Located in the north-central United States and occupying both the Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the country, Wisconsin is one of the most naturally stunning states in the United States and a virtual wonderland for campers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Wisconsin shares borders with a number of U.S. states and major bodies of water, namely the states of Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd largest state by total area—larger than more than half of the other states in the Union—and the 20th most populous state. The state capital and political hub of Wisconsin is the beautiful city of Madison, however its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan.
Wisconsin’s diverse geography and terrain makes it perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities, including camping, hunting, fishing, boating, hiking and more. This unique geographical profile is comprised of the Northern Highland and Western Upland, along with a part of the Central Plain occupying the western part of the state and a large section of lowlands stretching to the shore of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin is second only to Michigan in the length of its Great Lakes coastline, making it a boater’s and fisherman’s dream.
Wisconsin is perhaps best known as “America’s Dairyland,” largely because of its status as one of the nation’s leading dairy producers—a state that is particularly famous for its cheese.
With its position between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Wisconsin is home to a wide assortment of geographical features. The state is separated into five distinct regions. In the north, the Lake Superior Lowland occupies a belt of land along Lake Superior. Just to the south, the Northern Highland boasts some enormous mixed hardwood and coniferous forests, as well as thousands of glacial lakes, and the state’s highest point, Timms Hill. In the middle of the state, the Central Plain has some unique sandstone formations like the Dells of the Wisconsin River, and the Eastern Ridges and Lowlands regions in the southeast are home to many of Wisconsin’s largest cities. These ridges also include the Niagara Escarpment, which stretches all the way to New York and beyond.
The incredible geographical diversity of Wisconsin makes it an ideal place to make camp during the warmer months of the year. To illustrate this point, below we have underscored some (5) of the state’s most popular campgrounds, including a brief description of each site’s characteristics and the activities available at each campground.
Peninsula State Park
Situated between Fish Creek and Ephraim, Peninsula State Park is perhaps the most popular campground in Wisconsin, attracting both local and out-of-state campers looking for fun and adventure. The campground boasts many characteristics and activities to back up its claim as the “most popular” outdoor vacation spot in the state, but the real reason, at least according to locals, is that this splendid park, located in Door County, is more like a resort than a typical campground.
Peninsula State Park is bursting with amazing amenities, including an 18-hole golf course, an amphitheater where campers can see musicals by the professional American Folklore Theatre, a lighthouse that offers tours to the general public, a sand beach, a boat and bike rental facility and paved trails to ride to nearby shops and restaurants.
Camping at Peninsula State Park is like the outdoor equivalent of a 4-star hotel. There is a camp store located on sandy Nicolet Beach, which sells essential supplies; fishing equipment, bait and tackle; souvenirs; ice; and plenty more. The snack bar, which is open during the summer months, is a great place to purchase some tasty treats, such as pizza, burgers and soft-serve ice cream cones. Nicolet Beach Concession also rents canoes, kayaks, bicycles, tandems and tagalongs. Rentals are seasonal and dependent on the weather.
Although there are many different types of campsites at Peninsula State Park, those who want to camp on the beach, at either North Nicolet Bay or South Nicolet Bay, should arrive early, as there are only 25 sites located here, each rented on a first-come first-served basis.
Those coming to Peninsula State Park from the town of Green Bay Wisconsin will want to take Highway 57 north toward Sturgeon Bay. Those coming from the town of Manitowoc will need to take State Highway 42 north toward Sturgeon Bay. Note: Before you get to Sturgeon Bay, Highways 57 and 42 join. Stay on State Highway 42 north to Fish Creek, where the highway turns east (right). Then go a half of mile further on Highway 42; the park entrance is on the north (left).
Smokey Hollow Campground
Located in the beautiful town of Lodi, Wisconsin, the Smokey Hollow Campground is a private facility that offers both tent camping and spots for recreational vehicles. There are even some unique on-site yurts that can be rented nightly and a covered wagon-styled group camping site.
The Smokey Hollow Campground sits on 40 acres, and the majority of the park is shaded by large trees. This forested atmosphere adds a coveted sense of seclusion and privacy to one’s stay. The campground plays host to a large swimming pool (open during the summer months only), with a large sandy beach on all sides. All campgrounds have access to electric power and the facilities include metered hot showers and flush toilets; laundry facilities; a general camp store where you can purchase supplies, souvenirs and other vital items; a game room for the kids; and even a Wi-Fi hot spot. Weekend themes include everything from Water Wars to festive luaus during the summer, all of which are geared towards fun and togetherness. Group activities include movies, mini golf and even a climbing wall.
Noted for its family-fun activities, the Smokey Hollow Campground offers a countless number of activities during the months of July and August every year. These activities include: a Dunk Tank, Face Painting, Airbrush Tattoo’s (temporary of course), Segway Clinics, Giant Shopping Cart Rides, Pumpkin Coach Rides, Jumping Pillows, Lemonade Stand (fresh squeezed), Giant Checkers, Weekend Wagon Rides, Pedal Carts, Horseshoes, Candy Bar Bingo, Movie rentals, Cold River Mining and much, much more.
