Known as the Last Wilderness of Wisconsin, Presque Isle is a town in Vilas County famous for its stunning landscape and outdoor recreation activities.
The area around Presque Isle is rich in history and culture, and there are many exciting things to see and do in the town.
Presque Isle spans 77 square miles, containing over 80 lakes and 21 islands, with Crab Lake as its second largest lake and the most picturesque lake in the state.
Presque Isle’s long and distinguished history includes prosperous logging eras, exciting vacations, and sporting customs.
According to history, two French priests leading a religious voyage over unchartered territory got shipwrecked and left stranded on the shores of Lake Superior nearly 300 years ago.
The group made camp at a river’s mouth and survived the winter.
When the spring thaw and high water came, they found themselves on “Almost an Island.”
So, the priests gave the river the name “Presque Isle.”
Here are the 15 best things to do in Presque Isle, Wisconsin:
Appreciate Nature at the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area
Featuring 2,189 acres of land and water, the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area has diverse habitats, including wetlands, forests, and lakes.
Many plants and animals also live in the area, such as otters, timber wolves, and fishers.
Some of northern Wisconsin’s last remaining lakes, where native fish populations flourish with little interference from humans, are within the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area;
It safeguards over ten miles of pristine shoreline on 15 unmanaged lakes and ponds in northern Wisconsin.
Find a quiet place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
The 14 miles of trails in the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area are open to backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, while the Mark Musolf Family Trail opens exclusively for classic skiing.
You can hike through Wisconsin’s North Woods section at the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area and see local plants and animals in the woodlands nearby.
Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area’s 15 wild lakes and ponds are home to a wide variety of fish and other aquatic creatures.
Enjoy the View from Van Vliet Hemlocks State Natural Area
The Van Vliet Hemlocks is a popular spot for visitors to enjoy the area's natural beauty.
There are more than 1.5 miles of shoreline at the 400-acre Van Vliet Hemlocks, with its forest boasting a rare surviving example of northern Wisconsin’s once-vast and distinctive hemlock-hardwood rainforest.
Many elements of old forests are still in Van Vliet Hemlocks, including eagle and loon lodges, massive trees, stumps, and fallen trees on the land and in the water.
In addition to numerous spring pools and marshes, the Van Vliet Hemlocks also includes a distinctive collection of glacial rock layers, where you can see species like the tanager and warbler.
You can also walk through the Van Vliet Hemlocks Loop’s 31-km trail, considered an easy route for hiking or enjoying the views.
Revel in the Small Town Feel of Sensenbrenner Park
Located on Main St., Sensenbrenner Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Presque Isle, as its charms exude a small-town feel.
Built in 1988, you can access the Little Horsehead Lake Dam from Sensenbrenner Park and see how the water flows from the lake into the Presque Isle River.
A fishing pier is also at Sensenbrenner Park, where you can try your luck in catching some of the area’s native fish species, like the northern pike and largemouth bass.
Your toddlers will also have fun in the Park with its playground equipment, while you can bond with friends as you stay in its pavilion and grill area.
A boardwalk into the lake is also a must-try, as it will give you an up-close look at the Little Horsehead Lake Dam.
Cement and wood benches are all around Sensenbrenner Park, where you can enjoy the views or have a quiet moment to yourself.
Take in the Majestic Views of the Pipke Park
One of Presque Isle’s gems, Pipke Park, is where you can taste the city’s history and take in its majestic views.
A pleasant walking path surrounds two ponds in the Park, and a 2.8-mile track through the woods is excellent for trekking and snowshoeing.
You can also enjoy Pipke Park’s magic during winter, with its hillside perfect for riding a toboggan and well-kept ice rink.
The illuminated rink is open to the public and available for parties.
Kids will have a grand time on the children’s fishing pier while you head to the exercise stations.
This trail is also a part of the Presque Isle/Winchester Bike Route, which you can explore.
Have a Fun Night Out at the Retreat Bar
One of the most popular tourist places in Presque Isle, the Retreat Bar, is where you can have a great time and enjoy a night out.
The Retreat Bar has a variety of drinks that will surely quench your thirst, while its menu offers a delicious selection of food that will satisfy your taste buds.
