Wisconsin is a beautiful midwestern US State known for being home to some stunning natural attractions. With wildlife sanctuaries, unique museums, and quite a few record-breaking attractions, a lot of interesting places in Wisconsin get overlooked.
That’s why you need to read this guide to all the gems in the midwestern state! From Apostle Island sea caves to the spectacular remote Rock Island, here are all the best-hidden gems in Wisconsin!
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a beautiful recreational park in northwestern Wisconsin. The park is situated on Lake Superior (one of the Great Lakes), and it boasts 21 islands, lots of sandstone sea caves, and several historic lighthouses.
Although the park is open year-round, not all areas are accessible all the time due to changing weather conditions. So, if you want to visit a specific area of the Apostle Islands park, you should plan your visit ahead according to the weather conditions.
The 720 square miles of this hidden gem in Wisconsin are popular for kayaking, sailing, hiking, and just visiting historic places. It’s possible to camp at the park, so consider bringing your camping gear if you want to explore as much of this beautiful park as possible.
Wyalusing State Park is a huge park about 500 feet above the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. It is one of the oldest state parks in Wisconsin, and it is popular for hiking, canoeing, birdwatching, fishing, and effigy mounds.
The park also boasts overnight dormitories and a group lodge, which can be reserved in advance if you contact the property office. This is great for all backpackers who want to spend a few days exploring the area, but don’t want to bother with packing camping gear.
Alternatively, it is possible to camp at the park. There are several campgrounds through Wyalusing, which offer clean and modern amenities to all the visitors. Hiking is by far the most popular activity in the park, thanks to the abundance of exciting trails that reward hikers with spectacular views of sea caves, waterfalls, rivers, river islands, and so much more!
Richard Bong State Recreation Area is a vast state park in southeastern Wisconsin. Once upon a time, this used to be a jet fighter base, and it is named after Major Richard I. Bong, who was a US air ace during WWII.
Today, this sprawling state park is popular for many different things, including camping, fishing, hunting, boating, and even cross-country skiing in the winter. The park also boasts more than 16 miles of hiking trails, so there are plenty of ways to explore it regardless of when you visit.
The park area is also very popular for ATV rides and model airplane flying, so there are a lot of different ways to have fun here. Although it’s not exactly on the shore, it’s close enough to Lake Michigan that you can visit the sandy beaches on the shore for a few hours, if you decide to stay at the park for a while.
The House on the Rock is a hidden gem off in southern Wisconsin. The rocky hilltop house is famous for being home to the world’s largest carousel, so it’s definitely an attraction worth visiting in Wisconsin if you want to discover something truly unique.
The carousel features more than 20,000 lights, 268 animals, 182 chandeliers, and it weighs a whopping 36 tons. You can’t ride it, unfortunately, but it’s certainly worth it to go and see that largest carousel in the world that, ironically enough, doesn’t feature a single horse!
Also, this place is known for its unusual architecture. The house is a Japanese-style home with pagodas, a pond in the backyard, and quite a lot of Japanese decorations. Visiting it feels like you’ve somehow teleported to Asia, and it’s a fascinating experience that’s absolutely worth the trip to Spring Green.
The Ladybug Building is a beautiful hidden gem in Milwaukee. Situated at 622 N Water Street, this office building is not an attraction that attracts tourists from all over the state.
However, if you happen to find yourself in Milwaukee, it’s definitely worth it to check out the building. The office building is famous for the three ladybug sculptures that are attached to its front, and which look absolutely adorable.
It’s certainly not the most exciting of the hidden gems in the state, but it’s interesting enough that it’s worth it to walk past the building if you’re in the area.
American Science & Surplus is one of the hidden gems in Milwaukee that all avid shoppers need to know about. It’s a huge discount store where you can buy everything from puzzles to traffic lights.
The store features a lot of surplus science equipment, so droppers, beakers, and stuff like that. But it also has toys, clothing, school supplies, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Also, everything here is super cheap, so be sure to visit this awesome store if you need to do some serious shopping but don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Cave of the Mounds is a popular cave in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. It’s an attraction off the beaten path that can only be explored during guided tours and it is so fascinating that all the effort to visit it is without a doubt worth it.
Blue Mounds is a tiny town in Wisconsin, located just off the US Highway 151. The fascinating cave is pretty easy to find, and there’s a big parking lot near the entrance into the cave.
Purchasing tickets in advance is possible, but not necessary. They’re also sold at the entrance, but tour times are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis.
Man Mound is a historic landmark in Baraboo that’s famous for a human-shaped effigy mound. There are several places of this kind throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota, and they’re all respected as sacred and burial sites. Man Mound, and all the other effigy mounds in Wisconsin, have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, so it’s super easy to find the others if you’re interested in exploring these historic attractions.
