On road trips, I often catch myself thinking about what “Up North” means. I feel like everyone has that place they call Up North. The spot where their family gets together every summer. Where you have core memories by the campfire or where you learned to fish. Hayden and I love to hear about everyone’s Up North, and Hayward is an iconic Wisconsin Northwoods destination that we kept hearing about over and over again. Hayward is extremely well known for being nicknamed “Musky Country,” as muskies are the trophy fish seemingly every fisherman/woman in the area is chasing. This nickname could also have to do with the 143 foot fiberglass musky that sits at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Downtown Hayward. Neither of us had ever been to Hayward before our recent trip, and we couldn’t wait to explore it. When the opportunity came up to spend a week at Reel Livin’ Resort, we couldn’t have been more excited! Dive in to our Hayward Travel Guide!
REEL LIVIN’ RESORT
I could not tell you the last time I felt this relaxed. As I write this, I am sitting on the deck of the Elk Crossing cabin at Reel Livin’ Resort and am so grateful for my time here. I have never been great at slowing down–I’m always trying to do the most… But not this week. This place has brought me a form of bliss I’ve never felt before. Everything you need is right here!
At Reel Livin’, there are beautiful dog-friendly lakefront cabins for rent as well as a campground on the property. Elk Crossing is a lovely cabin with a full kitchen that sleeps six comfortably. It’s stocked with plenty of cozy blankets and fun board games and has the most stunning view of the lake!
Reel Livin’ Resort sits in a bay of Lost Land Lake. This lake is part of a 3 lake chain called “Wisconsin’s only quiet lakes.” The speed limit on the lake is 10 MPH and it is shocking how calm and peaceful it is. The resort offers boat rentals: pontoons, fishing boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. You can also bring your own boat and dock it at your cabin’s private dock. Lots of people can be seen fishing this Class A musky lake. You can also enjoy the water from their beach or swim raft. My mom, sister, and I enjoyed many hours lounging in the sunshine on the raft!
I absolutely love cooking over the campfire, and this week we definitely got creative with some fun pudgy pies! We did the usual taco and pizza pudgies for dinner, and then busted out all the tricks for dessert. We mixed some strawberry pie filling with cream cheese in bread for some makeshift strawberry cheesecake. There was also some strawberry pie filling and milk chocolate in tortillas for chocolate covered strawberry vibes. On the days we didn’t feel like cooking, we ate at the onsite bar & grill. They offer some awesome daily specials and their full menu is also great. We enjoyed both Taco Tuesday & Wing Wednesday. I highly recommend the dry rub lemon pepper and the parmesan garlic for wing night! If you just need an app or a little snack, the Santa Fe Rolls are a must.
We ate outside at the restaurant's picnic tables multiple times. It's a great view for sunset and also right by the bags boards. We played so many rounds of cornhole, and it was such a fun competition throughout the week. And the bags are just the start of the entertainment at the resort! They occasionally have live music and you can dance right by the lake! There’s a game room with pool, darts, and air hockey, and our cabin was also stocked with lots of board games.
There is so much to do at the resort, but there are also so many places to just sit and relax if you don’t want to do anything! We spent most days at the resort fishing, soaking up the sun, swimming, and playing cards. You most certainly don’t have to leave the resort for any reason if you don’t want to. But, if you’re looking to get out and explore a bit more of Hayward, we have some great recommendations near the resort and in town!
My first tip when going to any business in the Northwoods is to call to confirm they are open–even if they have their hours posted online! We have learned over the years that places simply close when they close or have seasonal hours that don’t always get updated online. Just get in the habit of calling to confirm before heading out to save yourself any unnecessary headache.
Besides the incredible food at the Reel Livin’ Bar & Grill, we checked out a few other places in the area. Downtown Hayward is about a 25 minute drive from Reel Livin’ Resort. My top recommendation is a supper club near downtown Hayward, The Ranch. This is a traditional supper club experience and we were delighted with every moment! I started off with a Brandy Old Fashioned and Hayden enjoyed the barrel aged Manhattan. We both enjoyed our cocktails while snacking on our relish trays. We love these plates of pickled snacks and think that they are what makes it a true supper club experience. The Ranch served us up some raw veggies, pickled herring, cheese spread, pickles, and some crackers to go with it all. I enjoyed the fried walleye and Hayden loved their walnut and bleu cheese crusted ribeye. The meals also come with soup or salad and a side. To fill in the cracks, we split a Pink Squirrel, and it was delicious. Needless to say, we left so happy and full! Highly recommend a date night at The Ranch!
