Have you ever been someplace that the minute you arrive, you are immediately charmed and excited to explore and see what’s around the next corner? That’s how it felt from the moment we drove under the vintage overhead sign. We spent a weekend experience at Camp Wandawega this summer and were not only enchanted, but loved reveling in the slower and simpler pace of life. Nestled in Elkhorn, Wisconsin it is a vintage lovers dream come true. You might be wondering what it’s like to stay at Camp Wandawega. I have some awesome pictures to share with you (see this post) and a few tips about staying there as well. I can tell you, the immersion of all of the vintage decor makes the rustic experience magical. There’s also a fun video of our adventure you can watch in this post.
Where is Camp Wandawega?
Camp Wandawega is located in Elkhorn, Wisconsin which happens to be known for it’s amazing vintage flea markets. It has a fun and long history of first being a Speakeasy “summer retreat”, then a haven for Chicago gangsters, a house of ill-repute, a lake resort and finally a Latvian church camp until it was purchased in 2003 and turned into the sweet, rustic camp packed full of vintage decor and nostalgic experiences. They book their buildings to stay in through Air B n B and have great options for groups (which they specialize in).
What is Camp Wandawega Like?
Camp Wandawega still holds onto all of it’s rustic ideals, i.e., no air conditioning, public shower houses, and communal cooking areas with vintage decor on steroids. I felt like there was something to discover around every corner, and I just ate up all of the curated and carefully handpicked vintage decor, art and furnishings. All through the camp there were amazing “moments” of scenery and display, which I just love.
We stayed in the bunkhouse, but you can stay in anything from a girl scout pup tent to a large cabin. While there are fans in every room, and we were blessed with unseasonably cool evenings and it was nice to have the lake right outside the open windows. It could be a little warm in high summer. While some of the cabins have indoor bathrooms, if you are tent camping or renting a stand alone camper or smaller cabin, outhouses are available. There are also outdoor showers for rinsing off and bathing after a dip in the lake.
What and where is there to eat at Camp Wandawega?
While they do have a few treats on site such as make your own s’mores and ice cream and a few snacky items for purchase in the canteen, and a fun cooler truck of vintage style beers for the 21+ crowd, This is mostly a BYOF and BYOB experience. If you are going over a weekend, at this time you can order specialty food boxes delivered to the camp. Otherwise, you’ll want to bring your own “camp” food in a cooler.
We brought drinks in a cooler ( and there is free ice on premises to restock which is a nice amenity), but we hadn’t brought any food except for snacks with the idea we were going to stop at the Elegant Farmer which is a few miles away (which has amazing pies in a bag). The prices there are definitely on the higher “boutique food” side, so packing your own food will save you a big chunk of money, though we did buy some amazing bacon and brats from there.
There are grills available for cooking, as also campfires and a kitchen in the bunkhouse that has a griddle and basic cooking tools. We ended up making typical camp foods such as bacon and eggs, brats, fruit and sandwiches. There is a local Italian restaurant close by, but it was closed when we were there. Otherwise, other places to eat are quite a few miles away.
What is there to do at Camp Wandawega?
Besides just taking in all of the amazing vintage decor and checking out the grounds, all of the fun things you used to do at camp as a kid! You can enjoy lake time by fishing, swimming, rowing in boat, or playing outdoor games like tennis or ping pong. Or you can take a slower pace and sit on the pier and just enjoy the sunset. There’s trails to hike as well as axe throwing or archery, and you can hang around camp and explore, go bike riding or sit around a campfire. It’s like going to summer camp!
They also have a fun craft cabin where you can purchase a project and have a hands on experience and a game room. We found we did a lot of relaxing, and exploring. The days go by slow and fast at the same time in a good way. It’s also really close to the flea market, so if you come at the right time, you can enjoy as day there as well.
They do have some day excursions you can book ahead of time, but outside of that, there isn’t much else to do in the surrounding area, so this is definitely much more of an inclusive retreat place for a weekday or weekend experience at Camp Wandawega.
Other Camp Wandawega features
After waking up and grabbing your coffee at the canteen, make sure to explore all of the nooks and crannies, especially the tree house, the lodge and ranger’s station. And, don’t forget to visit the costume room at the back of the lodge! You can play dress up and take fun pictures around the camp.
Camp Wandawega Vintage Decor
One thing that really resonated for me was the meticulous touch and care that was taken to make the camp an entirely sensory experience. From vintage camp gear, to paint by numbers and furniture around every corner was something new to discover. I’ll share more of it in another post because there are so many pictures to share!
Our takeaways from the Weekend at Camp Wandawega
Even though it is super charged on vintage decor, it is still rustic and woodsy and makes no apologies. For the best experience, plan on it being just like regular camping, but like being at a summer camp. Bring food and drinks, layers of clothing, bug spray, and sunscreen. Go with that mindset and it will be a magical time. We spent time hiking, walking the beach and sitting on the pier having a drink or two, and just relaxing.
It was fun to try axe throwing and archery (I am much better than I thought I would be), making s’mores by the camp fire, and just having a slower take on life for a day or two. It was such an amazing break from the daily grind, and the atmosphere makes it feel special the moment you step foot on the campgrounds. We had a great weekend experience at Camp Wandawega, and can’t wait to go back.