Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Spirit Lake, IA

  • Published 2022/06/08

The vibrant city of Spirit Lake, Iowa, offers something for everyone, such as nature lovers, history buffs, or foodies.

Spirit Lake City is the county seat of Dickinson County and the gateway to the Iowa Great Lakes.

It is south of Big Spirit Lake, Iowa’s biggest natural lake, along a portion of East Okoboji Lake’s western shoreline.

The Dakota Sioux once called the area “Minnewaukon,” or “Lake of the Spirit,” after the big lake to the north.

The city’s location near the Great Lakes makes it perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking.

But there is more to this city than its natural beauty.

Spirit Lake is also home to excellent museums and historical sites.

Here are the best things to do in Spirit Lake, IA:

Make a Splash at the West Okoboji Lake

Scenic sunset over West Okoboji Lake

kbrighton /

The West Okoboji Lake came from an ancient sinkhole that formed into a lake during the last Ice Age.

With a maximum depth of 136ft, the underground springs feed the West Okoboji Lake, which is clean, clear, and blue.

Motorboats abound in the lake during the summer, with some of them towing water skiers or holding anglers waiting for their next big catch.

Wooden dock on West Okoboji Lake

SetApartPhoto /

On the other hand, many enjoy the beautiful clear water by riding a canoe or kayak or swimming.

West Okoboji Lake is a year-round fishing destination with a diverse range of fish species for enthusiasts.

The lake is excellent for ice fishing in the winter and traditional fishing in the summer.

It supports healthy populations of crappie, bass, catfish, sunfish, walleye, perch, muskie, and northern pike.

Spend the Day at the Marble Beach State Recreation Area

On the western shore of Big Spirit Lake, the Marble Beach State Recreation Area is one of the well-known recreation and state parks in the Iowa Great Lakes region.

It is a 64-acre state recreation area near the city of Orleans in Dickinson County that features a campground with modern facilities.

The Marble Beach State Recreation Area is home to the region’s largest and most popular state-owned campground.

You can choose if you want to go without the convenience of electricity or camp with it.

This campground is also perfect for various outdoor activities.

It has boat ramps to access the lake, clean restrooms, tidy shower facilities, and a sanitary dump station.

A paved track runs the length of the Marble Beach State Recreation Area, connecting to other recreational trails in the vicinity.

You can also access Crandall’s Beach from the Marble Beach State Recreation Area, another perfect place for relaxing.

It is north of the recreation area and is excellent for sunbathing and swimming in the pristine Big Spirit Lake.

Go Fishing at Big Spirit Lake

Considered the largest natural lake in Iowa, the Big Spirit Lake is perfect for a day trip where you can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking.

Big Spirit Lake is a natural lake in Dickinson County, Iowa, covering roughly 5,684 acres.

Part of the Iowa Great Lakes chain, Big Spirit Lake’s northern coast touches the Minnesota border.

Those who love fishing can search for their favorite species along 15 kilometers of shoreline.

The lake is a well-known fishing spot with around 40 fish species.

You can usually catch 13 of them, including walleye, yellow perch, and bullhead.

The Big Spirit Lake also features fish cleaning stations, an accessible pier, numerous boat launch ramps, and many excellent areas to fish from the bank and nearby spots.

There are hiking and bike trails that wind through the area, making it perfect for exploring the great outdoors.

Take a Day Trip to the Elinor Bedell State Park

The Elinor Bedell State Park is a haven conveniently accessible from the Iowa Great Lakes.

It is one of the last surviving open spaces in the area.

Former US Congressman Berkley Bedell and his wife, Elinor Bedell, gifted the 80-acre park to the state of Iowa.

Campers of all stripes will appreciate its campsite with eight full RV hookup sites and a day-use area with a picnic shelter, an accessible fishing pier, and a boat ramp.

RV guests who love fishing can bring their rods and reels to the nearby East Lake Okoboji.

Try to catch bluegills, yellow pike, catfish, and walleye.

If you want a different adventure, stroll along the park and take in the tranquil scenery.

In this magnificent environment, you can see many native bird species, from cedar waxwings to Kentucky warblers.

The park also has eight miles of trails perfect for a leisurely bike ride or an invigorating hike.

Step Back in Time at the Dickinson County Heritage Center

The Dickinson County Heritage Center is a museum that is located in the middle of the Iowa Great Lakes region and features attractions such as the C.W. Parker Carousel National Historic Landmark, Museum of Independent Telephony, and Dickinson County Historical Society Museum.

Dickinson County Heritage Center chronicles the history of Dickinson County from its earliest days to the present, with exhibits that showcase the area’s Native American heritage, early settlers, and more recent residents.

The Dickinson County Heritage Center also has a library that houses a collection of books, documents, and photographs on the history of Dickinson County.

