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Quick getaways on a lake

Thanks to B&Bs, people without a week to spare still can get onto the water.

Seagren's on Pokegama Lake.

© Beth Gauper

In Grand Rapids, Seagren's has a beach on Pokegama Lake.

It was a sweltering afternoon in June when I knocked at the door of Seagren's Pokegama Lodge in Grand Rapids, Minn. I'd spent the previous night in a dusty room on the far side of town, on the edge of a mosquito-infested wood, and the day trudging around the town, which is on the Mississippi River and surrounded by lakes.

I was hot. I was ready for a swim. And there the lake was, shimmering away at the foot of the three-story B&B. Rarely has a plunge felt so good.

Since then, I've looked for places to stay that have beaches or access to a lake. Minnesota and Wisconsin have hundreds of lake resorts, but in summer, most rent only by the week. That's where B&Bs come in.

They're often a good deal compared with resorts, and convenient, too; there's no need to bring linens or towels, and a big breakfast is included. Most include the use of canoes, rowboats or paddleboats.

Many are run by people who spent childhood summers at lake cabins, went into the world to find their fortunes and eventually returned to the site of their happy summer memories. Now, they're passing them on.


Of the B&Bs I've seen, Seagren's, just south of Grand Rapids, has the best beach, a roomy circle of pale sand on clear Pokegama Lake.

From there, it's a short walk to Zorbaz, a festive restaurant where you can play sand volleyball and eat Mexican food on a long deck overlooking the lake. It has a beach, too.

For more about Grand Rapids, see Lumberjacks and legends.

I've also stayed at and can recommend Duluth's Solglimt, right on the beach in Park Point (hope for a northeast wind to warm up the top layer of Lake Superior). In northwestern Minnesota, the Inn at Maple Crossing is on Maple Lake and near many prairie reserves, perfect for bird-watching and wildflower-hunting.

In the central Minnesota town of Spicer, the Spicer Castle Inn is on big Green Lake. You can swim from its dock, but fun Saulsbury Beach is not far away and has a swimming raft and dive tower, beach volleyball and adjoining party restaurant.

And don't miss the Friday-evening water-ski shows in nearby New London. For more, see Little Crow lakes.

On the Heartland State Trail in lakes country, the Park Street Inn is across the street from the public beach in Nevis. For more, see Towns of the Heartland Trail.

In western Minnesota, I've also toured Xanadu Island B&B near Battle Lake, which has a small beach on Elbow Lake, and the Log House and Homestead, on Spirit Lake near Vergas, south of Detroit Lakes.

The Minnesota Bed & Breakfast Association has a handy amenity search that allows people to look for "beach'' and "waterfront'' as well as inns that offer kayaking, canoeing, boating and cruises.

Check the boxes for beaches, and you'll get a list of B&Bs, not all of which really have beaches or are on the water. It's a good way to narrow down the choices, however; just read the listings carefully if you want to swim or boat.


The Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association also has a handy amenity search. Check the boxes for "on a lake or river'' and you'll get a lot of names. Many of these inns also interpret "on a lake or river'' loosely, but there are many good candidates for a lake stay.

I've stayed at all the inns below and can recommend them. The Island View B&B is near Bayfield, right on Lake Superior. The big lake's waters are a little warmer here than on Minnesota's North Shore, but wait for late August to get the best swimming.

To the west, at the northernmost part of the Bayfield Peninsula, the Fo'c'sle Inn is on the marina in Cornucopia. For more, see Beloved Bayfield.

In the waterfall country of far northeast Wisconsin, the friendly and homey Lakeside B&B is on Fisher Lake. For more, see Waterfall trails.

Near Eagle River, the Inn at Pinewood B&B  is on private Carpenter Lake, which has a sandy beach. It was built in 1934 as a hunting and fishing lodge and is filled with north-woods memorabilia.

In the busy resort town of Minocqua, Sill's Lakeshore B&B is on Lake Minocqua and half a block from the start of the Bearskin Trail. For more, see Summer in Minocqua.

In western Wisconsin, the Pleasant View B&B is on Lake Wissota in Chippewa Falls. It's also a short ride to the Old Abe State Trail, which takes bicyclists to straight to another lake, in Brunet Island State Park.

For more, see A trail for Old Abe.

Rentals on lakes

If you don't want to stay in a B&B, there are hundreds of private lake cottages for rent, and many of them welcome pets (and children). For more, see Renting a vacation house.

Last updated on May 3, 2012