There are plenty of people who’ve never been to Wisconsin who dismiss it as a flyover state and fail to recognize how truly gorgeous, unique and special our home is. But we Wisconsinites are in on the secret and we’re fine with outsiders overlooking what’s right under their nose and missing out on some of the most awe-inspiring natural beauty to be found anywhere.
This is by no means a comprehensive list – we could make one hundreds of entries long and still forget somewhere amazing. But look at this as a great place to start – the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, truly gorgeous spots in Wisconsin you have to see before you die:
1. Pewit's Nest State Natural Area - Baraboo
The stunning gorge that was formed by the retreat of the last glacier combined with the birch, cedar and pine trees make this one of the most magnificent spots. Getting to trace the history of the area through the layers of exposed sandstone is just a bonus. Located at County Rd W, Baraboo, WI 53913.
2. Union Terrace - Madison
I'm convinced there's not a single better spot to spend a few hours with friends than on the shores of Lake Mendota, listening to live music, eating local food and sipping on Wisconsin beer. The Terrace is honestly a slice of perfection and it's right there in the middle of the capital for anyone to use. Located at 800 Langdon St, Madison, WI 53706.
3. Amnicon Falls State Park - South Range
I'm convinced this area looks like it could be from another planet. Sat along a fault line, the geography here is incredibly varied and literally tells the tale of millions of years. The waterfalls along the Amnicon River are gorgeous and the covered bridge is quaint and perfect for pictures. Located at 4279 S County Road U, South Range, WI 54874.
4. Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park - Milwaukee
An absolute hidden gem in the state's biggest city, the trails that paved the way for this park are 100 years old. The area is hauntingly beautiful and makes you feel transported millions of miles away from the busy city. It's a perfect urban escape. Located at 100 Hawthorne Ave, South Milwaukee, WI 53172.
5. Boynton Chapel - Bailey's Harbor
Hand-built in the late 1930s in the style of 12th-century Norwegian chapels, there are 41 hand-painted frescoes inside. It's part of the northern campus of Lawrence University, who have a 441-acre estate called Björklunden here on the shoes of Lake Michigan. Located at 7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202.
6. The Driftless Region
A totally unique part of the state, the Driftless Area was never glaciated. The hilly, rocky landscape was never flattened and the bedrock is only cut into by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The southwest part of the state looks very different from the rest and that makes it somewhere you have to see.
7. North Beach - Racine
If Wisconsin has a beach that makes you feel like you're at the ocean, North Beach is it. The sand is light and fine, the beach is clean and gorgeous and it's a total oasis far, far from anything tropical. Looking at pictures, you'd never believe it's in Wisconsin and they don't do it justice. Located at 100 Kewaunee St, Racine, WI 53403.
8. Thai Pavilion and Gardens at Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison
This traditional Thai structure that is meant as protection from both heat and rain was gifted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison by the Thai government. The university has one of the largest populations of Thai students of any university in the country. There are only four of these structures that exist outside of Thailand. It is 40 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 30 feet high and contains gold leaf etchings, a lacquer finish, and intricate decorations as well as the Royal seal of the Thai Crown.
The pavilion is crafted without nails or screws. It was built in Thailand, then disassembled and packed in shipping crates. The pavilion traveled seven weeks by sea, then by rail to Chicago, and to Madison by truck. Nine Thai artisans traveled to Madison to reassemble the pavilion after building it in Thailand. It took three weeks to reconstruct. Located at 3330 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704.
9. Taliesin - Spring Green
Frank Lloyd Wright's 600-acre estate in the central part of the state is a masterpiece of design. There are multiple Wright-designed buildings on the property and it's where he drew up some of his most famous buildings. The house follows the shapes of the flat planes and limestone outcroppings of the land around it. Located at 5481 County Rd C, Spring Green, WI 53588.
10. Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians - Hubertus
This Roman-Catholic shrine in the hills outside of Milwaukee is a stunning piece of architecture that seems to grow out of the ground it stands on. It draws more than 300,000 visitors a year. There is a 178-step climb into the bell tower that gives panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see downtown Milwaukee some 35 miles away. Located at 1525 Carmel Rd, Hubertus, WI 53033.
11. The Wisconsin Northwoods
From the dense trees of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to the hundreds of lakes, the Northwoods are a serene, gorgeous and amazing naturally beautiful part of the state. There's a reason residents of the rest of the state flock here on weekends to escape real life and soak in time at their cabins or trailers.
12. Cave Point County Park - Sturgeon Bay
Much like the previous entry, I could have just said "Door County" and left it there, but Cave Point is much of what is great about Door County all in one spot. If you have a chance to get out on the water in a kayak, canoe or boat, definitely do so. There are stunning limestone cliffs from the Niagara Escarpment that get battered with waves and send up sea spray. There are underwater caves and the water creates music as it moves in and out of them. The sunrises are jaw-dropping, the water relaxing and it's one of those spots that you'll never forget once you visit. Located at 5360 Schauer Rd, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235.
13. Milwaukee Art Museum - Milwaukee
A truly stunning piece of architecture that's at least as interesting as the art is holds, the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavillion is beautiful on the outside as the wings look to be taking flight over Lake Michigan. But if you've never taken the time to head inside, you're missing at least half the beauty. The ribs of the structure create amazing shapes and shadows as the light filters through. Located at 700 N Art Museum Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
14. Big Manitou Falls - Superior
All of Pattison State Park is worth your time, but the real draw is the state's tallest waterfall. Big Manitou drops 165 feet through the woods. Native Americans that settled the area thought they could hear spirits talking to them through the rushing waters. The cliffs it tumbles over are mineral-rich and often change the color of the Black River. Located at 6294 WI-35, Superior, WI 54880.
15a. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
This group of 21 islands off the Bayfield Peninsula are home to beautiful forests perched above sandstone cliffs. A wide variety of wildlife call the area home. The water of Lake Superior has carved away the sandstone to create unique and interesting shorelines.
15b. Apostle Islands Frozen Sea Caves - Bayfield
I'm cheating a bit, but these amazing and unique formations deserve their own entry. If you've only been in summer, you've missed one of the most stunning parts of the state. When the weather finally drops where you can walk out on a frozen Lake Superior, heading out to explore these caves is truly something special. They can be somewhat accessed by kayak in the summer, but in the winter, the waves freeze and create truly awe-inspiring scenery.
16. Stavkirke - Washington Island
Honoring the Scandinavian roots of the people of Door County, this church was built based on drawings from Borgund, Norway in 1150 AD. A true community project, multiple local folks contributed time and talent to carve the wood and construct this gorgeous church. The building hosts regular services in the summer.
Located at Town Line Rd, Washington, WI 54246.
17. Wyalusing State Park - Bagley
Perched on cliffs 500 feet above the valley below, this park is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. There are ancient Native American burial mounds here as well as a nationally-recognized and protected hardwood forest. It's a stunning spot to look out over the river valley and see how the geography was shaped and formed by glaciers and the flowing water. Located at State Park Ln, Bagley, WI 53801.
There’s no way to make a comprehensive list, so where else do you find to be the most beautiful spots in the state? Let us know in the comments.