Many travelers know you can ferry across the ominously named Death's Door strait to Washington Island, a popular Door County escape. Or putter across a sliver of Lake Superior to reach Madeline Island, near the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Fewer people know you can hop aboard a pontoon in Red Cedar Lake for a shuttle over to the historic and charming Stout's Island Lodge.
Stout's Island Lodge sits on a 12-acre island in northwestern Wisconsin's Red Cedar Lake. Two smaller islands are found nearby. The lodge's history stretches back to the late 19th century, when buddies Frank Stout and Thomas Wilson, Jr., bought the islands for a hunting and fishing retreat, quickly building a lodge on the main island. Eventually, Stout – a wealthy lumber baron based in Chicago – bought out Wilson, and the property became his family's year-round retreat.
The Stouts constructed more buildings and rebuilt the main lodge, using redwood timbers from California and fine cedar logs from Idaho. A striking dining room fireplace was created from imported Italian stone, while Andrew Carnegie gifted the family a steel bridge to connect the islands. By 1915, the Stouts had plowed more than $1.5 million into the property, an astounding $39 million in today's dollars.
But by the mid-1900s, with Stout and his wife both deceased, the property passed out of the Stout family and through a succession of owners. Then, in the mid-1990s, it landed in the hands of the current owners, who morphed it into today's luxe resort.
This modern iteration of Stout's Island Lodge evokes the feel of the Adirondack Great Camps, built during the Gilded Age of the late 1800s. The property consists of 43 posh guest rooms sprinkled throughout 11 cabins and lodges, plus Knapp Island Lodge, which sits on an adjacent, two-acre island and is perfect for those seeking more privacy.
Meals here are served in the resort's massive, wooden-beamed dining room – the same dining room the Stouts used. Located in the Main Lodge, built in 1903, the dining room features expansive lake views on two sides, plus that Italian-stone fireplace the Stouts installed. Plan to enjoy dishes reminiscent of traditional lodge fare, which also incorporate local ingredients whenever possible, including those from the island garden. The kitchen also prepares pre-fixe picnic baskets if you'd prefer to nosh on the beach or while strolling around the island.
Considering the resort's magnificent-yet-rustic rooms, soothing lake views and delicious food, you might want to sink into an Adirondack chair with a book or glass of wine and relax. There's nothing wrong with doing that, of course. The lodge does offer infinite recreational possibilities that may lure you into more active activities. There's canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding, hiking, fishing and lawn games – including croquet, yard dice and bocce ball. Swimmers appreciate the lake's spacious raft, while tennis fans love the island's clay court.
If you don't want to do the planning of your exploration, sign up for a lake cruise – there are morning, happy hour and sunset versions. Guided fishing is available too, and lodge staff will happily ferry you across the lake to nearby Tagalong Golf Resort. Once part of the Stout estate, it was created to mimic the famous St. Andrew's course in Scotland.
Should the weather turn gloomy, no worries. Head inside and play billiards, table tennis or board games. Or check out the books in the library. If you're feeling contemplative, you can also elect to stroll around the labyrinth. Whatever you do, don't miss indulging in s'mores at the nightly bonfire. Surely, Frank Stout would insist.