Rebecca & Tom Stark
431 Cook Avenue
Jonesboro, IL 62952
Tour The Shawnee Hills &
The Southern Illinois Wine Trails
Tour the twelve wineries/vineyards that comprise the popular Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, most located within 15 minutes of Hidden Lake, and discover your favorite .... or visit the six wineries that make-up the Southern Illinois Wine Trail. You'll sip wine at a Tuscan style villa rising up from the Southern Illinois hills or in an old peach barn turned Swedish cafe and winery. Relax at an outdoor amphitheatre as you enjoy a bottle of wine with friends or choose one the many decks overlooking breathtaking vistas of Southern Illinois vineyards, Koi ponds, and so much more. Enjoy music in the vineyards most weekends or choose to attend a murder mystery or wine festival. Take along a specially prepared picnic from Hidden Lake and sip some of Southern Illinois' finest. Check our calendar of events for special winery events and as you tour the trail, be on the lookout for even more wineries not yet on either "trail" but certainly worth stopping along the way. One of our favorites ... Lincoln Heritage Winery where Bonnie regularly uses her wines, like Cherry Chocolate wine, in cooking up some very tasty treats.
Explore Our State & Federal Parks
There are numerous state parks and resource natural areas (RNA), within 15-30 minutes of Hidden Lake, which make up just part of the 280,000 acre Shawnee National Forest. All offer varying terraines of interest for hiking, biking, horseback riding or even a driving tour if you're not interested in the more physical endevours.
Giant City State Park, receiving over 1 million visitors each year, is noted for its impressive rock formations. Eight, well-marked hiking trails, ranging from easy to rugged, offer the opportunity to experience these unique formations up close and are well worth the effort. A scenic drive through the park with a stop at the new Visitor's Center is also an option.
Little Grand Canyon is considered one of Southern Illinois' most beautiful hiking trails. Come hike a winding, hilly trail complete with waterfall! A great stop before visiting the wineries. The trail can be a bit tricky so don't venture out in rainy or snowy conditions.
The Pomona Natural Bridge, carved by flowing waters over hundreds of years, is well worth the short walk (1/2 mile round trip) from the parking area. The peace and beauty of the area offers a surreal view of Southern Illinois' natural wonders.
Trail of Tears State Park pays tribute to the force march of the Cherokee Indians to Oklahoma in the winter of 1838-1839 where many perished along the way. 5,000 acres makes up this state park with fire trails open year round for hiking ... much of it up hill!
LaRue Pine Hills RNA is most famous for the biannual ‘Snake Migration’ across the LaRue Road at the base of the bluffs, adjacent to LaRue Swamp. The road is closed tocar traffic every spring and fall to help protect thousands of reptiles and amphibians during their migration. About 66 percent of the amphibians and 59 percent of the reptiles known to occur in Illinois are found here (approximately 35 species of snakes). Not personnally being a fan of reptiles, I enjoy a drive through upper and lower La Rue Roads during the non-migration months.
Tunnel Hill State Park offers 45 miles of biking trails along converted rails-to-trails. My favorite sections? The leg south from Vienna through the Cache River Wetlands or north through the 543 foot tunnel ... although I did find that length of tunnel a bit spooky!
The Cache River Wetlands, totaling over 14,000 acres, is an echo system unlike any other in the midwest. A floating boardwalk leads out into swaplands where a canopy of cypress tress tower hundreds of feet into the air and the new Visitor's Center provides an intereesting peek into the history of the Cache and it's importance to the area. If you have only time to visit one natural site, this is the one!
If you are willing to venture a bit further, Garden of the Gods and Cave in Rock State Park are well worth the drive (50 and 40 minutes away respectively) and the lodge at Cave in Rock offers a beautiful place for lunch.
Shopping in the Hills ... the Shawnee Hills
There are numerous antique shops, farm markets, gift shops and more in Southernmost Illinois, most within 5-15 minutes of Hidden Lake. If you just like to browse or if you're looking for something unique, you'll find it along the shopping trail. Artisans display their work at the Makanda Boardwalk as well as at Ant Hill Galleries and The Alligator & Blue Fox in Cobden. Antiques are on display at Isom's Antiques, This N That, and several others along the wine trail. Wine-themed gifts are featured at many of the wineries ... Alto Vineyards, Blue Sky, Von Jakob, Pomona, and Starview.
Pick up a Shopping Trail map at any of the wineries, stores or at Hidden Lake so that you can visit them all. Get an early start after breakfast and then be relaxing over a glass of wine at your favorite winery by the afternoon!