In addition to the swimming pool, the Smokey Hollow Campground features a basketball court, volleyball court, Bocce ball court, and a large playground area for smaller children. The campground is not too far from several nearby attractions, including Lake WI, where campers can fish and boat, the Merrimac Ferry, the Circus World Museum, Ho-Chunk Gambling Casino and a number of great restaurants and cafes.
Buckhorn State Park
Built around the popular Castle Rock Lake in Wisconsin, Buckhorn State Park is a great outdoor facility and a camper’s dream. The lake offers fun opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and fishing rods and reels are available for loan at no cost. Campers and their families can even rent a canoe or kayak if they want to paddle the 1.8 mile water trail that showcases the region’s amazing foliage and wildlife. The park is adjacent to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, which is one of the few places one can see the endangered whooping crane in its natural habitat.
Buckhorn State Park and the adjacent Necedah National Wildlife Refuge sit on an 8,190-acre peninsula on the Castle Rock Flowage of the Wisconsin River. Here, the unique cart-in campsites offer a taste of rustic flavor, as do the accessible cabins, wildlife/hunting blinds, boat boarding pier, and fishing pier. Adaptive equipment is available for participants with disabilities or mobility impairments including specialized kayaks and sit skis for cross country skiing. Pets are welcome in Buckhorn State Park, but they must be on a leash and under the control of their handler at all times. Certain areas may be off limits to pets.
Buckhorn State Park is open year round beginning at 6:00 AM, including certain sites that offer winter camping. There are many activities to pursue during one’s stay at the campground, including fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking, hunting and cross country skiing. There are bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, playground facilities and a camp store that offers food, supplies, sundries and souvenirs. Fisherman can also buy bait and tackle at the store, and even get some advice on the best fishing spots and the types of bait the various species of fish are biting on.
Buckhorn State Park is located 13 mi. N of Mauston off State Highway 58. Campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis.
Baraboo Hills Campground
Located on Terrytown Road in the city of Baraboo, the Baraboo Hills Campground is rapidly becoming one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Central Wisconsin. The campground features both tent campsites and RV pads, small cabins, yurts and deluxe cabins with all the bells and whistles. In total, there are 159 sites here, 86 of which have water and electrical hookups; 6 pull-through sites; a dump station and free showers. Other sites, activities and services includes groceries, laundry facilities, a snack bar, Wi-Fi Hot Spots, wood for sale, an ATM, swimming pool, swimming beach, a playground for the kids, a pavilion and recreational hall, game room, wagon rides, a jumping pillow, outdoor movies, themed weekends, special events, mini golf, golf cart and recreation equipment rentals and much, much more.
Anyone looking for a great place to relax and unwind on the weekends should make their way to the Baraboo Hills Campground. Whether you prefer the traditional camp activities like hiking, fishing, backpacking and canoeing, or you feel like being pampered in a plush cabin, complete with a television and computer access, the Baraboo Hills Campground has everything you and your family are looking for.
Plymouth Rock Camping Resort
Considered one of the finest campgrounds in Wisconsin, the Plymouth Rock Camping Resort is an ideal destination to unplug, unwind and relax in a gorgeous outdoor setting. This award winning campground is where many locals head to enjoy their weekends; a place where themed activities and action-packed, enjoyable events rule the day—activities and events that are perfect for the whole family. The campground features sites for tent camping, trailers and recreational vehicles up to 40 feet in length, and provides both water and electric power to each of those sites.
Located near the Road America Racetrack, the Plymouth Rock Camping Resort is very popular among race fans—people who can camp out the night before the race and then stay for the entire weekend of festivities. The campground features three large heated pools, a hot tub and the Little Elkhart Lake, making it a great spot for those who enjoy water-based activities like swimming, boating and fishing. Pedal boats and canoes are available for rent, and some of the many sports campers can enjoy include basketball, baseball, volleyball and mini golf. Each weekend offers a different fun theme, such as Ice Cream Social or Hawaiian Luau Night, and when your group tires of the normal camp fare, the area also features a number of great restaurants nearby. The town also has a Saturday morning craft fair that operates all summer.
Plymouth Rock Camping Resort was recently named one of the top ten campgrounds in the state of Wisconsin—and for good reason. Along with all the regular camping activities, such as fishing, hiking and taking nature walks, the park includes a Large-Screen Outdoor Movie Theater (on Friday nights), Live Entertainment (on specified weekends), Wagon Rides (event weekends), Parades (holidays), Top Rated Shower Facilities, Full Hook Ups, a Gated Community, Cable TV and designated Wi-Fi Hot Spots.