Guide to the best Wisconsin road trips, including top road trips in Wisconsin only, and best road trips from Wisconsin to nearby states
Wisconsin is a beautiful and diverse state with so much to see and explore beyond the standard big cities and popular destinations.
This is why a road trip is a perfect way to explore Wisconsin, and you’re in luck, there are some fantastic Wisconsin road trips for you to try!
There are some superb road trips in Wisconsin due to the well-signed and maintained roads and the array of fascinating towns, cities, and villages to explore along the way is second to none.
In addition to all of the amazing Wisconsin road trips that you can do, due to its location in the heart of the midwest, Wisconsin is also a great place to set out on an adventure into the heart of this territory.
So, in this article, I’ll not only be introducing you to some of the best road trips in Wisconsin but also a few that venture further afield.
We’ll look at long trips, short trips, and a few in between, just for good measure.
So prepare your Wisconsin road trip itinerary, stock up on supplies, fill up the tank, and hit the road.
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Useful Travel Information for Wisconsin
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Best Road Trips in Wisconsin
A road trip around Wisconsin is something you’ll remember forever.
To make sure you get the most from your road trip, plan ahead to prevent any hiccups along the way.
Check for any planned roadworks, weather conditions, etc.
This guide should give you some ideas to get started. I’ve included the distances of the trips.
This will give you some idea of how long each will take – however, this is entirely dependent on how many stops you make along the way.
If you believe that journey is as important as the destination, read on for some of the best Wisconsin road trips.
1. The Big Cities of Wisconsin
Start in: Kenosha
End in: Green Bay
Distance: 250 miles
If you’re a city lover then this is the road trip for you.
Starting in Kenosha and terminating in Green Bay, by way of Milwaukee and Madison, this is a journey in which you’ll certainly want to enjoy a few stops along the way.
In fact, you’ll probably want to stay (at least for a night) in all of these cities.
There’s so much to explore in all of these cities that they’re all destinations in their own right.
However, as this article is about being out on the road then let’s focus on the end point of Green Bay, a vibrant city with bags of fun activities.
Home to the famous Green Bay Packers, this friendly city also features many other attractions to make your stay a joy.
Make sure to enjoy all the fun things to do in Green Bay while you’re here!
There are lots of great hotels and resorts in Green Bay to stay at before heading back home.
2. The Door County Coastal Byway
Start in: Northport
End in: Sturgeon Bay
Distance: 66 miles
This road trip is perfect for those wishing to see the famous fall colors in Wisconsin.
Fall in Wisconsin is a truly magical time and this Door County road trip is a perfect way in which to experience it.
Beginning in Northport, this incredibly scenic route will skirt the sensational coast of Door County, providing you with jaw-dropping views at every turn.
At 66 miles, it’s not a long journey but you’ll want plenty of stops along the way to take in the stunning scenery (and get lots (and lots!) of photos.
Your journey will end in the idyllic fisherman’s mecca of Sturgeon Bay.
The town has a very laid-back, relaxing vibe, and great kayaking, canoeing, sailboat rides, and jet-skiing.
This road trip is certainly one of the most relaxing things to do in Door County.
3. The Great River Road National Scenic Byway
Start in: Prescott
End in: Potosi
Distance: 250 miles
The Great River Road National Scenic Byway is one of the iconic Wisconsin road trips.
Otherwise known as Highway 35, this trip takes you through numerous enchanting small towns such as Stockholm, Alma, and Trempealeau.
As you flank the mighty Mississippi River, there are spectacular views along the way, and this really is a truly amazing scenic drive.
The Great River Road actually extends through ten other states and goes on for 3,000 miles.
However, the 250-mile Wisconsin is perfect to cover in a weekend.
The show ends in the ‘Catfish Capital of Wisconsin’, Potosi.
In addition to fishing, Pelosi is a laid-back town with a rich brewing tradition.
Make sure to check out the Potosi Brewery and National Brewery Museum.
There’s also great camping, birdwatching, and tubing on the river to be had here. Have fun!
4. Milwaukee to Wisconsin Dells
Start in: Milwaukee
End in: Wisconsin Dells
Distance: 124 miles
If you’re looking for scenic drives near Milwaukee then this road trip fits the bill.
There are lots of scenic locations en route and great places to take a break, including the city of Madison which is roughly at the halfway point of the journey.
This is also one of the best getaways for spring break in Wisconsin due to Wisconsin Dells’ reputation as a fun town.
So if you’re planning spring break road trips from Wisconsin, this is one of the best choices for you.
Although there are many fun things to do in Wisconsin Dells year round!
Due to the relatively short journey time, this is also an option for those seeking day trips from Milwaukee.
The trip winds up in the waterpark capital of the world, Wisconsin Dells, a city where the emphasis is on fun, and then some more fun.
All-round, this is one of the best road trips from Milwaukee.