Zip Lining in the Shawnee
Yes, zip ling has come to Southern Illinois and what a wonderful way to take in the Shawnee National Forest! Illinois' first entirely tree-based, eco-friendly zip line canopy tour is located on 83 wooded acres surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest. Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour consists of eight zip lines, the longest stretching more than 1,100 feet, zig-zaging across the property's bluffs and through the valley. The tour also includes 11 platforms high in the trees, three aerial suspension bridges - the longest stretching 180 feet - and two short ground hikes.
Fresh Fruit Orchards
There are several orchards in the area that offer some amazingly tempting treats in addition to an array of seasonal fresh fruit. There are homemade goodies like strawberry shortcake, peach cobbler and smoothies, apple pie and dumplings that you can enjoy on-site or take home for the family. In addition, the orchards offer a wide array of jams, jellies, salsas, soups and much, much more.
Bald Knob Mountain & Cross
The highest point in Southernmost Illinois is Bald Knob Mountain, rising more than 700 feet from the valley below. From Bald Knob, on a clear day, you can see beautiful vistas of Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky. In the fall, the colors are spectacular. On top of Bald Knob stands a cross 111 feet tall. It serves as a non-denominational symbol of God. When lit at night, is can be seen over an area of 7,500 square miles. Easter services are held each year at Bald Knob.
Experience the Challenge of Rock Climbing or Rappelling
I highly recommend this adventure for those with any interest in rock climbing! The hills and bluffs of Southern Illinois offer great rock climbing experiences for the beginner to the experienced. As a beginner, try Vertical Heartland Climbing School (www.verticalheartland.com). They will provide the equipment and have you climbing within the hour. Lessons for those wanting more than just a taste of rock climbing as well as rock climbing expeditions are also available. Take along a backpack lunch from Hidden Lake, then return here for a long, relaxing soak in one our Jacuzzis!
The eighteen acres of woods, gardens and water at Hidden Lake are a great place to catch site of a variety of birds. As you enjoy breakfast in the Sunroom you're likely to see Hairy, Downy, Red Bellied and Red Headed Woodpeckers; Indigo Buntings; Cardinals; American Gold Finches; Carolina Chickadees; Tit-mice; Blue Jays; Flickers; and a variety of wrens. Elsewhere at Hidden Lake, you may catch sight of a Great Blue Heron feeding at the lake, a pair of Green Heron, a pair (or more) of Pileated Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Swallows, Purple Martins, Red-Tailed Hawks, and Coppers Hawks. Eagles are abundant for the sitting in January along the Mississippi and a few have been known to visit Hidden Lake. Join a guided eagle tour through the Crab Orchard Wild Life Refuge during the months of January and February or join in May Birdfest in the Cache River Wetlands. May is the month for the spring bird migration in Southern Illinois so bring your binoculars and maybe add new bird (or two?) to your birding life list!
Enjoy a leisurely a one or two hour ride or even a full day expedition through the Southern Illinois' orchards and the Shawnee National Forest with Lake Glendale or Honeybee Stables. You'll enjoy the privacy of being on your own with a guide with horses that are as anxious to be out enjoying the countryside as you. Be sure to take along a saddlebag lunch to enjoy along the way or once you're through! Let us know that you're interested and we'll make the reservations for you.
Scuba Dive at Mermet Springs
Scuba dive in Southernmost Illinois at Mermet Springs, an 8.5 acre spring fed quarry offering terrific clear water diving experience with visibility from 15 feet to over 65 feet and depths in excess of 100 feet. Diving includes exploration of wrecks at various depths. Take lessons including certification, just dive or even snorkel.
Gambling at Isle Casino in Cape
River front gambling has come to Cape Girardeau. If you like to try your luck at the tables or the slots or just enjoy the food, Isle Casino has opened a new location in Cape Girardeau, MO, just 30 minutes across the river from Hidden Lake. We've not been there but several of our guests have reported back that they've enjoyed themselves and that the views of the Mississippi together with a walk along the river front make it worth the drive.
The Home of Superman
Metropolis, as you know, is the home of Superman. But did you know that Metropolis is located in Southern Illinois? Approximately 45 miles from Hidden Lake, the town of Metropolis holds an annual Superman celebration the 2nd weekend of June. Celebrity appearances include the man of steel himself. Take your picture with him or with the 15 foot statue of Superman that adorns Metropolis. Visit the Super Museum, a $2.5 million collection spanning 60 years. And yes, the name of the town paper is, of course, The Daily Planet!
There are many nice restaurants from which to choose when visiting Southernmost Illinois, both Casual and Fine Dining, several within five minutes of Hidden Lake. Listed below are those we most often recommend.
