The best cities and towns to live in northern Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin

Wisconsin is famous for many things. Quality dairy products, the largest cranberry festival, and the Great Lakes often come to mind. This time, we’re showcasing communities that are considered as some of the best places to live in the state.

Northern Wisconsin, in particular, is home to fine towns and cities, all ideally located near recreational parks, wildlife reserves, campgrounds, cultural attractions and a host of other amenities that you won’t find anywhere else around Lake Superior.

You just might find the perfect setting for your dream home or your next property investment right here. Continue reading to discover the best places to live in Northern Wisconsin.

Table of Contents

  • Ashland
  • Bayfield
  • Washburn
  • Cornucopia
  • La Pointe
  • Port Wing
  • Herbster
  • Iron River
  • Contact Wisconsin real estate experts

Ashland

Ashland is an economically vibrant city that has a distinct small-town feel. Supported by a good mix of industries like manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and tourism, there’s no shortage of job opportunities here. Captivating views of nature surround the city as well, with Lake Superior waters dominating most of the northern scenery.

Situated in the northeastern portion of Ashland County (just outside of Bayfield County), Ashland is home to over 7,800 people. It sits along Chequamegon Bay, an inlet of Lake Superior, where fishing and bird watching are some of the favorite activities. A few miles to the southeast lies the lush landscape of the White River Boreal Forest.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • Owing to its amazing waterfront location, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Ashland. Public parks, beaches, and miles of walking trails are abundant throughout the city. You can also find excellent restaurants and bars, each with distinct specialties and quirks. You’ll experience the same warm and family-friendly environment no matter what establishment you visit.

    If you’re moving with kids, you’ll be pleased to know that Ashland has several schools to choose from. School options range from K-12 levels up to higher education, including Northland College and Northwood Technical College.

  • Ashland real estate
  • From ranch-style homes and cozy lakefront cabins to remodeled vintage homes from the early 1900s, there’s an array of homes to choose from in Ashland. You can also find two- to three-storey lakefront luxury homes offering unmatched waterfront views as far as the eye can see.

Bayfield

Located in Bayfield County, Bayfield is home to approximately four hundred residents. Wisconsin Highway 13 is the main route into the city and has recently been named a National Scenic Byway, winding its way along the south shore of Lake Superior.

Bayfield’s rich nautical history and stellar location along Lake Superior draw new residents and visitors all year round. Despite being one of the smallest cities in Wisconsin, charming Bayfield has a lot to offer homebuyers who are looking for a welcoming community with a ton of local attractions to explore.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • This small harbor city is prominently known as the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Pleasure cruising, kayaking, and sea cave viewing are some of the popular activities you can enjoy here.

    Bayfield is home to a few wineries, breweries, and distilleries where you can catch a glimpse of the fine craftsmanship behind your favorite drinks. You get the opportunity to sample them too, along with local food specialties.

    Living in Bayfield also allows you to partake in some of the biggest cultural gatherings at the Big Top Chautauqua, less than 10 minutes away by car. Some of the artists who have showcased their talents at this open-theater venue include B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and The Beach Boys. There is also an assortment of art galleries and museums in Bayfield that showcase the city’s history and art scene.

  • Bayfield real estate
  • The awe-inspiring natural beauty of Bayfield certainly makes it one of the best places to live in Wisconsin. You have a variety of ways to enjoy the surrounding natural environment. Waterfront homes with stunning views overlooking Lake Superior are often on the market. If you prefer a bit more privacy, there are also single-family homes perched on top of Bayfield’s lush rolling hills.

    There are also commercial properties for sale in the city. Whether it’s a warehouse for commercial business opportunities or a renovated restaurant space with lots of development possibilities, if you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you will find Bayfield to be a suitable location for your business.

Washburn

With a populace of over 2,000, Washburn is a thriving city with beautiful natural surroundings and a vibrant tourism-based economy. Wisconsin Highway 13 and County Highway C are the main routes into this waterfront city that sits along Chequamegon Bay.