5. The Kettle Moraine Scenic Route
Start in: Elkhart Lake
End in: Whitewater Lake
Distance: 115 miles
This beautiful route takes you through one of the best state parks in Wisconsin.
The route traverses six counties and the sensational natural landscapes make it undoubtedly among the best family road trips from Wisconsin.
You’ll go through forests, alongside lakes, and plenty of charming towns and villages along the way.
Another plus is that it’s also relatively easy to access the trail from most of the major cities in the state.
If you like to stay active on your trip, then stay a while in the stunning Kettle Moraine State Forest, as it’s home to some of the very best outdoor activities in Wisconsin.
For example, the Scuppernong Trail System in Southern Kettle Moraine is home not only to some of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin, but also many of the finest mountain bike trails you can find.
6. The Cranberry Highway
Start in: Wisconsin Rapids
End in: Warrens
Distance: 50 miles
One of the most iconic Wisconsin road trips is the Cranberry Highway.
The reason this fifty-mile stretch of road is titled such is that it takes you through fields full of the state’s famed crop for almost the entire duration.
Along the way, make sure to take in Glacial Lake Cranberries, a cranberry farm that has been in operation since way back in 1873.
From there, your next stop should be Pittsville, where you can take the fascinating Splash of Red Cranberry Tours for a close look at all things cranberry farming.
The journey terminates in Warrens, the self-styled Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin.
If you’re there during September, don’t miss the Warrens Cranberry Festival, where 120,000 people descend on the town for cranberry-based fun!
It’s one of the best fall festivals in Wisconsin, so you don’t wanna miss it!
7. Coast to coast on Highway 33
Start in: La Crosse
End in: Port Washington
Distance: 93 miles
Driving from coast to coast along Highway 33 is one of the best Wisconsin road trips to complete in a day.
Traveling west to east, there are some great locations to take in.
While there are numerous small towns in which you could take a break from driving, make sure to stop in the fantastic town of Portage.
In Portage there are rivers that link the Great Lakes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico!
If you like to hike, you can walk part of the National Ice Age Trail here.
The journey ends right on the edge of the border with Minnesota, in the vibrant town of La Crosse, where you can witness the world’s largest six-pack!
This huge landmark is made from brewery tanks decorated to resemble a six-pack of beer.
8. Highway 42 from Manitowoc to Algoma
Start in: Manitowoc
End in: Algoma
Distance: 15 miles
The very short trip will take you from Manitowoc to Algoma, encountering museums, beaches, and sensational views along the way.
You will no doubt have seen photographs of this famous stretch of road somewhere (it’s the famous ‘curvy road’ that winds through beautiful woodland).
In addition to the fun, windy road, you’ll also encounter some of the storied lighthouses of Wisconsin as you wind your way along the route.
The route goes through Two Rivers (the birthplace of the ice cream sundae!) and Kewaunee before ending up in the relaxing town of Algoma.
In Algoma you can see the Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse, making this a great Wisconsin lighthouse road trip.
9. The Waterfalls of Wisconsin
Start in: Big Manitou Falls
End in: Copper Falls
Distance: 120 miles
If you’re seeking inspiration for Wisconsin road trip ideas, then how about visiting some of the best waterfalls in Northern Wisconsin?
Wisconsin is packed with sensationally beautiful waterfalls and this trip will let you see four of the finest.
Beginning in Big Manitou Falls and ending in Copper Falls, by way of Lost Creek Falls and Morgan Falls, this is one the most stunning of Wisconsin scenic drives.
The real highlights come at the beginning and the end, with Big Manitou Falls being the highest waterfall in Wisconsin.
Copper Falls sit within Copper Falls State Park, one of the most beautiful state parks in Wisconsin.
If you’d like to stay, go camping at Copper Falls State Park Campgrounds, one of the most fun things to do in Northern Wisconsin!
10. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trail
Start in: Richland Center
End in: Racine
Distance: 200 miles
If you’re interested in the famous American architect, Frank Lloyd, then this is one of the most interesting and educational Wisconsin road trips that you could take.
Starting in Richland Center, the 200-mile route will take you through Spring Green, Madison, and Milwaukee, before reaching the endpoint in Racine.
There’s so much to see and do along the route that you’ll want to break the journey up and take a few overnight stops along the way.
Each of the cities features iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings that must be seen.
At the journey’s end in Racine, you can see Wingspread and the SC Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower, two famous Wright landmarks.
11. The Lake Superior Byway
Start in: Barksdale
End in: Bayfield
Distance: 70 miles
This Wisconsin road trip takes you along the shores of Lake Superior, without doubt one of the best lakes in Wisconsin.
This 70-mile stretch is truly sensational, going along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, one of the most geographically stunning locations you’re ever likely to see.
The crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior form a dramatic backdrop to the forests, beaches, harbor towns, orchards, fishing villages, and farms you’ll come across along the way.
The journey terminates in the beautiful city of Bayfield (the smallest city in Wisconsin), where you’ll definitely want to spend some time.
