lifetime. And if you just can’t get enough and want to keep learning more about these creatures, they hold a zoo camp featuring many programs to learn something new each day about the animals of our planet.

Eat up and swing by Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty for breakfast, brunch, or for the bakery to grab some of their trademark donuts. For lunch and dinner, there are a variety of options in the area including Oakfire Pizzeria & Bar with salads, hand-crafted sandwiches, and of course, their pizza where they got their name! And serving just dinner, Northfork Fin & Filet provides an amazing dinner dining experience with their unique dish creations and featured menu items such as Porcupine Balls, Salmon, and “The Fin & Filet” Ribeye.

After following along this local guide to the Northwoods, start planning your trip to this perfect summertime vacation in the area. There are three local small towns at your fingertips offering their own outdoor adventures, family fun to make unforgettable memories, and delicious meals for any time of the day. Head on up to the Northwoods and experience its local, small-town charm!

Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.

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