You can also visit the Dickinson County Historical Society and Museum, housed in an original Milwaukee Railroad Depot and brimming with hidden gems and treasures.

The vast collection depicts the area’s historical railroad, industrial, agricultural, and resort eras and several stories from the county’s past.

Visit the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Museum

The Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Museum aims to preserve and promote rock and roll music history in Iowa.

Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum gives visitors an in-depth look into Iowa’s rocking beginnings through informative exhibits and artifacts from bands, musicians, and radio personalities.

The Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Museum features exhibits on the history of rock and roll in Iowa.

Likewise, you’ll find a collection of memorabilia and artifacts from Iowa’s rock ‘n’ roll scene.

The exhibits highlight stories about Iowa’s musical heritage, including colorful individuals and thrilling rock and roll music.

The museum also offers various events and programs, like concerts, films, and lectures.

Have a Fun Picnic at Gilbert Park

Gilbert Park is one of the most popular places to spend a sunny day in Spirit Lake.

Established in 1926, the park gets its name from one of Spirit Lake’s most prominent citizens, Fred “Dood” Gilbert.

Gilbert Park is a gorgeous place where you may play basketball with your family or mingle with the locals.

After playing hoops, you can unwind at one of the picnic tables nearby and have a little feast.

The scenic park has grills and park seats and a handicap-accessible restroom.

It also has a playground for the kids and a shelter house that you can rent for parties or events.

No matter what you do at Gilbert Park, you’re sure to have a great time.

Chill at Templar State Recreation Area

Templar State Recreation Area, a ten-acre state city park near the city of Orleans, is on Big Spirit Lake’s western shore.

The Templar State Recreation Area is one of the best places in Spirit Lake to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Templar State Recreation Area will appeal to those who enjoy outdoor activities.

Have lunch at the picnic shelter and two pavilions, an excellent area for family picnics and gatherings in the woods.

You can also try boating or fishing here.

The Templar State Recreation Area also allows you to sit in solitude while admiring the tranquil water of the lake or enjoying a peaceful nature hike.

Shop Vintage Items at the Spirit Lake Antique Mall

The Spirit Lake Antique Mall is near Pizza Ranch off Highway 9/71 in Spirit Lake.

This jewel in the crown of the Iowa Great Lakes is open year-round with vintage items ranging from jewelry to furniture, with over 30 merchants.

Antiquing is the most “green” way to shop because you will not use new resources, and many products are in excellent shape.

For a genuinely unique shopping experience, go to the Spirit Lake Antique Mall and choose among vintage glassware, pottery, toys, and other collectibles.

The Spirit Lake Antique Mall is the perfect place to find a unique gift or piece of furniture for your home.

Play a Round of Golf at Brooks Golf Club

Brooks Golf Club has attracted golfers of all levels to their 27-hole course, which includes three distinct nine-hole layouts, for nearly 90 years.

The Brooks Golf Club combines exquisite design with excellent playing conditions, including bentgrass fairways.

Brooks Golf Couse is proud of its consistent Golf Digest rating of 4 1/2 stars.

Serving the golfing public since 1932, Brooks Golf Club is one of the oldest courses in the Iowa Great Lakes region.

The course features 27 holes of Championship golf, a full-service clubhouse, practice facilities, and banquet/outings capabilities.

The Brooks Golf Club is a nicely kept course that caters to seasoned veterans and beginners alike.

Besides its scenic location, the course is known for its excellent playing conditions and challenging layout.

Discover the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum

The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum’s objective is to preserve the maritime history of the Iowa Great Lakes region.

The museum features a variety of exhibits that showcase the rich history of the area.

Return to the days of motor launches, steamboats, and wooden cruisers.

The museum contains artifacts, photographs, paintings, and documents from the ‘golden days’ of sailing on the Iowa Great Lakes.

The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum is the perfect place to learn about the area’s history and see some of the unique boats that have sailed these waters.

Marvel at the fully restored boathouse, 25 vintage wooden runabouts, a display of period swimwear, and recreational fishing and hunting articles.

Behold the Natural Wonders of the Mini-Wakan State Park

The Mini-Wakan State Park is extremely popular for biking since it allows you to admire its scenic beauty and the surrounding open space.

In addition to its natural beauty, the park also offers stunning views of the surrounding lakes and bluffs.

This jewel of the Iowa Great Lakes region is home to various unique geological features, including a 30-foot waterfall visible from the hiking trails.

The 20-acre park connects to the Dickinson County trail system in Iowa and the Jackson County trail system in Minnesota.

In 2010, the National Register of Historic Places added it to the record as a historic district.

Explore Your Artistic Side at Pearson Lakes Art Center

The Pearson Lakes Art Center welcomes you to explore your creative side and engage in various art activities.

Since 1965, the center has offered various classes and workshops for all levels, from beginner to expert.

Residents throughout the Iowa Great Lakes region visit the Pearson Lakes Art Center to enjoy, grow, learn, and create.

