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Camping in Bourbon Country: A Definitive Guide

The weather is warming up in the midwest which means it’s time to stow away our North Face Puffer Jackets and get out our camping gear. After a long, hard winter in the Windy City, get the rest and relaxation you deserve with a night spent under the stars with a whiskey in hand. 

Before you reserve a spot at just any ol’ campground, pour yourself an Old Fashioned and do your research. The midwest is teeming with secluded, open-air sites within a short drive from Chicago. Whether you’re looking to pitch a tent on the beach or in a canyon; you, your friends, and your flasks are sure to love these top camping spots.

1. Indiana Dunes State Park

Image by David Mark

Pack a bottle of Koval bourbon, your hiking boots, and Fido before heading out to this idyllic, dog-friendly camping getaway in Chesterton, IN. With nine miles of hiking trails, smelt fishing, and miles of beachfront, this protected land nestled against Lake Michigan combines perfectly with your cocktail of choice and is sure to take the edge off. And once you’ve reached the Dunes you’re more than halfway to Journeyman Distillery.

2. Shabbona Lake State Park

Stay close to the well with a camping trip just down the road from Whiskey Acres. This popular distillery in Northern Illinois specializes in whiskey, bourbon, and vodka that is grown, harvested, distilled, and barrelled on the same land. While on a camping excursion at Shabbona Lake State Park, pop in for a tasting and buy some spirits to enjoy around the campfire later.

As if being a short drive away from a distillery wasn’t enough to make a reservation at Shabbona Lake, this camping ground offers cushy accommodations for anyone in the mood for a luxury camping experience. Whether you rent a cabin or bring your own tent, you’ll enjoy electricity, showers, vehicular access, and a boat launch. Better yet, if you forget ice to go with your whiskey, there’s a camp store right on site.

3. Illinois Beach State Park

What goes better together than whiskey, camping, and a large group of friends? This beach campground on the shore of Lake Michigan welcomes large groups so long as you register in advance. Start each morning with an Irish Coffee before heading out for a hike among prickly pear cactus, cattails, and black oak. This diverse landscape includes marshland, forests, and desert-like dry areas, making it one of the most beautiful settings in America. Campers also have access to two swimming areas, but be warned that there aren’t always lifeguards on duty. Whiskey and water are best when mixed in a glass – Don’t drink and swim!

4. Starved Rock State Park

Image by Yinan Chen

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of this popular campsite, and for good reason. Starved Rock State Park is every bit as magical as it’s talked up to be. A weekend spent at this top camping spot is sure to be full of the 4 W’s: Waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, and whiskey. Hike in the park’s 18 canyons, explore nearby historical landmarks, and spend your nights around a campfire or curled up inside the charming cabin lodge.

5. Rock Cut State Park

If you’re looking for more excitement than just sipping whiskey around the fire, venture further from home for a camping experience full of things to do at Rock Cut State Park. With two lakes, hiking trails, horseback riding, and paddle board rentals, you’ll be glad to mix a Boulevardier and finally kick your feet up when the sun goes down.  

This summer, enjoy your whiskey the way nature intended: with friends in the great outdoors. Take a break from the bustle of Chi-Town at any of these top camping spots, but don’t forget to explore things to do wherever you end up and bring the bar along with you!

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