Tucked among glacial bluffs and set along the shores of Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River, Merrimac and Sauk Prairie are hot spots for outdoor recreation and adventure. Despite being less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Madison, once you cross the Wisconsin River (highly recommend taking the Merrimac Ferry!), the gorgeous landscape seems to just open up and invite you to explore. Here are a few suggestions for making the most of your trip to this area.
Charlie’s Lakeside Country Store – Kick off your journey with a stop at this classic, country general store. Charlie’s sells everything – and I mean, everything – you could possibly need for a day, weekend or weeklong trip! Sunscreen? Check. Snacks? Check. Inflatable keg? Campfire taco maker? A one-of-a-kind chainsaw carving? Check, check and check.
Lake Wisconsin Cruises – Merrimac lies right on the shore of Lake Wisconsin, a reservoir of the Wisconsin River. Lake life is huge around here, and a great way to get out on the water is with Lake Wisconsin Cruises, which offers everything from happy hour cruises, to lunch and dinner rides and even private charters.
Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area – Designated as Wisconsin’s first state natural area in 1952, Parfrey’s Glen is a stunning gorge nestled among the Baraboo Hills. A spectacular hike through the glen leads visitors past ancient sandstone bluffs and rare plant species before ending at a beautiful waterfall. However, Parfrey’s Glen has suffered from over-tourism and the “Instagram effect” in recent years, so the DNR requires everyone who visits to stay on the designated trail, refrain from carving into the sandstone walls and ultimately, leave no trace.
Merry Mac’s Campground – Call it every kid’s summer paradise! Merry Mac’s Campground is 40 acres of games, activities and entertainment. Stay cool in the swimming pond filled with inflatables, relax on the beach, hit up the mini golf course or plan a camping trip during one of their themed weekends. Christmas in July is always a good bet with visits from Santa, a “snowball” fight and other holiday-themed activities!
Devil’s Head Resort – Sure, Devil’s Head Resort is known for being one of the Midwest’s premier skiing destinations, but in the summertime, golfers and bikers alike take advantage of these slopes. With two, championship, 18-hole golf courses and miles of single track mountain biking trails, visitors can take in the views on this “mountain” any time of year.
Vintage Brewing Company – Built from the ground up in 2018, Vintage Brewing Company’s location in downtown Sauk City offers hungry (and thirsty!) customers local brews, “elevated Americana” cuisine and gorgeous views of the Wisconsin River, indoors or out! Pop in on Saturday for a brewery tour, or book a beer and cheese tasting featuring local cheesemaker, Carr Valley Cheese.
Wollersheim Distillery – In 2015, Wisconsin’s largest winery expanded to include a distillery, offering a wide array of handcrafted spirits. Visitors can sample the likes of whiskey, brandy, gin and specialty cocktails in the tasting room. And with the addition of the Wollersheim Bistro in 2019, plan to spend all day sampling everything this longtime Sauk Prairie staple has to offer!
John Joseph Coffee – John Brennan first began roasting coffee in his garage as a hobby, but that pastime has evolved into a thriving business right in downtown Sauk City. Those in need of a little caffeine can either grab a quick cup on the go or purchase coffee by the pound to brew at home.
Sauk City Riverfront Park – Located along the Wisconsin River right between Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, Riverfront Park is a major hub for recreation in this area. A state-of-the-art splash pad and playground provide fun for kids of all ages, while a beautiful beach along the river, kayak and canoe launches and The Great Sauk State Trail offer endless ways to enjoy the natural beauty of this area.
Riverview Adventure Company – The Wisconsin River is a major part of life in the Sauk Prairie area, and the best way to experience it is to get out on the water yourself. Riverview Adventure Company offers full-service tubing trips down the river, including drop off and pick up shuttles, tube rentals and suggestions on which sandbars are the best to beach yourself for awhile!