Some of the attractions at posh Canoe Bay: Prairie-style architecture in harmony with the landscape, canoeing, fishing (shown here), and hiking. For more photos, check out the gallery »
DRIVE TIME: 6.5 HOURS
LOCATED BY: LAKE WAHDOON
BEST FOR: SERENITY SEEKERS
Follow the driving directions closely—your GPS won’t be able to help you find this Walden-like haven tucked away in the rolling countryside outside of Chetek. A long, winding driveway with lush foliage leads to Canoe Bay, a former Seventh-day Adventist church camp that has been transformed into an environmentally conscious retreat.
Rooms in the main lodge start at 400 square feet, and all include a two-person whirlpool and a breathtaking view of Lake Wahdoon from a private deck. Standalone cottages are bigger and feature fireplaces surrounded by a plush sitting area. Perched atop a small hill is the jewel of the resort: the 2,000-square-foot Edgewood Villa, designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright protégé John Rattenbury, a two-bedroom love letter to the Prairie style that blends effortlessly into the hardwood forest.
The entire property embodies Wright’s concept of functional, minimal elegance. For us, relaxation began as soon as we got there: When we stepped into our cottage, classical music floated through the air, and a fire crackled away. Indeed, Canoe Bay’s idea of luxury seems to be anticipating your needs before you have them: Our luggage porter offered us a glad-you’ve-arrived snack of house-made trail mix; beach towels and bug spray were stocked in the closet; and a tray with warm croissants and carrot cake muffins and piping-hot coffee arrived on our doorstep the next morning.
Food is an integral part of the Canoe Bay experience. The three-course dinner menu changes nightly but always features innovative, locally sourced dishes paired with a dazzling wine list. Impress your companion by booking the single secluded table in the wine cellar, where you will receive extra attention from the chef and sommelier.
At Canoe Bay, the only Relais & Châteaux hotel in the Midwest, water ripples over rocks in the garden outside the lodge, restored prairie grasses sway gently in the breeze, the sky is reflected in the glassy surface of the glacially carved Lake Wahdoon, and windingtrails weave through the 300-acre property. If you hike far enough, civilization and all its stresses will seem to vanish entirely.
Spend a romantic afternoon taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Wisconsin countryside—more picturesque than you might think—which the Canoe Bay staff can arrange. Or drive southwest for a fun foodie excursion: a tour of the Cady Cheese Factory (126 Hwy. 128, Spring Valley; 715-772-4218, cadycheese.com), which makes more than 50,000 pounds of Cheddar, colby, Monterey Jack, and Gouda each day.
U.S. Hwy. 53, Chetek; 715-924-4594, ext. 4, canoebay.com
Rooms, cottages, and villas range from $350 to $1,800 per night. Sorry, no kids allowed.
Photography: Adam Senatori