Try out their pulled pork sandwich on a toasted kaiser bun with potato salad or kettle chips.
Some of the Retreat Bar’s must-try dishes are homemade pizzas, hot Italian beef, and gyro on pita bread.
The bar has a pool table where you can challenge your friends, dart boards, and win a game.
If you’re raring for a place to dance your worries away, you can use the Retreat Bar’s dance floor, with the live band playing your favorite tunes.
The Retreat Bar is also a great place to catch up with friends, as its cozy and inviting ambiance is perfect for socializing.
The Retreat Bar is also the venue of the Oktoberfest celebration in Presque Isle, which is a great time to try their German dishes and beer.
Feel the Christmas Spirit at Olde Time Christmas
One of the most popular tourist events to look forward to in Presque Isle during the holiday season is the Olde Time Christmas in Pipke Park.
The event occurs every December, and you’ll enjoy various activities that get you into the Christmas spirit.
One of the event’s highlights is riding the horse-drawn sleigh, a perfect activity for family and friends while you are along the snow-covered path along the lake.
Visitors will enjoy sitting around the bonfire while drinking hot chocolate and eating roasted marshmallows.
Have fun while sledding or ice skating at the Park, or go with your kids for a special visit with Santa Claus.
Olde Time Christmas in Pipke Park is the perfect place to enjoy the holiday season, with its festive atmosphere and charming surroundings.
Bond with Your Family at the Big Lake Campground
Big Lake Campground is a welcoming, family-run business that welcomes guests looking for a place to stay the night or a charming second home directly across Lake Michigan.
The campground organizes sites into a welcoming communal setting, featuring a tiny pond, a recreation area, a playroom, laundry service, and more.
Go trout fishing on the lake while you can explore the charming boutiques in the neighborhood.
RV and tent hookups are available.
Since the Campground is in Big Lake, a boat ramp and water access await campers.
You can also enjoy the picnic tables and campfires in the Big Lake Campground.
It also allows pets, making it the perfect place to bond with your family and friends.
Curl up with a Book at the Presque Isle Community Library
The Presque Isle Community Library has a wide selection of reading material you can choose from.
Formerly known as Irma Stein Memorial Library, the Library adjoins the Presque Isle Community Center Town Hall.
The Library boasts books ranging from fiction to non-fiction, a DVD collection, and a selection of magazines.
Irma Stein, a resident of Janesville, Wisconsin, moved to Presque Isle, where she established the first Library in the old school’s office and filled the space with donations of books.
After the school closed, the Library eventually moved into a classroom, where Irma volunteered for another 25 years.
The As the Story Time Lady, Pam Eschenbauch, began her voluntary work at the Library in 1979 and replaced Irma when the latter retired in 1987.
Pam completed correspondence courses to advance her career as the Library’s director and librarian in 1988.
Due to the increased usage of the Presque Isle Community Library, it received its own space in Community Center.
Since then, growth has accelerated dramatically, and it transferred to a new facility in 2007, where the Presque Isle Community Library area has more than doubled.
See the Stunning Old-Growth Trees at the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve
The Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve is a stunning example of an old-growth forest, one of the few remaining areas in Wisconsin that have not seen logging or development.
The Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve is a vital part of the Border Lakes Area, which covers roughly 24,000 acres in Vilas County.
White pines up to 400 years old stand tall in the area, with marshes, ponds, lakes, and streams.
The Palmer Lake boat dock is the only land-based access point to the Guido Rahr, Sr. Tenderfoot Forest Reserve.
Likewise, the reserve welcomes the public for hiking, birding, angling, and other limited recreational activities.
Bring your drinking water and insect repellant when you hike through the 500-acre old-growth forest and paddle four miles of untouched shoreline.
Admire the Views along the Presque Isle Nature Trail
Take the Presque Isle Nature Trail behind the Community Center on the top hill in Presque Isle for a quick but enjoyable stroll.
The wheelchair-accessible Nature Trail loop features a footbridge, a lakeside viewpoint, and incredible scenery of trees and ferns.
There are also markers to help you identify certain local plants and trees.
The Presque Isle Nature Trail is a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise or sunset.
