Vacation rentals in Lake Winnebago
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Your guide to Lake Winnebago
Welcome to Lake Winnebago
With the exception of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, of course, Lake Winnebago is Wisconsin’s largest lake, 30 miles long and 10 miles wide at its broadest. With an average depth of 15 feet, the lake is shallow enough to warm up in the summer and freeze over in winter, offering locals four seasons’ worth of activities. There are myriad ways to access the water: from the rural shores along its eastern side or from a city park in one of Lake Winnebago’s major cities of Appleton, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac. You can treat Lake Winnebago as a playground, jet-skiing in the summer and ice sailing in the winter (if you’re brave enough). You can treat its wide expanse of water as a retreat, settling into a quiet cove to fish for walleye or spending a February day bundled up in a tiny ice shack. You can hike along its shores, stopping at a beach to swim. Or you can spend an afternoon floating in the middle of the lake, basking in the sun as the boat gently rocks, feeling far away from both the land and your day-to-day life.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Lake Winnebago?
The weather in East Central Wisconsin likes to make a statement: When it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s cold — well, bundle up. After the ice melts in March, late spring and early fall are both comfortable times to stay in one of the area’s cabins and linger on the lake, though neither season lasts much longer than a month. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, temperatures reliably reach the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit, which can feel much warmer when the humidity spikes in July and August. Summer brings Wisconsinites outdoors in droves, and art, music, and beer festivals abound in its three major cities, with spectacular fireworks displays ringing the lake on July 4. The boat traffic quiets as fall progresses.
Winter sets in at the beginning of December, and temperatures stay well below freezing through early March, which paradoxically brings people back to the lake. Once Lake Winnebago freezes over, usually by the end of January, you’ll spot skaters and snowshoers close to shore and hundreds of cars driving toward the center.
What are the top things to do in Lake Winnebago?
Boating on the Lake
From spring through mid-September, Lake Winnebago draws Wisconsinites for a host of activities. Canoes and kayaks glide along the exterior of the lake, exploring coves and byways. Anglers hug the shoreline in spring, fishing for perch and walleye, then head into the interior as the water warms up. Jet skis and water skis zoom across its surface, and on sunny weekends you’ll spot plenty of boats sticking to one spot, speakers on blast, ice coolers packed. A little research will quickly direct you to dozens of boat rental outfits in the main cities and small towns.
High Cliff State Park
Located just outside the city of Sherwood, along the lake’s northeastern shore, is High Cliff State Park, the only state park on Lake Winnebago. You can admire the water from the tall limestone cliffs that skirt the shoreline or climb even higher for a view from a 40-foot lookout tower. Spend some time taking in the limestone effigies, which Siouan peoples built in the shape of panthers and buffalo more than a thousand years ago. Sixteen miles of accessible trails snake through the woods, and swimmers wade into the water from the park’s beaches.
As soon as the layer of ice on Lake Winnebago reaches a thickness of one to two feet, locals drive their trucks several miles out onto the surface to set up ice houses. If you’re an experienced ice fisher with your own augur, fishing rig, and portable shelter, you’ll find plenty of camaraderie out there, not to mention walleye, perch, and white bass. The real test of an ice fisher’s mettle, the locals say, is sturgeon spearing. If you’re new to the sport, never drive onto the ice by yourself — dozens of vehicles fall into the water every year — but you can hire a guide service to supply the equipment, knowledge, and warm drinks.