Beth is one of my best friends, and no shocker here, we immediately bonded our first week of freshman year at UW-Madison for a million reasons, but our affinity for walking the lakeshore trail and mutual obsession with our family cottages were a few of them. Here she gushes her lake love for Waupaca, where I've had the pleasure of joining her family multiple times...
If you asked me about my favorite place in Wisconsin or where I have the absolute best memories, it wouldn’t take long to say my family’s cottage on Columbia Lake on the Chain O’Lakes in Waupaca. Waupaca has been my home-away-from-home during the summers since before I can remember. My grandparents purchased our cottage many decades ago, and it has now been handed down to my mother and her siblings. For me, a summer is not complete without time spent on the lake swimming, waterskiing, tubing, enjoying campfires, and just relaxing. My fondest childhood memories are days on the lake, followed by large cookouts, completed with a sunset boat cruise, s’mores, and old stories around the campfire.
I could go on and on about Waupaca, but I will keep it to the highlights so that you can get the basics of the area and get to making your own memories there!
The chain consists of 22 spring-fed lakes, which helps keep the lakes pristine. Talk about clear water and being able to see directly to the bottom - you won’t have any problems scoping out the fish here! There are four “fast” lakes that you are able to water ski, tube, and create a wake - those include: Long Lake, Columbia Lake, Round Lake, and Rainbow Lake. The other lakes have a mandated no-wake at all times. Each of the lakes offer their own little charm, and since they are all connected it is easy to explore them all. Our cottage is on Columbia Lake, so we have had the luxury of being able to water ski and tube directly from our dock.
Closest major city and airport?
Waupaca is located in the middle of the state 30 minutes from Stevens Point, one hour from Wausau, 45 minutes from Neenah-Menasha-Oshkosh, and about one and a half to two hours North from both Madison and Milwaukee
Distance to nearest grocery store?
There are a few grocery stores in downtown Waupaca, about 10-15 minutes from the Chain, depending upon where on the Chain you’re staying. They’re your typical Piggly Wiggly, Aldi, etc., so you’ll have no problem finding what you need.
Favorite local activities/foods/traditions?
Cate & Company: Great local Waupaca themed apparel. Great for gifts!
However, if you’re looking to bring your own boat during your stay in Waupaca, there are numerous boat launch sites on the Chain. Click here for more details.
What do you do when it rains?
Some of the most calming times at the lake are the days that it rains. I love leaving the windows open and hearing the rain hit the water. During those rainy days, I am always reminded to slow down and just relax. Puzzles, reading, playing cribbage,Euchre orSheepshead, or crafting are our go-to options; really any activity where the light patter of the rain over the lake as background noise is enjoyable. If we get stir crazy on those days, there is always the option of catching a movie at the local theater downtown (Rogers Cinema.)
Local joints to check out?
Best place to get a fish fry?
The highlight of any extended time spent at the lake is a homemade fish fry of all of the fish caught during the week - and generally there is a ton! Growing up, the only fish fries I’d eat were prepared by my mom from the fish we had caught that prior week. To this day, homemade fish fries at the cottage are by far my favorite!
If the fish aren’t biting though, Clearwater Harbor Bar, Simpson’s Restaurant, and the Chain O’Lakes Bar and Grill all have fantastic fish fries! However, I still challenge you to attempt to catch your own and make a homemade fish fry.
Fish prominent in the lakes?
Lessons learned at the lake?
I know what you’re probably thinking - there is no way that I can do everything on this list while I’m in Waupaca...but that’s ok! Like all the lake communities in Wisconsin, there is one ultimate goal while there: enjoy your time on the water, the people you’re with, and make memories that will last a lifetime. THAT is the ultimate lesson that I learned at the lake. Life seems a bit slower there. All the stress and hustle and bustle of home get pushed to the wayside, even if it is just for a short weekend. Leave your makeup and hair products at home. Live in a swimming suit and sweats the entire time. Go to bed smelling of the campfire that you sat around exchanging stories and laughing until your abs hurt. Enjoy the sunset over the lake. When you leave, you know that you’ll go back to your everyday life refreshed and ready to take on anything because you recharged at the lake. And more than anything, you go home already planning your next trip back. Not only is your heart full of memories of that place, but there is always room, and you’re always ready, to make more.