About an hour drive north of Milwaukee is the picturesque village of Elkhart Lake. This tiny town of less than a thousand residents got its start in the 1870s, thanks to the arrival of the Milwaukee & Northern Railroad. Over the years, Elkhart Lake was a popular destination of vacationers, gamblers, gangsters, and race enthusiasts from Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Chicago.
Though gangsters and gamblers gradually diminished their presence in the area, Elkhart Lake remained a popular destination with a more wholesome crowd. One of the area draws was open road racing. The town hosted open road sports car races for three consecutive years, from 1950-52.
Though the Elkhart Lake car races through the streets of town were wildly popular, the event ended after three years, due to the numerous inherent safety risks. Signs reminiscent of those races can still be seen throughout the town today.
Although open road racing ended in 1952, it was not the end of sports car related activities in the village of Elkhart Lake. In 1955, Road America, one of the premier closed-circuit road race courses in the world, opened a few miles southeast of town.
Visiting Road America
Spread out over 640 acres, Road America offers plenty of family-friendly activities throughout the year. According to the Marketing and Promotions Director, Mary Lou Haen, Road America offers 1,600 campsites. The only drawback is you must be attending an event in order to camp at Road America.
That’s not a bad thing, though! There are numerous events throughout the year, and plenty of activities, even a disc golf course, to keep everyone entertained. As one of the premier race tracks in the country, Road America is well worth a visit.
Another nearby campground just down the road but without the racing element is Sheboygan Broughton Marsh Park & Campground. Set on 30 acres and open year-round, the park boasts Marsh Lodge, a full-service restaurant and tavern.
The 64 fully developed campsites include showers, a playground, picnic areas, a launch ramp, foot golf, disc golf, and fishing piers. The park is also connected with the county-wide 228-mile trail system.
Golf is another popular draw to Elkhart Lake. The premier golf course in the area is Quit Qui Oc Golf Club. The original 18 holes opened in 1927 and were designed by Tom Bendelow.
The back nine was abandoned during World War II due to lack of play. With the course purchased by the Wiese family in the mid-1950s, the back nine was redesigned to its current configuration. The par 71 course measures 6,411 yards from the blue tees and is very scenic and walkable.
In addition to the 18-hole track, Quit Qui Oc, which is a Menomonee Indian phrase for ‘land along the crooked river,’ also includes another nine holes. The Glacial Nine is a par 35 that stretches to 3,227 yards. It was designed by Bob Lohman and opened in 2001.
Quit Qui Oc Golf Club also includes extensive practice facilities and golf instructions. The very popular Clubhouse is open for lunch and dinner year-round and features a fabulous Friday Fish Fry.
Restaurants in Elkhart Lake
A few upscale dining options can be found within the elegant Osthoff Resort, including Lola’s on the Lake and Otto’s Restaurant. The classy Paddock Club is set in a historic building that was a hopping place during prohibition in the 1930s. Today, however, the bar is in full swing. One of the popular offerings is small plate Tuesday that features a rotating menu. Nearby, the Cottonwood Social at Shore Club also offers excellent dining options.
Not to be missed is Siebkens Stop-Inn Tavern, as well as Vintage Elkhart Lake, a wine and fine food shop. While strolling Lake Street, stop in the eclectic Lake Street Café, or cool off at Gesserts, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and confectionery since the 1920s.
If it is total relaxation you’re looking for, head to Aspira Spa inside the Osthoff Resort. Choose from a diverse menu of traditional and signature treatments or salon services and food from the spa café. SpaSuites allow couples, friends, and sisters to experience spa services in a private space with its own fireplace, whirlpool bath, and shower.
Other outdoor activities require a visit to the lake, just across the street from the Osthoff. Activities include fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hydro-bike, paddle boats, and more.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer who lives in Olympia, Washington. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, The 19th Hole, for RV LIFE. You can reach him at email@example.com.