“Is this Heaven?”

No, it’s Wisconsin. Canoe Bay, to be exact, but the serenity and solitude offered here surely rival that found past the Pearly Gates. And, if you’re an angler or nature lover trying to convince your significant other to join you for a weekend in the great outdoors, you may want to split the difference.

After all, it’s not very often you find a private lake teeming with giant largemouth bass that just so happens to be overlooked by “one of the 50 most romantic hotels in the world,” according to Travel & Leisure. The real kicker, for fellow Twin Cities residents, is that this gem which USA Today named “the Midwest’s premier rustic-elegant hideaway,” is barely over 100 miles east of St. Paul.



So, as someone who loves to fish, hike, camp and kayak, I decided to take my wife, someone who defines “camping” as staying in any hotel that costs less than a $100 a night. The result was a trip that blew us both away, but for different reasons.

I was amazed by the natural beauty surrounding Canoe Bay, a series of lakeside rooms and cottages secluded in the heavily forested Indianhead Region near Chetek, Wisconsin. At the center of Canoe Bay’s 300 forested acres lies Lake Wahdoon, a lake carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, hidden today by giant maple and oaks trees over 130 years old.



You can hike miles of well-maintained trails through the massive hardwoods without seeing or hearing any signs of people or civilization. Nonetheless, you do get the distinct feeling of always being watched.


The woods are thick with wildlife, including whitetail deer, bear and pheasants, as well as the ducks and loons that live on Wahdoon and its hidden sister lakes. No motorboats are allowed, and the only access is via Canoe Bay, which accommodates a maximum of 25 couples at a time (no children are allowed, which further enhances the unique serenity and silence). There are canoes and kayaks available to enjoy the lake, and fishing is as good as you’d expect it to be on a remote, spring-fed lake that is virtually un-touched and remains strictly catch-and-release.

And trust me, you won’t be missing any shore lunch. Dinner at Canoe Bay’s lakeside dining room is an experience unto itself, with a gourmet chef using fresh, local ingredients to prepare new offerings every day––with a constantly changing menu to feature the freshest food available. Maybe this sample menu will give you a better sense of what I’m talking about:

Salad of garden greens & radishes with orange supremes, toasted pine nuts, grana padano cheese, citrus vinaigrette.

Pan-seared Alaskan Copper River Salmon on house-made Capellini Pasta with Zucchini Pearls, Cherry Tomatoes, Herbed Beurre Blanc.

Caramel Apple Tartlet
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Mint

Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, so perhaps these photos from our dinner will do the Canoe Bay dining experience some justice. I didn’t know pork could taste this good! 




Needless to say, dinner was a high point for the both of us. But for my wife, the non-camper, the ultimate highlight was the cottage itself. I have to admit, it’s hard to argue with that. It’s amazing, quite frankly, that the cabins can be so spectacular––ours was 1,300 square feet, with two stone fireplaces, a beautiful living room overlooking the lake, and a private spa equipped with an exercise bike, sauna, whirlpool and two-person steam shower––and still blend in perfectly with their woodland surroundings.


I guess that’s the genius of architectural legend Frank Lloyd Wright, whose protégé and partner actually designed much of Canoe Bay. Given the architectural brilliance of these cottages, it’s no surprise that in the weeks before us, guests had travelled from South Africa, Denmark, Britain and Israel to spend time here.

Let me put it this way: If these aren’t the finest cottages you’ve ever stepped foot in, I want to know where the heck you’ve been!




Perhaps our favorite time at the cottage came on our first night after dinner, relaxing on our deck in the darkness of night. Rain had threatened earlier in the afternoon but held off during my wife’s first-ever canoe excursion. Through dinner, the clouds darkened, then finally, after nightfall, thunder broke. The lightning illuminated the night sky, putting on dazzling display of natural fireworks. From our perch on the deck we were completely dry––all the rain was off in the distance, and we could sit together in the blackness and watch the horizon flash violently. 

With each glimpse of light in sky above, we couldn’t help but ask the question: “Is that Heaven?”

The website for Canoe Bay is www.canoebay.com. For more information, call (715) 924-4594 or email reservations@canoebay.com.