History, legend and stunning landscapes combined with plenty of modern amenities all help make Lake City, Minn., a paradise for boaters.
The city is located along the widest stretch of the Mississippi River, on the banks of Lake Pepin, the largest naturally occurring lake on the river. Known as the birthplace of water skiing, boaters also know Lake City for its fishing and as one of the top five sailing areas in the world. Take a sailing cruise with GEM Sailing, or learn with their beginner or intermediate level sailing lessons. Anglers can fish for walleye, smallmouth bass and Northern pike or fish for trout in one of the 25,000-acre lake’s tributary streams. Lake City Boat Club and Rentals offers both boats and campers for rent.
Scenic river cruises are available from the Pearl of the Lake, a replica 1800s paddleboat, Wednesdays through Sundays through October. The Saturday evening sunset sightseeing cruise is especially popular. Or why not take in a view from the air? Hang gliding is a popular activity on Lake Pepin and flights alongside an experienced pilot are available from Eagle Hang Gliding. Bald eagles are a common sight year-round at Lake Pepin and can be seen up close at the National Eagle Center, a 20-minute drive away in Wabasha, Minn.
Lake City Marina is one of the largest marinas for small boats in the country. Along with transient dockage with electric and gas, two pump out stations and after-hours security, the marina is only one block away from shopping, food and entertainment available in the downtown area. A swimming beach and tennis courts also provide plenty of room for enjoying the outdoors. Visitors may also take a stroll on the popular river walk that spans for miles along the lake and through the marina.
Expansive beaches are linked to Hok-Si-La and Ohuta parks, and Frontenac State Park, known for its limestone bluff and birdwatching opportunities, is only a short drive away. Wherever you go, keep an eye out for Pepie the Lake Pepin Monster, a legendary, serpent-like monster with a tale as colorful as that of its cousin Nessie in Scotland’s Loch Ness.
For a slower pace, Lake City’s other marina, Hansen’s Harbor, offers a quiet, natural and lush setting each year from May 1 to Oct. 1. The one-price slip rental here includes 30-amp power hook ups and potable water. Along with restrooms, showers and a ship’s store, boaters can take advantage of maintenance and repair services from a family with three generations of experience taking care of boaters. Sandy beaches and a picnic area are also available.
A short walk from Hansen’s, visit Lake Pepin Winery. The winery prides itself on using only locally grown, cold-hardy grapes picked, vented, sold and bottled from right there on the farm. Along with tastings of the unique, Midwestern wines, it also specializes in table grapes and grape juice.
Golf enthusiasts may want to pay a visit to one of the area golf courses. Lake Pepin Golf Course offers views of sailboats from high above Lake Pepin. The Jewel is considered one of the top three golf courses in the state.
If you’re in town the last weekend in June, Water Ski Days commemorates Ralph Samuelson’s decision in 1922 to hook a clothes line onto the back of a boat on Lake Pepin and be towed while standing on a couple of boards. It includes a parade, carnival, car show and water skiing demonstration.
Cafes and restaurants also abound. One popular one is Lake House on Pepin, which offers lakeside dining and cocktails. Other hot spots include Rustic Café, a sandwich and dessert shop, Old Bank Bar & Grill with its famed burgers, live music and darts, Port 104, with dining, monthly DJs and brand new bowling lanes, and Dux, which offers specialty coffees and homemade ice cream. Four clothing boutiques and numerous antique stores are available downtown. Unique shopping destinations include Treats and Treasures, Lake Pepin Pearl Button Company and Swan Jewelers.
With its small-town charm and lots of outdoor recreation, Lake City and the entire Lake Pepin region offer a vast amount of natural beauty, activities, dining and shopping to accommodate anyone adventuring on the river.