An hour north of Milwaukee lies a Great Lakes vacation region that has been off the radar for much of the rest of the country.
After a day boating around the pristine waters of glacier formed Elkhart Lake, followed by a massage at the award-winning Aspira Spa and topped off with dinner at Lola’s on the Lake located at the Osthoff Resort – originally constructed in 1885 and rebuilt in 1995 – I could see why Wisconsinites and Chicagoans would want to keep the treasures of Sheboygan County for themselves.
A second day in the area starts off with a round of golf at the Quit Qui Oc Golf Club followed by trying out my skills behind the wheel of a go-cart at Road America, followed by wine tasting at Vintage Elkhart Lake Wine Shop and Tasting Bar, dinner at the Lake Street Café, a Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant featuring California bistro-style faire, with the night capped off with old friends and making new ones at Paddock Club.
Southeast of Elkhart Lake is the village of Kohler, named after the famous manufacturer and Austrian immigrant John Michael Kohler in 1873. This idyllic town grew around the factory which offers fascinating tours of their huge production facilities. The finished home products are on display at the Kohler Design Center.
The top choice for accommodations and dining options in Kohler is the American Club, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recipient of the AAA Five Diamond resort-hotel recognition for 30 consecutive years and the only Forbes Five-Star hotel in Wisconsin. Across the street from the magnificent Tudor-style hotel is its award-winning Kohler Waters Spa. Free shuttle services operate between the property and the world-class champion golf courses at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. The Straits course will host the 2015 PGA Championship in August and the 2020 Ryder Cup in 2020.
The Kohler influence extends far beyond its village borders not only in the products they make but the outreach programs they promote including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center located in the city of Sheboygan. In addition to the twelve galleries in 99,000 square feet space, functional artwork can be found and used in five artist-created public washrooms, a natural fit for a company best known for manufacturing innovative and classic tubs, toilets, faucets and sinks.
Sheboygan rests on Lake Michigan’s western shores, which when viewed from the Blue Harbor Resort & Spa looks and acts more like an ocean which many a sunken ship can attest to. Scuba diving to explore a number of well-preserved 19th century Schooner wrecks is among the water-related activities that attract visitors to this section of Lake Michigan.
Of course it would be bordering on sacrilegious when exploring any section of Wisconsin to not indulge in its world-famous cheeses led by its squeaky curds. And after a day on the links or the lakes any local restaurant worth its weight in cheese will have at least a few of the Dairy State’s 600 varieties to savor.
All Photographs Are © Mark Edward Harris
Mark Edward Harris Photographer Bio
Mark Edward Harris’ editorial work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, Life, GEO, Conde Nast Traveler, GQ Thailand, Tatler Russia, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, and The London Sunday Times Travel Magazine as well as all the major photography and in-flight magazines. His commercial clients range from The Gap to Coca-Cola to Mexicana Airlines. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a CLIO, ACE, Aurora Gold, and Photographer of the Year at the Black & White Spider Awards. His books include Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work, The Way of the Japanese Bath, Wanderlust, North Korea, South Korea, and Inside Iran. North Korea was named Photography Book of the Year at the 2013 International Photography Awards.
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