In addition to its classes and workshops, the Pearson Lakes Art Center also has six galleries, an interactive gallery, a performing arts theater, classrooms, a pottery room, a library, an event hall, and a gift shop.

It is the region’s biggest performance and visual arts venue, the perfect place to learn about the arts and discover your creative side.

It has grown into one of Iowa’s best art museums, functioning as a meeting place, learning center, haven, and creative outlet for locals and visitors.

Bring the kids to the Art Smart Gallery while you explore the galleries.

Hike and Swim at the Pike Point State Park

On West Okoboji Lake, Pikes Point State Park is home to one of the most popular swimming beaches in the area.

The Beach at Pikes Point also includes a popular swim platform for visitors to relax or play.

The park also has hiking trails that wind through the woods and offer stunning views of the lake.

You can also try hiking through the Pike Point Loop, a 2.6km circular trail in the park.

It will take about 36 minutes to finish the course, which is rated easy.

Pikes Point State Park is the perfect place to enjoy a day in the sun with friends or family.

Treat Your Sweet Tooth at Goodies Handmade Candies

Who doesn’t like artisanal candies for sweet treats though?

At Goodies Handmade Candies, you get to treat your sweet tooth with its handcrafted candies, chocolates, ice cream, and more.

Established in 1985, the candy shop uses fresh ingredients with no added preservatives, and of course, all these are made with “butter and love”.

From handmade truffles, turtles, and toffees, there are plenty of sweet treat options to choose from at Goodies Handmade Candies.

There’s also a gift shop on-site with cool and unique presents to buy for yourself and your loved ones.

It’s located off 30th Street.

Chill Out at the Sportsman’s Pub

On a fun warmer day in Spirit Lake, the best place to chill out with your friends and family is the Sportsman’s Pub on Hill Avenue.

This quaint sports bar is an oasis for those who love sports along with cold beers and warm smiles.

The Sportsman’s Pub has multiple displays for guests to watch their favorite sports while building friendships and memories together.

There’s also cool outside seating if you want to catch natural sunlight.

If you need food, Burger & Company next door can bring your order right to the bar.

Also, don’t miss out on its Happy Hour for discounted drinks—delicious Bloody Marys in particular!

Take the Kids to Memorial Park

In the summertime, a trip to Spirit Lake makes a great day for the little ones, especially if you take them to Memorial Park, where the splash pad is open.

Kids can enjoy the water sprays in different directions without the need to swim.

The 10-acre park’s splash pad is where they can have their time of life; playing and interacting with each other while beating down the hot summertime.

There’s also a nice playground with separate areas for smaller and bigger kids.

You can find Memorial Park off Lake Street.

Go Shopping at the Iowa Great Lakes Shopping Mall

Home to many shopping brands, the Iowa Great Lakes Shopping Mall is a wonderful spot for mall-goers.

There are restaurants, salons, clothing stores, and many other brands to check out if you love malling or even window shopping.

From home decor and furnishing to special greeting cards, the Iowa Great Lakes Shopping Mall offers outstanding options to choose from.

It’s a hub for everyone in the Great Lakes region who’s visiting Spirit Lake and the neighborhood.

The Iowa Great Lakes Shopping Mall is located on 18th Street.

Catch a Nice Movie at Superior 71 Drive-in Theater

Do you love movies even better when it’s in old-school style?

Back in the day, people would gather together every weekend to watch a movie without getting off their cars.

That’s what Superior 71 Drive-in Theater is re-living.

The theater features a clear display and excellent sound for each movie shown, as well as a concession, where you can grab your snack while enjoying the movie.

The sound is directly fed into a radio station, which you can tune into your car, or you can choose to bring your own portable radio.

Superior 71 Drive-in Theater is located at 300th Avenue.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Okoboji Classic Cars Museum

Okoboji Classic Cars Museum is a must-see for any car enthusiast.

Find it in Milford, Iowa, 13 minutes away from Spirit Lake.

The Okoboji Classic Cars Museum depicts the Iowa Great Lakes, Arnolds Park, and downtown Spencer in a bygone era.

During your guided tour, you can shop at vintage storefronts on Spencer’s Grand Avenue and take a peaceful stroll down the old Arnolds Park boardwalk.

It is a classic car museum that contains over 100 vintage and rare automobiles, one of the most expansive classic car collections in the Midwest.

Step back in time to the state-of-the-art restoration facility, which has body mechanical and interior trim sections.

The collection includes cars from around the world.

See cars from Europe, Asia, and South America.

Final Thoughts

There’s something for everyone in Spirit Lake, from fishing and boating to exploring local history and dining at delicious restaurants.

There are several attractions to keep you busy during your stay.

Pack your bags and head to Spirit Lake for a vacation you’ll never forget.

© All rights reserved.