After a cold Wisconsin winter, everyone deserves some time in the sun. Thankfully, the Fox Cities and surrounding area offers a wide variety of outdoor activities year round, including several fantastic beaches in our local parks. These offer a wide range of summer opportunities both on the water and off to those looking for a day or weekend getaway.
Plamann Park, Appleton
For a day at the beach in your own backyard, Plamann Park, just north of Appleton, offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including a man-made lake and beach. “The park offers a fun, friendly atmosphere,” explains Brian Feest, recreation director for the Outagamie County Parks Department.
Plamann Lake includes a diving platform, regularly cleaned sand, a concessions stand and grills. New playground equipment was added to the grassy area around the beach in May, and swimming lessons are available in July and August.
The 257-acre park offers plenty of additional entertainment opportunities as well, such as baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, tennis courts and horseshoe pits. Trails lead walkers through a variety of terrains, from open areas to heavy woods.
The park also contains two rather unique features. The first is an onsite children’s farm where kids can view and pet a variety of young farm animals. The second is a 27-hole, 5-star rated disc golf course. “It’s very popular in the area,” says Feest. “Several years ago, the Disc Golf Association tried to visit every course in the country and thought ours was one of the best.”
The park is open year round from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the beach section available June 6 to Aug. 16 from 1 to 7 p.m. Lifeguards are on duty.
High Cliff State Park, Sherwood
Described as one of the seven natural wonders of Wisconsin by Travel Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s Department of Tourism website, High Cliff State Park in Sherwood offers plenty to do for everyone in the family.
The beach itself benefits from the inclusion of a bathhouse with flush toilets, showers and changing areas so you can clean up before heading home. There’s also a playground for the kids. Picnic areas, some of which allow pets, offer tables and grills. Swimming is allowed, although there is no lifeguard on duty.
For the fishermen in the family, Lake Winnebago and Butterfly Pond offer numerous kinds of fish. Fishing equipment can even be borrowed at no cost from the park office. Bait is available at the Harbor House in the marina.
The park offers boaters, windsurfers, kite boarders and paddlers four developed and one undeveloped boat launches, as well as a 100-plus slip marina where boats can stay overnight.
More than 15 miles of hiking, biking and horse riding trails show off the rich ecosystem of the park — historical locations such as Native American effigy mounds, a lime kiln and a lime quarry, and a magnificent view from the top of the 200-foot Niagara Escarpment.
“People come on a regular basis to escape the city,” shares Linda Guelig, park manager. “They really enjoy the natural beauty such as wildflowers and birds and hiking in the back woods. It’s something you don’t necessarily find in a city park.”
Making it a weekend getaway? The park also offers more than 100 camping sites, with showers, flush toilets and limited electric access.
The park is open year round from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
South Park, Waupaca
South Park in Waupaca recently received the Waupaca Chamber of Commerce’s Grand Facelift Award for extensive improvements. This included replacing the bathrooms with handicap accessible ones and replacing of old playground equipment with a “universal playground,” which has considerable wheelchair accessibility.
And, there is more to come. These renovations are just the first part of a four-part project, so keep a lookout for additional improvements.
“South Park has had a long-standing tradition of being the place to go in terms of a public beach in the city of Waupaca,” explains Mitchell J. Swenson, vice president of tourism with the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.
The beach looks out over Shadow Lake, one of the many lakes for which the Waupaca area is known. Facilities include changing rooms, vending machines and bathrooms, as well as a diving dock, fishing pier, kiddy dock and boat launch. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day weekend until late August, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting, and swimming is allowed outside of those hours at the swimmers’ own risk. Swimming lessons also are offered throughout the summer.
The 100-year-old park also is home to the Hutchinson House Museum. More than 150 years old, the home is the oldest in Waupaca and was moved into the park in 1954. It now operates as a museum, showcasing life in the Victorian Age and artifacts of early area settlers. The house is open 1 to 4 p.m. on weekends as well as on Memorial Day and
July 4. Admission is free.