Whether it’s Lake Superior, protected forests, wildlife preserves, or parks and recreation areas, opportunities to enjoy nature surround the city on all sides. Life in Washburn revolves around the appreciation and preservation of these precious natural resources.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • Boat tours near Washburn offer trips to nearby Apostle Islands and other localities around Chequamegon Bay. Fishing, kayaking, and sailing are also popular activities in these waters.

    Aside from exploring Lake Superior, you can also venture out into the immense Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, where trails run for hundreds of miles — an ideal setting for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.

    Washburn also boasts a dynamic cultural scene. Various art exhibits are constantly on display at the Washburn Cultural Center. The famous concert and events venue, Big Top Chautauqua, is just 14 minutes away from the city proper. In addition, Washburn has great bars, restaurants, and art galleries.

  • Washburn real estate
  • Washburn real estate offers a great range of housing options in different price points, from beautifully landscaped executive-style homes to mixed-use commercial properties. The community, however, is best known for its lakefront homes and cabins along Lake Superior.

Cornucopia

This idyllic community on the western side of the Bayfield Peninsula

takes pride in its serene surroundings and bountiful natural resources. Homebuyers looking for an escape from city life will find the fresh air and relative calm reinvigorating.

Census-designated Cornucopia is located at the intersection between Wisconsin Highway 13 and County Road C. Facing the tranquil waters of Lake Superior’s Siskiwit Bay, beautiful waterfront views abound and verdant woods and forests surround the small community.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • There are a number of outdoor activities that keep residents of Cornucopia occupied all year round. The spring and summer seasons are perfect for exploring the vastness of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands aboard a kayak, yacht, or sailboat. Fishing and swimming are possible at Cornucopia Beach as well as nearby bays and beaches.

    For an inland adventure, take the well-marked trails to Lost Creek Falls, Cornucopia’s most iconic outdoor destination. During the winter, the trails around Cornucopia become ideal terrain for cross-country skiing and other winter sports.

  • Cornucopia real estate
  • Acreage properties make up most of Cornucopia’s housing stock, some of which offer direct lake access. Properties usually range from a single acre to more than 15 acres. In terms of home design, you’ll find rustic cabins and traditional-style single-family homes throughout the community. Additionally, you’ll also find empty lots which are a prime opportunity for development.

La Pointe

With a stunning island location surrounded by the pristine waters of Lake Superior, La Pointe is one of the best places to live in Northern Wisconsin. This slice of paradise is situated on Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands and the only one open for residences or commercial development.

This small unincorporated community composed of a few hundred residents is the site of the oldest European settlement in Wisconsin. In the early 1600s, the native Chippewa (also known as the Ojibwe) came into contact with French fur traders. Later, the Chippewa intermarried with this group of European settlers. Madeline Island was named after the Chippewa Chief’s daughter, Madeline Cadotte, who married a French trader by the name of Michel Cadotte in the 1700s.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • From La Pointe, it’s easy to explore the rest of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. But you don’t need to sail out of Madeline Island to find thrilling sights and adventure.

    About 12 minutes from La Pointe is Big Bay State Park, a lakefront park that features approximately 7 miles of hiking trails. A little further north is the Madeline Island Wilderness Reserve, a protected natural area and one of the oldest land trusts in Wisconsin. Golf enthusiasts can book tee time in Madeline Island Golf Club. There is also a selection of local restaurants, cafés, pubs, art galleries, and souvenir shops throughout the community.

  • La Pointe real estate
  • Whether overlooking Lake Superior or tucked away in a forested area, ranch-style homes and lovely cabins await homebuyers in La Pointe. Meanwhile, lot sizes typically run anywhere between 3 acres to 10 acres. Entrepreneurial buyers may also choose from a few commercial properties for sale.

Port Wing

The quaint fishing village of Port Wing offers a relaxed and friendly environment for residents and visitors. The local fishing industry started during the 1830s and was bolstered by the influx of Swedish fishermen who migrated to the community some 40 years later.

