Photo Credit: @felicia_fullwood
Whether you’re planning a summer getaway with friends looking for your family’s next long weekend, Castle Rock Lake is a Wisconsin gem you shouldn’t overlook. In the center of the state just north of Wisconsin Dells, this hub for outdoor adventure is easy to get to and it’s full of the summer lake vibes our state is known for.
We’ve built this 3-day itinerary to guide you through an unforgettable trip to Castle Rock Lake. Remember: lake life isn’t bound by schedules. You may find yourself drink in hand spending an extra day or two just floating, not a care in the world, and that’s 100% ok. In fact, that’s the goal.
Here’s 3 days around Castle Rock Lake you’ll never forget.
Start the morning with coffee at the new veteran-owned Coffee House serving locally roasted Collin’s Coffees. The cabin vibes inside set the tone for this 3-day lake retreat!
First up, Buckhorn State Park. Right along the shore of Castle Rock Lake, Buckhorn is the best place to take in your first lake views. There’s a lot to explore here, so take your time. Families will love the park’s beach and playground area. And the miles of hiking and biking trails bring you up close to wildlife — it’s a favorite place to birdwatch.
After a lunchtime picnic at Buckhorn, it’s time to get out on the lake. Launch kayaks or canoes right from Buckhorn or head to Castle Rock Watersports or Big Papa’s Pontoon Rentals to rent a pontoon (be sure to reserve in advance).
Fish along the shoreline, tube or waterski, and before the day’s done, moor your boat at the small island off Buckhorn’s southeastern shore. The island, locally known as “Alcatraz” is a popular gathering spot for friends to let loose. Bring your own tunes or if the timing’s right, events here host floating live music.
Head to the lake’s western shore for dinner. Shipwreck Bay and Pine Cove Bar & Grill are great spots for classic American grill food. And for those looking for more, the Dirty Turtle transforms from low key family-friendly restaurant to a lively DJed dance floor at night.
Enjoy a refreshing morning with a short hike through nature and history. A 20- to 30- minute drive from Castle Rock Lake brings you to Roche-A-Cri State Park, a lesser-known Wisconsin gem. The highlight: Native American petroglyphs carved into walls of rock, some dating back over 1000 years.
Back toward the lake, there are a couple options for afternoon adventure: golfing and horseback riding. (No pressure — more lake time is always an option.)
The golf course at Northern Bay Resort features exact replicas of some of the game’s greatest holes, like Agusta National’s “Redbud,” Oakland Hills’ “The Monster” and the island-like 17th hole at Sawgrass. It’s a golf experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
For the adventurous non-golfers, head south to Woodside Ranch Resort for horseback riding through scenic, wooded trails. The rides are for ages 8 and up, and it’s a trip highlight that leaves everyone saying, “let’s do that again!” Call ahead to make your trail ride reservation.
For a well-deserved dinner, try the Island View Pub & Grille at Northern Bay for sweeping golf course views and American fare. In the summer, walk over to the resort’s Tiki Bar for nighttime live music, drinks, fire pit and bocce ball.
Let’s take it easy, Wisconsin-style: river tubing down the Wisconsin River. Point Bluff and Sandy Shores both offer tube rentals for your whole group south of Castle Rock Lake. Shuttles bring you upriver for an easy 2-3+ hour float back. Start early — there are secluded, sandy beaches to discover and you'll want to take your time. Throw in a tube for your cooler to keep refreshments flowing along the way.
Head back to the lake for another afternoon on the water. Castle Rock Watersports offers kayak, canoe, stand-up paddle board and lily pad floating mat (a kid-favorite) rentals to make the most out of your last day on Castle Rock Lake.
Before heading home, make a bonus stop at nearby Mill Bluff State Park, just off I-90. Climb the stairs to the top of the bluff for an incredible sunset view of towering rock bluffs. You’ll be surprised you’re in Wisconsin.
WHERE TO STAY
Make campfire memories each night when you camp in Buckhorn State Park. Buckhorn is also home to a large accessible cabin, available only to people with disabilities and their guests. The lodging options at the Stay Spa Resort and Northern Bay Resort are perfect if you’re looking for some luxury. And the cabins at the pet-friendly Castle Rock Hideaway are just off the lake.
Want to keep the adventure going? Wisconsin Dells is just a half hour away!