As the winter months slowly but surely give way to spring, the travel bug starts itching to take flight. While most of us don’t have a week-long tropical cruise scheduled anytime soon, here’s some drivable mini-vacations that can give you a day or two of adventure with less than a four hour road trip. Whether exploring towering natural wonders among Indiana’s forests or enjoying a charming small-town shopping trip, these destinations are sure to make it on your weekend getaway list.
Dunewood Campground- Beverly Shores, Indiana
The closest of the getaway destinations, Dunewood Campground is the perfect spot for a couple of days to be immersed in nature and enjoy Lake Michigan. Indiana Dunes State Park is right around the corner for some beach-going and dune hiking, along with all of the restaurants and amenities of Chesterton, yet this campground provides a more private, in-the-wilderness experience that’ll make you forget how close to home you actually are.
Starved Rock State Park- Oglesby, Illinois
Starved Rock is filled with both intriguing history and natural wonders. Its hiking trails take you to cave openings, waterfalls, towering rock formations and sprawling overlooks. The Illinois River cuts through for beautiful scenery with plenty of spots to sight-see with a bird’s eye view along the way. Starved Rock also holds a long-standing and dynamic history of Native American tribes and early settlers, documented on signs along the trails.
Among the most notable wildlife that inhabits Starved Rock, bald eagles, flock to the destination in droves during the winter months. For a weekend stay, Starved Rock has several camping options, as well as a spacious lodge and restaurant for when the weather isn’t ideal for snoozing outdoors.
Turkey Run State Park- Marshall, Indiana
This destination is a must for all Regioners to experience at least once. It’s winding canyons and scenic trails take you deep into another world, far from the normal topography of Indiana and into another time. Its ravines and stony gorges are the result of 600 million years of geological formation. The nearby Sugar Creek also offers canoeing and fishing, and there’s plenty of lodging options between campgrounds, cabins and Turkey Run Inn. Plus, there’s plenty of activities hosted by the Nature Center staff, from guided evening hikes to special programs about the creatures who call Turkey Run home, up close and personal.
Shades State Park & Pine Hills Preserve- Waveland Indiana
Near Turkey Run, this park is an often overlooked gem in Indiana. With high-rising rocky ridges with names like “Lover’s Leap” and “The Devil’s Backbone,” and more unique formations with interesting legends, it’s the perfect spot for adventurous travelers who don’t shy away from rugged trails. Shades State Park, because it’s less known than Turkey Run, also makes for less crowded trails and campgrounds.
Amish Country- Shipshewana, Indiana
Only a couple hours away is a town with a culture far from the hustle and bustle of the region. The Heritage Trail Driving Tour is a beautifully scenic route, where every mile tells a story. Shipshewana has a rich history of Amish heritage that shines today as buggies roll down the roads and Amish-crafted wares can be found at every turn. The neighboring town of Elkhart also has a historic downtown where places to shop, eat and drink are aplenty. There’s plenty of charming inn’s and bed and breakfast spots for a relaxing, quaint getaway.
Cave of the Mounds- Blue Mounds, Wisconsin
Uncovered in 1939, this 1 million-year-old cave is a sight-seeing hub for those with an interest in geology paired with adventure. The cave is open for guided tours year-round and is sure to inspire awe. Fossils, stalactites and rare minerals adorn the cave walls and ceilings, with stretching corridors and winding paths. Above ground is an expansive gem store, a nature center and hiking and biking trails. Check their site for fun events and special occasions.
Spring Mill State Park- Mitchell, Indiana
A relic of pioneer days, Spring Mill State Park has both rugged wilderness and a quaint village to explore. The park was once a thriving village in the early 1800’s and its 20 historic buildings have been preserved into museums and restored to the shops and businesses of old. Several cave systems run through the park, along with beautiful trails and spacious campgrounds. Be sure to go on the Twin Caves Boat Tour nearby, where you’ll be able to boat through the stream passage that runs through the cave.
Bluespring Caverns- Bedford Indiana
The cavern’s river voyage is an underground boat tour through the BlueSpring Caverns, a cave system that stretches 21 miles underground with a subterranean river. The boat trips take you through to see the highlights of the cave, including historical points and rock formations. You may even spot the cave’s wildlife, including salamanders, crayfish and more. While it’s one of the longer drives on this list, it’s definitely worth it, especially for a weekend trip! It’s close to Spring Mill, so be sure to visit both sites when out in the area!