A separate trail in the system leads through the woods to the Shanty Boy Cemetery, which serves as a graveyard and memorial for former loggers.
There are parking spaces and facilities at Presque Isle Community Park.
Take a Hike through Presque Isle/Pomeroy/Henry Lake Bike Trail
The Presque Isle/Pomeroy/Henry Lake Bike Trail starts at the border of Michigan and Wisconsin and extends to the Ottawa National Forest.
The trail is one of the best mountain biking trails in the Midwest, and it’s also great for hiking and birding.
The trail features beautiful sceneries that inspire you to finish the 100-mile route.
With towering pines, forests, and picturesque views of lakes, you’ll feel like you’re in a different world.
Mountain bikers may ascend into some of the region’s most picturesque lake country thanks to the vast route network.
The Presque Isle Community Building offers ample parking spaces, where you can leave your vehicles before going on the Presque Isle/Pomeroy/Henry Lake Bike Trail.
Explore the Denim & Dessert Readers’ Theatre
Catch a live performance at the Denim & Dessert Readers’ Theatre if you want to take your daily dose of culture.
The theatre is on School Loop Road, devoted to producing reader’s theatre, where actors read their lines from scripts instead of memorizing them.
The Denim & Dessert Readers’ Theatre has existed since 2003 and has produced various plays, such as “The Blood Money Caper” and “A Night of Old Time Radio Live – Grisly Murders & Lots of Laughter.”
Likewise, the production is at the Presque Isle Community Center.
There is free coffee and cake after the performance.
If you’re looking for a night of culture and entertainment, the Denim & Dessert Readers’ Theatre is the place for you.
Stay and Chill at Zastrow’s Lynx Lake Resort & Bar
Zastrow’s Lynx Lake Resort & Bar is an all-season perfect place to relax amid many forests and walkways.
Zastrow’s Lynx Lake Resort & Bar sits amid lakes at the northeast end of Lynx Lake, halfway between Boulder Junction and Presque Isle.
The place offers fishing, skiing, and splashing around in the lake with your kids, or curl up with a book and listen to the sound of nature.
Likewise, the cabins offer a range of amenities, such as a fully furnished kitchen, picnic tables, two bedrooms, a spacious beachfront, and selected rooms, are on the beachfront.
You can also rent pontoons and canoes to explore the lake to your hearts’ content.
Zastrow’s Lynx Lake Resort & Bar is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a nature getaway.
Check Out the Wilderness Park on the Presque Isle Lake
You can reach Wilderness Park on Presque Isle Lake through Bayview Road via Presque Isle Lake Boat Landing.
The Park features an on-site pit restroom, a boat launch, and a picnic area with grills.
In 2012, park authorities completed a restoration project, which included repairing the boat landing and restoring the landscaping by adding stairs leading to the lake’s edge.
The restoration project also installed a fence to protect plants from deer.
These enhancements are part of a project to protect Presque Isle Lake by reducing soil erosion and repairing the damaged coastal buffer zone.
Wilderness Park on Presque Isle Lake is a great place to spend a day and commune with nature.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Presque Isle, Wisconsin, might be a paradise, but the neighboring areas are also as beautiful and magical.
Commune with Nature at Rest Lake Park
Drive for 18 minutes from Presque Isle to the town of Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, and you’ll reach the majestic Rest Lake Park.
Located on a sprawling 10.7 acres, Rest Lake Park is a nature lover’s haven.
This gorgeous park features a sand beach frontage on the west, providing a stunning sunset view.
It also has a boat launch, perfect for those who love water sports, such as wakeboarding, kayaking, and canoeing.
Besides, the park has a spacious pavilion with picnic tables, ideal for family gatherings and picnics.
If you visit from June to August, you can catch the Skiing Skeeters Water Ski Shows every Wednesday and Saturday night.
Rest Lake Park is a great place to unwind, relax, and enjoy the company of nature.
Drop by the park and take in everything it offers!
With crystal clear waters, lush forests, and plenty of activities to keep you busy, Presque Isle is a destination you shouldn’t miss.
With plenty of activities available, you’ll never run out of things to do in this Wisconsin town.
Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Presque Isle, Wisconsin!