If you know me, you know I love a Wisconsin Fish Fry! When asking for Hayward recommendations, we heard so many good things about the Lost Land Lake Lodge fish fry! The Lodge is just around the bay on the same lake as Reel Livin’ and accessible via boat ride or a short drive. Lost Land Lake Lodge is very well known in the area, hence all the suggestions we received, so I would highly suggest a reservation or going close to when they open at 4:00pm. Their fish fry is incredible! It’s all you can eat for a very reasonable price, and it’s served family style with the best garlic rolls, fries, coleslaw, and homemade tartar. The fish was excellent and came with a nice thick beer batter. This was the best fish fry I’ve had this year!
For breakfast, I recommend Tiny’s Diner. It’s very close to Reel Livin’ Resort and a cozy little stop. They serve breakfast and lunch, but I highly recommend starting your day with a mimosa and blueberry pancakes–great fuel for a day in the Northwoods!
If you go into town, treat yourself to a pastry from Firehouse Bakery. I had a delightful chocolate croissant and Hayden had a lemon poppyseed scone for breakfast the morning on our way home.
For a sweet treat, check out Sundaes! They serve up a bunch of Chocolate Shoppe flavors so there is something for everyone. The shop is located right next to the beautiful Hayward mural.
*Note: The only dog-friendly restaurant we visited was Reel Livin' Resort's Bar & Grill*
If you know us, you know we love to drink locally. On this trip, we were able to find something for everyone! If you’re a wine drinker, be sure to stop by Out of the Woods Winery in Downtown Hayward. They serve a variety of goodies–hard cider, wine, wine slushies, snacks, and even a wine bloody mary (don’t knock it till you try it!). I highly recommend a tasting–you can sample four of their beverages and also get a stemless wine glass to take home!
For the beer drinkers, there is Angry Minnow Brewery! This brewery came highly recommended and is in a beautiful building full of character. They have a great selection of brews and some sweet merch. I enjoyed the Belgian Blonde and Hayden had the Notch Hefe.
If you are up for a drive, try out Perlick Distillery for a nice afternoon pitstop. Just 30 minutes from downtown Hayward, you can find their beautiful dog-friendly property. They do not serve food, but they have lots of indoor seating and a massive cocktail menu highlighting their vodka made right on the property. They infuse it to make some incredible drinks! Check their website before you go–they often have food trucks. When we were there on a Thursday afternoon, there was a farmers market, food trucks, and a sunflower maze! Part of their farm is a sunflower field, and we happened to visit them in peak bloom. No matter the season, I think Perlick Distillery has something for everyone!
Our last recommendation is such a unique spot–it’s what I would consider an iconic Wisconsin tavern. The Moccasin Bar is wild! Upon walking in, you see some crazy taxidermy critters playing out scenes behind museum glass…I know that sounds crazy, and it is! See bears playing cards, raccoons boxing, and squirrels going fishing. They are cash only and have a full bar.
*Note: Perlick Distillery was the only one that was dog-friendly.*
Fishing in the Wisconsin Northwoods only makes sense. Lost Land Lake is a quiet lake, but also a class A musky lake. We saw so many people musky fishing during our week there. My dad did most of the fishing, and Hayden did some too. My dad doesn’t do much musky fishing anymore, so he was fishing for other types of fish. The lake is also known to have lots of panfish, but Dad mostly caught bass along the shore lines. If you’re looking for the inside scoop on fishing the lake or live bait, I recommend stopping at Happy Hooker Bait & Tackle. This general store has everything from groceries, bait, gas, gear, and some seriously fun merch. They offer a good free map of the quiet lakes and have more detailed maps for purchase.
This strip of town has so many great restaurants, bars, and shops! Hunt for a gift or souvenir or grab some lunch–there are lots of local businesses to explore. You can find Sundaes and Out of the Woods here, and on our next visit we want to check out a few more places that caught our eye. I would love to have lunch on the Angler’s Bar patio or grab a drink at 3 Fly Sisters Wine Bar. There is no shortage of great places!
Hayward is a one-of-a-kind Northwoods destination that I hope everyone can experience. Put Reel Livin’ Resort on your bucket list for your next family trip!