It’s estimated that all the effigy mounds were created between 750 and 1200 CE, so they’re a truly fascinating piece of history worth checking out. However, the Man Mound is pretty much the only interesting sight in the area, so keep that in mind if your time in Wisconsin is limited.
However, you can visit other hidden gems in Baraboo, and Pewit’s Nest is definitely one worth your time. The nature preserve boasts excellent hiking with scenic views of a glacier-carved gorge, and it’s only a 15-minute drive from the Man Mound park.
Brunet Island State Park is a very large nature park on the Fisher and Chippewa rivers. It is popular for fishing, camping, hiking, and boating, so there’s quite a lot of things to do and see in the area.
The nature of this state park is also fascinating – the park is famous for its numerous eastern hemlock trees and a huge population of white-tailed deer. In fact, some park areas are overpopulated with deer, which is why deer hunting is allowed in two-thirds of the mainland park area.
It’s possible to camp at the park, so consider this if you want to spend more than a day at Brunet Island Park.
Related: Check out the best National Parks around Chicago
Lost City Forest is a university arboretum that features 1,200 acres of varied habitats. This includes wetlands, forests, and prairies, making it the perfect place for all nature lovers in Wisconsin.
Situated in the state capital, the sprawling arboretum belongs to the University of Wisconsin. The university holds various nature classes here, so it’s a great place to learn something, in addition to exploring and admiring some exceptionally beautiful nature.
The vast park also features loads of hiking trails, so there’s lots of exploration to be done if you’re willing to step off the beaten path. Lake Wingra is also nearby, as are several golf courses, in case you’re looking for other ways to relax and unwind.
Governor Nelson State Park is a picturesque park on the shore of Lake Mendota. It’s the perfect state park to explore if you’re staying in Madison since it’s literally just outside the city. You can even see the Wisconsin State Capitol from some areas of the park, which should give you an idea of just how close to Madison the place is!
This state park is most popular for hiking, especially among hikers who want to see some unique historic landmarks. The Woodland Trail is probably the best one in the park since it offers a rare opportunity to see Native American effigy mounds, similar to the Man Mound in Baraboo.
Other popular activities in the state park include boating, fishing, and swimming. In the winter months, the park becomes popular for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, with several trails that pass through the prairies and savannahs.
Lost Creek Falls is a nature preserve in Cornucopia, a town on the shore of Lake Superior. The scenic waterfall is situated in the woods southwest of Cornucopia, and it boasts an 8’ plunge with several feet of other cascades both below and above the plunge.
It’s possible to hike behind the falls, which is actually pretty rare for waterfalls near this Great Lake. Explore the different hiking trails in the area to see all the smaller cascades that are formed by the creek, but also to admire the beautiful untouched nature of the area.
The hike to the Lost Creek Falls is only about three miles long, and it is rated as moderately difficult due to the rocky terrain. If you planned to spend an entire day in this part of the state, be sure to visit Cornucopia as well. The place is small with a total population of 98, but it boasts some beautiful sandy beaches and a marina. It’s popular for boating, fishing, kayaking, and just beach vacations in general.
Governor Thompson State Park is a state park in eastern Wisconsin, near Woods Lake. The place is great for all nature lovers in Wisconsin since it offers a wide variety of things to do in the great outdoors.
It is popular for hiking paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and even skiing in the winter. The park also boasts a lakeshore picnic area, which is absolutely perfect for enjoying scenic views. The family campground is great for all campers who want to spend a few days exploring this beautiful state park.
It’s worth noting that this is one of the youngest state parks in Wisconsin. It was first established in 2000, and it opened its doors to visitors only in 2005. This hidden gem is gaining popularity every year, especially among nature lovers in Wisconsin.
Rock Island State Park is one of the best-hidden gems off the beaten path in Door County, Wisconsin. Situated in the northern area of Lake Michigan, the state park is famous for the primitive island that can only be accessed by a passenger ferry from Washington Island.
You can drive only to Northport – from there, you need to get on a ferry that will take you to Washington Island, and only from there can you take a ferry to Rock Island. It’s a lot of effort to reach this hidden gem, but it’s absolutely worth it considering just how stunning the place is.
Also, keep in mind that Rock Island attractions get very few visitors, so they’re perfect for everyone who wants to explore lesser-known Wisconsin attractions. Primitive Rock Island is best known for the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse, which has been on the island since 1858. The area is also popular for hiking, camping, beaches, and just exploring untouched nature.
Since you’re already going to be there, it’s not a bad idea to take some time to explore Ellison Bay and Washington Island as well. See the Schoolhouse Beach Park, and visit the Sand Dunes Park, Boyers Bluff, and the Washington Island Farm Museum, before you get on the ferry to Rock Island.
I have not covered absolutely everything in Wisconsin, so I just want to mention a few other great ideas I know of:
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.