Sunlight sparkled on the glassy surface of the water, as the sound of songbirds filled the air around our gently drifting boat.
The surrounding shoreline offered glimpses of rustic homes, stately cabins, and immaculately maintained yards. This perfectly silent and peaceful morning begs you to cast a fishing line, glide in a kayak, paddle a canoe, or pedal a hydrobike.
Chalk it up as just another serene and surreal day in Elkhart Lake, Wis., population 967. If you didn’t know it existed, you likely wouldn’t find it on your own. Located an hour north of Milwaukee, Elkhart Lake is nestled away off the beaten path. So perhaps it’s ironic this idyllic Victorian-style village that could have been lifted right out of the movie The Truman Show,has a speedy past.
During the 1950s, Elkhart Lake hosted races on public roads, with start and finish lines in the middle of town. The earliest events saw 5,000 people come out, and by 1952, it’s estimated that over 100,000 attended. In 1955, a specially designed track known as Road America was built south of town, eventually becoming known as one of the best closed circuit courses in the world.
Long before the racing tradition, Elkhart Lake was known for something else. In the early 1900s, slot machines were everywhere. By the 1920s, gambling was out in the open, and Elkhart Lake became a popular summer resort destination.
It wasn’t until 1945 that Wisconsin’s first anti-gambling bill shut down the industry. By then, Elkhart Lake had already become a favourite vacation spot for thousands, and they just kept coming. Today, tourism is the number one industry.
Three lakeside resorts include Siebkens, where I stayed. This landmark turn-of-the-century location was purchased in 1916 by the Siebken family, and now run by the fourth generation.
They have two restaurants, a coffee and ice cream shop, an outdoor pool and hot tub, a private sandy beach, and they offer a choice between a hotel room or a newly redone condominium.
With an open layout, a fireplace, hardwood floors, an expansive veranda, in-suite laundry, and much more, I could have lived there for the rest of my life, increasing the population to a whopping 968.
I also could have lived at the spa down the road, because once I visited, I never wanted to leave. Aspira Spa has earned top accolades since opening eight years ago. Aspira itself means ‘infused with spirit.’ It takes its treatment waters from Elkhart Lake, considered sacred by the indigenous people of the area. Aspira embraces the principles of feng shui, the wisdom of healing rituals from around the world, and the grounding elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
With more than 100 treatments, a café and boutique, and yoga, too, Aspira truly is the ultimate in rejuvenation and relaxation. I know I say that about every spa, but Aspira has something I’ve not seen at any other — an awesome meditation sanctuary that allows you to completely unwind and drift away.
Honestly, if you can’t relax here, there’s probably no hope for you. Sorry.