Southwestern Wisconsin Scenic Drives
Exploring Cheese Country Driftless Region
Southwest Wisconsin is part of Wisconsin’s unique driftless area topography. The landscape features broad open hilltops, flat fertile river valleys, and steep wooded slopes. Numerous creeks and the mixture of steep woods and rolling grass lands lends itself to dairy operations including creameries and cheese factories. Swiss immigrants to the area brought their cheese making craft with them and made the area a locus of world championship cheese.
Woods, rolling fields, neatly cared for farmsteads, winding roads, and rural landscape make for scenic and stress free drives populated by attractive villages that have retained their small town character.
Scenic Drive, Part 1 Mineral Point, Cuba City, to Shullsberg, Wisconsin
On our way to Mineral Point, Wisconsin via US Highway 151 we took a slight detour to play nine holes of golf at the Dodge Point Country Club.
Review Dodge Point Golf Course
Located between north of Mineral Point, just off Highway 151 on County YD, the golf course has been recently renovated by new ownership, adding yardage for low handicap players and creating a more playable set of womens and senior tees. The blue tees play 5970 yards, the white plays 5352, and the red tees are 4730.
The course is situated in rolling hills offering a good variety of elevation change and different looks to each of the holes. Mature trees line and define the fairways from years ago when it was originally a nine hole course. On the more recent holes it presents more of a links-style look with evergreens and smaller leaf trees serving as accents adjacent to the fairways.
Although playing in November, we found the course in excellent condition – greens running true and fairways in good condition. While offering variety and challenge, there’s no gimmics to navigate. A friendly course most golfers will enjoy. The club house is comfortable with a bar and adjacent dining area and a patio just off the bar. Fish frys are featured on Friday nights. Friendly small town service and family run with ownership on site most days. Reasonable prices, a good golfing value.
Mineral Point, Wisconsin
A historic town with deep roots in Wisconsin history as one of the earliest settlements as a mining hub and as the center of the first Wisconsin Territorial government. As far back as 1935 civic groups began a preservation effort to restore and maintain its historic stone buildings. This preservation movement remains active today with a large treasure trove of historic register buildings, including those maintained by the Pendarvis Historic Site and Shake Rag Alley (shown in the accompanying picture).
We had hoped to catch the Hooks Cheese Factory store open on a Saturday but it was closed. They carry over 50 kinds of cheese but are perhaps most well known for their super aged Cheddar (aged up to 20 years). RV travelers take note. There are RV hookups at the Iowa County Fairgrounds available on a first-come, first-served basis when there is not a Fair or an event at the fair grounds.
In the works is an expanded article on Mineral Point; meanwhile you can learn more about visiting Mineral Point here.
Leaving Mineral Point we return to US Highway 151 traveling south until the Belmont, Wisconsin exit. We travel through Belmont and connect with state highway 126 traveling south. When we intersect with state highway 81, we take it east to where it joins with highway 80 going south to Cuba City, which bills itself as the “City of Presidents.” Lining Main Street and downtown are 44 shields containing each president’s name, silhouette, and term in office.
Cuba City, Wisconsin
Cuba City is also home to Carr Cheese Factory and the Gile Cheese Store, located on the east side of Main Street as you approach downtown. While the cheese store is the factory outlet for Carr cheese, it also offers a huge variety of private label cheeses from other local cheese producers in southwest Wisconsin. For the cheese aficionado, you can find some many years-old aged chedder, swiss, and other varieties of aged cheese.There are also a large selection of other artisanal food products like sauces, condiments, flavorings, maple syrups, etc.
Our next stop is Shullsburg. We go south on highway 80 to the junction with state highway 11, then head east through the communities of Benton and Lead Mine to Shullsburg, Wisconsin.
Visiting Shullsburg, Wisconsin
This is another town with an exceptional historic preservation ethic. It is easy to imagine you’ve stepped back in time a hundred years or more with a walk down Water Street. Lots of interesting little shops and some great places to eat and drink, like the Brewster House Restaurant (1855) that also shares space with the 75 year old Shullsberg Creamery Cheese Store. Like the Gile Cheese Store there was an impressive variety of local cheeses available, including those from the Shullsberg Creamery, which is next door. Shullsberg seems to offer more variety in cheese spreads and like the Gile Cheese store offered a number of other artisan foods and craft beer from local breweries. They also feature a large number of gift boxes.
See our article on visiting Shullsburg here.
Leaving Shullsburg, we continued east on highway 80. At the junction with highway 23 is the Roelli Cheese Haus and the Roelli Cheese Factory. Unfortunately we were a little too late arriving and the store was closed. But based on the size of it you could expect a similar assortment of locally produced cheeses and other artisanal foods and gift boxes that we found at Shullsburg and Cuba City factory cheese stores.
There’s a terrific little RV park in Gratiot, Wisconsin that we like: Wolf Creek Campground. Level parking pads, electric and water hookups and a modern washroom and shower facility. Wolf creek runs adjacent to the campground and flows into the Pecatonica River a short distance away. It looks to me like you could put your canoe in the creek and float into the Pecatonica. Also adjacent to the campground is the Cheese Country Multi-use Recreational Trail. It runs from Mineral Point to Monroe and is used by ATVs, motorcycles, horseback riding in the summer and snowmobiling and skiing in the winter.
Within walking distance of the campground, we discovered a great bar and café where we enjoyed a terrific breakfast omelete with a huge serving of hash browns for a price that will make you come back often! Rocks Pour House (in the old Nixon House Inn) shows its age on the outside but inside it is clean, comfortable, and great food. We’ll have to catch their Friday Fish Fry one of these evenings.
Next Article: Cheese Country Scenic Drive, Part 2
Visiting Monroe and New Glarus Wisconsin