The park itself is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year round.
Shawano Lake County Park and Campground, Shawano
Patti Peterson, tourism manager at the Shawano Chamber of Commerce, can’t contain her enthusiasm on the subject of Shawano Lake County Park and Campground. With more than 530 feet of sand, “it’s by far the largest open frontage (in the area), with a sand beach they maintain beautifully. They’ve done a great job of keeping it up,” Peterson explains. That includes grills and umbrella tables in the picnic areas, a modern playground, and even a shop offering snacks, hot dogs, beer, soda, ice and firewood. Volleyball, basketball and tennis courts are all available, as are horseshoe pits and a softball diamond, creating a great atmosphere for the entire family.
“The beach has a very gradual slope so it is perfect for families with younger children and large enough to accommodate older kids and adults,” explains Keith Marquardt, Shawano County Parks director. “We also have a beach cleaner which we use every day so the beach is perfectly groomed. This removes all the weeds, rocks, cigarette butts, etc.”
Shawano Lake offers plenty of swimming, boating and fishing opportunities, with a fishing pier, multiple boat launches and a boat wash. For those looking to try something new, pedal boats and kayaks also are available for rental. Meanwhile, an outdoor rinse station and an indoor shower house lets you clean off at the end of the day.
The site also offers 90 campsites away from the beach with electrical and water hookups and a dump station for RVs. In addition, there are a handful of non-electric tent sites, and even the ability to rent tipis for the night.
Hattie Sherwood Park, Green Lake
The Green Lake area offers several points of access to the lake itself, the largest being Hattie Sherwood Park. Located near the downtown area of the city of Green Lake, it’s easily accessible and offers nearby shopping opportunities.
The park’s beach offers boat launches, canoe landings, fishing opportunities, a playground, diving pier and flush toilet restrooms. Nearby grassy areas are great for picnics.
Liane Walsh, program and event coordinator for the Green Lake Chamber of Commerce, highlights two specific events in the area. July 25 is an annual water ski show which can be viewed from the park. It’s also a great place to view fireworks displays. She highlights the sheer beauty of the beaches, as well as an area that specifically makes it easy to get small children into the water.
The park is next door to the city-owned Hattie Sherwood Campground, which also has access to the beach, complete with boat launch and fishing opportunities. Hiking and biking trails are accessible from the campground, and a playground is available just in case the kids still have energy after your day on the water. Electric hook-ups, modern restrooms and showers are all included onsite.
Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan
Kohler-Andrae State Park, just south of Sheboygan, offers a magnificent view of Lake Michigan. “The majority of people come for the two miles of beach frontage,” explains Carolyn Morgen, superintendent of both Kohler-Andrae and Harrington Beach state parks. The cordwalk to the dunes is particularly popular, from which you can see both the lake and the park’s tree line.
The beach area sports several picnic areas, and swimming is allowed, although there are no lifeguards present. A big feature is the pet-friendly picnic area. “This is a place to take families, and it’s safe. Law enforcement officers patrol the park,” Morgen continues.
And, you’ll be in good company. Nearly a half million people visit the park every year, making it one of the busiest parks in the state.
For those looking for an educational component to their trip, the park includes Sanderling Nature Center, which offers a variety of programs from May to October for adults and children alike. Here, visitors can learn more about the ecology of the park and view the surrounding area through a rooftop observation deck.
The park offers a total of seven summer trails which go through a wide variety of terrain, including sand dunes, wetland, forest and open fields. There are signs along the way to point out various natural features, such as plant and animal life, as well as geographical features. Black River Trail is open to horses, bicycles and hikers.
Additional amenities include a fishing pond, multiple picnic areas and campground sites.
No matter where you go, whether it be extremely local or a bit farther out, the beaches of the Fox Cities and surrounding areas offer a wealth of outdoor opportunities for the entire family.