The Best of Washburn and Bayfield, Wisconsin
Sometimes, the best travel locations are right beyond your own backyard. There are many little stores and beaches nestled on the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin near where I grew up, including some hidden gems.
Washburn is where I spent the first eighteen years of my life (in three different houses). Most folks who come up north drive through Washburn, a small town of just over 2000 people on their way to Bayfield, only stopping for gas or to pick up something from the grocery store. This is unfortunate. While Washburn may not be as quaint as Bayfield, it has its own charms.
If you’re there in the summer, check out Tetzner’s Dairy, not too far outside of town between Washburn and Ashland. Why? Tetzner’s makes its own dairy products, noticeably its milk and ice cream – and it’s delicious. Payment for the items are based on the “honor system”- just drop your money in an envelope, and put it into the slot by the door with the name of the purchased item and the amount of money.
Several beaches are located in Washburn, which makes it easy to access the lake for swimming, boating (in various forms) and more. Note- Lake Superior temperatures aren’t for the faint of heart (the water is almost always freezing, but it’s a true northern Wisconsin experience)! Check out West End Park, Memorial campground, and smaller swimming spots that follow the walking trail by the lake (the locals have given them names, but they don’t have official names to the best of my knowledge).
Payment for the items are based on the “honor system”- just drop your money in an envelope, and put it into the slot by the door with the name of the purchased item and the amount of money.
There is one beach remote enough in Washburn that not even all the locals know about it – it’s a walk through some brush and trees, and can be accessed by scaling down a cliff on the branches of a winding tree (it may not be the best or most easily accessible spot for tourists, and the beach here is very small). A more accessible, but not very well known area is Houghton Falls Nature Preserve, located about halfway between Washburn and Bayfield. Houghton has a walking trail through the woods and access to the lake.
While in Washburn, be sure to also check out the public library, one of the originals built by Andrew Carnegie. When lunchtime comes around, head to Coco’s Bakery for a bite: their assortment of baked goods, soups, and fresh baked breads will be sure to please. If you stick around for dinner, Patsy’s Bar and Grill has the best burgers in the area, while DaLous’s Bistro offers great Italian food (pizzas on a wood fired grill, paninis, gelato, and more) while utilizing local ingredients. If you’re up for a drink, try out The Snug, a fairly new Irish pub located on the same block as DaLou’s and Patsy’s.
Bayfield, Wisconsin has been recognized both nationally and internationally for its beauty and charm, particularly within the last few years. It’s still worth pointing out Bayfield for those who haven’t discovered this small town yet. Several Victorian homes and inns, bed and breakfasts, berry orchards, and spectacular views of the lake draw in crowds every year. The Apostle Islands also draw folks in, and Madeline Island in particular is very popular: a ferry boat makes several trips to and from the island daily.
During the summer, head to The Candy Shoppe for some ice cream, and check out the berry orchards for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries (ask the locals to be sure your favorite berry is in season for picking). Erickson’s, Blue Vista Farms (they have gorgeous flowers and a shop, too) and Hauser’s are prime spots, but my favorite orchard is Highland Valley Farms. I love their selection, the staff, and the views!
Up north, the trees burst into flames of crimson and orange: it’s a great place to experience the changing color of leaves.
If you have money to spend or are in the mood to treat yourself to a getaway weekend, The Old Rittenhouse Inn offers a romantic experience for couples, complete with luxurious Victorian style rooms, and a very satisfying bed and breakfast experience all around (several of the rooms have a lake view and/or a whirlpool, along with other amenities). The Rittenhouse offers breakfast and dinner, with special lunches occasionally offered for large groups. While I never stayed here personally, I spent two summers housekeeping at the inn, and was able to learn about each nook and cranny in the three properties owned by the Rittenhouse (The Old Rittenhouse Inn, Le Chateau Boutin, and the Rittenhouse cottage). The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful and are a great resource on things to see and do in the area. If you can’t afford the stay, tourists are welcome to take a peek in the rooms if guest haven’t checked in yet for the day.
Fall is one of the best seasons to be in Bayfield, in my opinion. Up north, the trees burst into flames of crimson and orange: it’s a great place to experience the changing color of leaves. With autumn quickly approaching, people are gearing up for Bayfield’s 54th annual Apple Festival. As the name suggests, the festival features many apple-related goods: apple pies, caramel apples, apple cider… everything a food enthusiast could love! The event also features a parade, street vendors, a carnival, street performers, and so much more. Apple orchards are ripe for the picking, the berry orchards have fall related merchandise on sale and the scent of pumpkins and apples in the air. It’s easy to see why Bayfield is such a popular destination!