Travel: Minocqua Floats the ‘Up North’ Experience

The concept of “Up North” is a state of mind that experts well region to region. It’s a milieu of lakes and trees, boats and fishing polls, souvenir shops and supper clubs. It’s peace and quiet, fresh air and tall trees, slow pacing and friendly people. Everything a city isn’t, Up North is.

The concept seems much the same from state to state, regardless of actual direction. In New York, Up North means the Hudson River Valley. In California, you’ll chase the quiet life to Lake Tahoe. In the Midwest, the crown jewels of the Up North experience are summer resort towns like little Minocqua, Wisconsin.


An island town of less than 5,000 people, Minocqua evolved from a north woods logging spot to an outdoorsman’s summer paradise. City dwellers from throughout the Midwest head up this lake-studded area to boat, fish, hike, swim, eat, drink and generally soak up as much peace, quiet and fresh air they can.

Towns like Minocqua make their hay in summer as weary slickers flee the hot concrete for a couple weeks or a long weekend amidst the trees. The attractions, shops, restaurants and other Up North destinations cling to their simplicity and “mom and pop” identifies fiercely — working to maintain their genuine identities. Pretentiousness stays with the skyscrapers.

Also: Prohibition Moonshine Lives Again in New Straitsville

The first time Up North traveler ca always find a hotel or time share where anyone can hole up for the night. But, the real charm of north woods accommodations are quiet, communal resorts like Black’s Cliff just outside Minocqua.


A collection of lakeside cabins and chalets with private access to the water, the long-standing, classic lodgings at Black’s Cliff offer visitors a literal home away from home with private bedrooms, well-equipped kitchens, rec-rooms, fire pits and everything else an ideal north woods home could offer. It beats the stuffing out of a hotel when you’re enjoying your own temporary house amidst the trees.


Beyond friendly accommodations like Black’s Cliff, Up North is all about sun and fresh air, comfort food and weekend cheats, fish frys and local brews. The idea of North Woods recovery is to rest and recharge — returning to city life less tightly wound and happy in the knowledge that places like Up North still exist.

You can head to the woods yourself with a few travel tips in the gallery below.

All photos by John Scott Lewinski