In Bayfield, you’ll find a friendly town with a laid-back, relaxing vibe and great dining options.
The ferry to Madeline Island also departs from here, making it a great stop-off point en route to the Apostle Islands.
12. The Lower Wisconsin River Road
Start in: Lodi
End in: Prairie du Chien
Distance: 100 miles
Starting in Lodi and ending in Prairie du Chien, this lesser-traveled road trip takes you all the way from the Empire Prairie to the iconic Mississippi River.
This is one of the best Wisconsin road trips for those who like to be by the riverside.
The route takes you along the banks of the Lower Wisconsin River as it winds and weaves its way along the 100-mile route.
Known as the ‘River of a Thousand Isles’, the Lower Wisconsin River is a fascination all in its own right.
The river has constantly shifting sandbars, channels, and flows that vary depending on the weather conditions.
You’ll finish the trip in the charming town of Prairie du Chien, the oldest European settlement on the Upper Mississippi River.
Best Road Trips from Wisconsin to Nearby States
13. Milwaukee to Detroit
Start in: Milwaukee
End in: Detroit
Distance: 566 miles
This is one of the best road trips starting in Wisconsin for music lovers, taking in cities with rich musical histories, such as Chicago, Ann Arbor (home of the legendary Iggy Pop), and ending up in Detroit.
A quintessential Midwest road trip, this is one of the road trips from Wisconsin that is best done in stages, as you’ll undoubtedly want to spend some time in each of the major cities en route.
There are so many amazing things to do in all of these locations that the trip could take an eternity to complete if you had that long!
When in Detroit, for those fascinated by the city’s long association with the motor industry, make sure to visit the Henry Ford Museum.
For music lovers, don’t miss the small but perfectly formed Motown Museum.
14. Madison to Mount Rushmore
Start in: Madison
End in: Mount Rushmore
Distance: 798 miles
If you’re seeking inspiration for road trip ideas from Wisconsin, then why not set out for the world-famous Mount Rushmore?
Should you find yourself in the state’s capital, then this is one of the finest long-distance road trips from Madison, WI.
Along the route, you can take in La Crosse, Blue Earth, Sioux Falls, and Badlands National Park, before reaching Mt Rushmore, undoubtedly one of the best road trip destinations from Wisconsin.
When you reach your destination, the best place to stay is the nearby town of Keystone, just three miles from the monument.
There are lots of great dining options in the former gold-mining town of Keystone, from where you can book helicopter trips for a different perspective on the monument.
All in all, one of the best road trips from Wisconsin!
15. Wisconsin Dells to Minneapolis
Start in: Wisconsin Dells
End in: Minneapolis
Distance: 216 miles
If you’re seeking short road trips from Wisconsin, then this 216-mile trip from Wisconsin Dells to Minneapolis is perfect for you.
The journey takes in New Lisbon, Black River Falls, Whitehall, Eau Claire, New Richmond, and Saint Paul, before terminating in the vibrant, arty city of Minneapolis.
On the way, you’ll see a lot of Central Wisconsin and can stop to discover many of the fun things to do in Central Wisconsin.
Minneapolis is a buzzing location with much of the action centered on the city’s rich and varied arts scene.
Around every corner, you’ll be sure to stumble across performing spaces, art installations, and museums showcasing not only local but international talents.
Set alongside the banks of the stunning, gently meandering Mississippi River, there are also beautiful parks, lakes and waterways, and miles of walking and cycling trails.
As we’ve discovered, Wisconsin road trips come in all shapes and sizes!
Therefore, there’s so much variety for you to choose from when considering road trips in Wisconsin.
So whether you like cities, villages, lakes, countryside, history, architecture, or just about anything else for that matter, then there’s a road trip that is perfect for you.
Short FAQ About the Best Wisconsin Road Trips
What is a good road trip in Wisconsin?
There are so many great options for Wisconsin road trips! If you enjoy big cities, you can do a route that includes all of them, you can do a road trip to see some of the best waterfalls in Wisconsin, you can do the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail if you love architecture, or enjoy one of the scenic routes around the state.
What is the best scenic route to drive in Wisconsin?
As the name suggests, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway is one of the best Wisconsin scenic drives. But the Door County Coastal Byway and the Kettle Moraine Scenic Route are also great scenic Wisconsin road trips.
How long is too long for a road trip?
So long as you have the time, your road trip can be as long or short as you want it to be! However, keep in mind that driving more than 8 hours a day, especially over multiple days can be dangerous. Try to keep the amount of hours you drive to a minimum and make frequently stops to stretch legs and check out the roadside attractions!
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries. Consider trying some of these eco-friendly vegan hiking boots.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case. Pack smart with these organic cotton clothing companies.
- Be environmentally friendly and get one of these awesome backpacks made from recycled materials.
- Get in the mindset with these amazing wilderness survival books.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel is protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, you’ll find all the tips to make the most of your holiday. Get ready to enjoy outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let’s hit the road together!