Port Wing is located along Wisconsin Highway 13 National Scenic Byway and Bayfield County Highway A. The town proper is about a mile away from the shoreline. Gorgeous lakefront views and a scenic sand-filled beach surround the local harbor.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • There are a fair amount of attractions to visit in and around Port Wing. The Port Wing Marina offers board and lodging to visitors and boaters staying for the night or for extended periods. Then there’s Twin Falls Park, which has miles of hiking paths and nature trails — perfect for an early morning run or walk.

    You can also go hiking and birdwatching in the Port Wing Boreal Forest State Natural Area. Resident birds in the area include species such as the white-throated sparrow, northern parula, blackburnian warbler, and purple finch.

  • Port Wing real estate
  • Real estate options in Port Wing range from timber-framed cabins and remote cottages to well-maintained traditional homes built prior to the 2000s. Scenic waterfront views, evergreen woods and thriving vegetation are staple features that enhance the comfort of living in a Port Wing home. You can also find spacious empty lots in the community and build your dream home from scratch.

Herbster

Herbster is another census-designated place considered one of the Bayfield Peninsula’s best-kept secrets. Located along Wisconsin Highway 13, at the intersection of Lenawee Road, this small and tight-knit community enjoys scenic views of Lake Superior. Although still part of the Town of Clover, this little community is quickly making a name for itself.

Up until the advent of the 21st century, Herbster has relied on the logging industry to fuel its economy. In recent years, the community has been steadily building a service and tourism industry as more visitors and new residents discover what the area has to offer.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • Visitors to Herbster enjoy the Lake Superior view from the Herbster Campgrounds, one of the few beachfront campgrounds along the South Shore.

    From this small village, there are several attractions that can be reached in a matter of minutes. To the west is the Port Wing Boreal Forest, where trekking, fishing, and birdwatching are possible. To the east lies Bark Bay Slough and Bark Bay. There’s a host of activities here, including kayaking, exploring the nearby historic cabin, and watching the skies for bald eagles during the breeding season.

  • Herbster real estate
  • Real estate options in Herbster range from lakefront cabins and cottages to spacious ranch or rambler-style houses. Many of these properties have space to accommodate a wide variety of features and amenities to make the most of your Northern Wisconsin home or getaway. Vacant land is also available in and around Herbster, whether you’re looking for lots overlooking the lake or surrounded by lush forests.

Iron River

Further inland in Bayfield County lies the small and friendly town of Iron River. Home to just over 1,000 residents, the town is named after a nearby river, which is one of the many bodies of water in the area. There are also small freshwater lakes surrounding the town as well as various creeks and fishing streams.

Located along the U.S. Route 2, Iron River is a hub for the many cabin owners, vacationers, and year-round residents who enjoy this peaceful area of the Northwoods.

  • Attractions and things to do
  • Throughout Iron River, you’ll find an assortment of shops, bakeries, leisure spots, supply stores, and markets that represent the laidback lifestyle in Wisconsin’s Northwoods region.

    The town is particularly prominent for having one of the most notable wineries in the region. White Winter Winery, located on the western side of Iron River, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike and known for its high-quality local wine, cider, and mead.

    The Iron River Historical Museum houses some artifacts and records that take you back to a time when the town was a logging boom town. Additionally, there are various campgrounds and lake resorts just a few minutes away from the town.

  • Iron River real estate
  • Homes in Iron River typically sit on lots that stretch for several acres. Whether it’s a ranch-style home, waterfront cottage, or spacious cabin, many of these properties are surrounded by mature trees and woods. Homebuyers seeking a peaceful retreat in the form of a secluded enclave amid beautiful natural surroundings will feel at home here.

Contact Wisconsin real estate experts

Finding a great place to live in northern Wisconsin may be a bit daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the local area. If you’re beginning your search for Wisconsin real estate, consider getting expert advice and timely insights from Windseeker Realty.

Our agents from Windseeker Realty will help you find the best properties to purchase in Northern Wisconsin and the Bayfield Peninsula. With seasoned professionals by your side, you can make informed choices throughout your home buying journey.

Whether you’re looking for a second home, a commercial property, or a new home for you and your family, we’ll help you make the best investment decision. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us by phone at 715.779.5000 or by email at Agent(at)WindseekerRealty(dotted)com ..