Marshes of red and trees of bright yellow and orange will be a sight to behold as you travel along Wisconsin’s “Cranberry Highway” during cranberry harvest (late September to late October)!
As the number-one producer of cranberries in the United States, Wisconsin is responsible for more than half of the nation’s production of this little red berry. Those wishing to see the beauty of this unique harvest firsthand will find cranberries being grown in more than 20 counties across Wisconsin. However, the best counties for exploring cranberries are Juneau and Monroe.
Did you know?
Cranberries are the official fruit of Wisconsin.
Cranberries can be found in more than 1,000 food and beverage products.
Approximately one-fifth of all cranberries produced will be consumed during the holiday season.
The Wisconsin cranberry industry is valued at almost $1 billion and provides nearly 4,000 jobs.
Cranberries contain memory-enhancing antioxidants.
Cranberries do not grow in water; they grow in sandy marshland.
So if cranberries do not grow in water, why is it that we see so many floating on the tops of water? You will only see marshes of red cranberries during harvest season as flooding the marshes where cranberries are grown is the technique used for picking! Once the marshes are flooded, the tiny berries float to the top of the water where a picking machine can easily access them. The fruit is then dried, frozen or refrigerated before being sent off for sale.
Perhaps one of the most well-known producers and sellers of cranberry products, Ocean Spray, has a facility in Wisconsin; they are popular today for their cranberry juice and they were the first company in the United States to offer juice boxes! Ocean Spray is not a private business but a co-op. Many cranberry growers across the country belong and share the process from field to table.
The Cranberry Highway winds for more than 50 miles through Wisconsin’s cranberry-growing counties. Many of the cranberry beds you will see on this self-guided drive date back more than 100 years. The cranberry-growing region of Wisconsin is not only home to bright red lakes of berries during harvest season, but you will also be witness to some of Wisconsin’s stunning scenery and wildlife.
Start your trip at the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center to learn all there is to know about cranberries! Here you will find a museum, gift shop and cranberry treats. Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and military members, $3 for students and children pre-Kindergarten and under are free. Walk through the museum at your own pace or call ahead for a group tour. To learn more, visit discovercranberries.com.
For those looking to enjoy the scenery along the Cranberry Highway, stop in at Sandhill Wildlife Area. This area sits on the bed of an ancient glacial lake. Sandhill is home to forest and marsh as well as wildlife such as a small herd of American bison. Recreational activities include hiking, biking, bird-watching, wildlife viewing and more.
You will feel like you have just stepped into an Ocean Spray commercial on one of the many Cranberry Marsh Tours offered along the Cranberry Highway. For a great tour for those looking to take it all in, try the Splash of Red Cranberry Tour in Pittsville where you can pick fruit fresh from the vine. This two-and-a-half hour tour will take you to several marshes before stopping for lunch and cranberry treats. Tours are offered twice a week, Wednesday and Friday, during the month of October. Tours are $25 and are led by Pittsville FFA students and alumni. Reservations are required.
To participate in a public harvest, plan a visit to Wetherby Cranberry Company the first Saturday of October where you will be given the chance to put on a pair of waders and walk right out into the marsh! No reservations are necessary and the Public Harvest Day takes place come rain or shine. Tickets to the event are $10.
The lovely town of Stevens Point has some great shopping and the fun Stevens Point Brewery, which has been in business since 1857. Don’t miss the Stevens Point Winery located in an old bakery. It’s intimate, friendly and often features live music.
Should you find yourself in Northern Wisconsin, there are still a number of marshes to tour up that way as well. Try Fifield Cranberry Marsh, Lake Nokomis Cranberries or Manitowish Waters Cranberry Marsh Tours.
For more information about the Cranberry Highway, visit wiscran.org.
If you are looking for a place to make your home base during your trip to Wisconsin, look no further than The Osthoff Resort at Elkhart Lake. Imagine a top-rated resort seated on the banks of a pristine, turquoise lake. With all of its many amenities, you will quickly find yourself feeling at home. The Osthoff Resort offers an array of on-site restaurants, a superb spa, a variety of family-friendly activities, a cooking school and plenty of space for weddings and conferences among other things!
The resort boasts 248 rooms including one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with a kitchen. Should you find yourself at The Osthoff during spring or summer, be sure to check out their watersports department for kayaking, paddle-boarding, canoeing, boating and more! You may also be interested in booking a coffee or evening cruise; the coffee cruise runs daily from 9-10 a.m. and the evening cruise runs twice daily, from 6-7 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. with an extra cruise offered during the months of July and August. The Aspira Spa at the Osthoff is lovely. They have a fantastic staff and every service is exceptional. The Osthoff has an on-site cooking school, L’ecole de la Maison, and during cranberry season, they often feature cooking with the berries. To learn more, visit theosthoff.com, aspiraspa.com and cookingschoolatosthoff.com.
Try the fresh tastes at a-soshel in Plover where Mediterranean-inspired dishes fill the menu. Lola’s On the Lake, the signature restaurant at the Osthoff, is a regional favorite for its excellent service, lovely views and exceptional cuisine. Great Expectations offers seasonal specialties, including delicious cranberry items, along with a tasty menu. Christian’s Bistro is committed to buy local and Wisconsin products. They have incredible attention to detail. Muse at Sentry and Father Fats Public House are both great representations of regional flavors.
For complete information, TravelWisconsin.com has plenty to offer.