Fine Dining Options
Let us make reservations for you at any of the following:
Kristofer's at Von Jakob, Alto Pass, IL, 15 minute drive, 618-893-4600, Open: Friday & Saturday. Spend the greater part of an evening enjoying Kristofer's uniquely offered four-course meal including soup, salad, entree and dessert with an option for appetizers while you enjoy your favorite Von Jakob wine or micro-brew. You'll find a variety of options for each course including your choice of three salads, a dozen or more entrees and, my favorite, dessert!
Celebrations, Cape Girardeau, MO, 30 minute drive, 573-334-8330, Open: Tuesday-Saturday. Celebrations combines a casually elegant atmosphere with excellent service, an extensive menu, and an enviable wine list. They have a beautiful courtyard area open in the warmer months for dining and live music most weekends.
Mary's, Herrin, IL, 45 minute drive, 618-942-2742, Open: Tuesday-Saturday. Mary's is located in a lovely old peach-colored Victorian home. Like Celebrations, they have never advertised except by word of mouth. A bit more formal than the other fine dining restaurants, Mary's offers a lovely experience.
Legend's at Walker's Bluff, Carterville, IL, 45 minute drive, 618-559-4853, Open: Thursday-Sunday. Legend's is located within the winery compound of Walker's Bluff, one of the many wineries not on a desginated wine trail yet one not to be missed. While you're there, be certain to stop in for a tasting at their wine tasting cave ... yes, that's right, a wine tasting cave!
Within 5 miles...
In addition to a host of fast food restaurants - Subway, KFC, Taco Bell, Mc Donald's, Hardy's, Dairy Queen, Sonic, and Burger King - the following local restaurants are within minutes of Hidden Lake.
The Blue Boar - Owned and operated by the owners of Great Boars of Fire, caterers to the St. Louis Rams, the Blue Boar offers a wide range of food from cajun to steaks to burgers and more. Big screen TVs over the bar televise the big games. Open Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday 4-9 pm for dinner; Friday and Saturday 11-9 for lunch and dinner. The bar is open until midnight Monday through Saturday.
The Brick House Grill, open for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, 4 pm to 9 pm . While not a white table cloth restaurant, the menu and service are up to par. You'll enjoy such scrumptious entrees as a 10 oz ribeye, pan seared scallops with a blue cheese and white wine beurre blanc, cashew crusted chicken, herb and garlic encrusted pork tenderloin and many others.
The Country Cupboard, open for lunch, Monday through Saturday,11 am to 2 pm and Friday's for dinner from 4 to 8 pm. Originally an 1880’s potato barn, this building was also once the “Wal-Mart” of the area (until the real thing came to town!) and then an upscale country clothing store. When the owners retired in 2001, local owners opened this wonderful country restaurant.
Dixie Barbecue, a favorite of former Governor Jim Edgar! Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, serving up Southern style barbecue, within walking distance of Hidden Lake.
The Depot, good food, friendly people, casual environment and some very interesting historic pictures of Anna and Jonesboro hanging on the walls! Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. My recommendation? Try their thick cut pork chops!
Pizza Hut, newly renovated and expanded, eat in or call for delivery!
EL Jalapeño, open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, a great Mexican restaurant with an extensive menu - although I never seem to get beyond the chicken fajitas! – and I understand that they serve up a great margarita!
Willing to take a bit longer ride?
The Peach Barn Café, Alto Pass, IL, approximately 10 miles northwest, a lovely couple from Sweden serves up lunch and dinner in an old peach barn Wednesday through Sunday. I understand that their Swedish meatballs simply melt in your mouth! And while you're there, taste some of their wines ... Open November - April: Fri. - Sat. 12 noon - 9 pm, Sunday 12 noon - 5 pm; May - October: Wed. -Thurs. 12 noon - 5 pm, Fri. - Sat. 12 noon - 9 pm, Sunday- 12 noon - 5 p.m.
The Root Beer Saloon, Alto Pass, IL, approximately 10 miles north, just off the Shawnee Hill Wine Trail, serves up lunch in a place that reminds one of Alaska with a pot belly stove, root beer and cream soda on draft, a hundred different kinds of tea, coffee, and spices and an interesting menu! Be warned ... the Root Beer Saloon also sports an amazing amount of taxidermy and the owner is known to vent about any topic of the day!
The Yellow Moon Cafe, Cobden, IL, approximately 10 miles north, on the Shawnee Hill Wine Trail as you cut through the quaint town of Cobden, serves up lunch in an espresso cafe! Open Tuesday through Friday, 11 am to 2 pm; Friday dinner from 7-10 pm and Saturday from 9 am to midnight. Check out their schedule of live music on the weekends.
Giant City Lodge, Makanda, IL, approximately 20 minutes northeast, located in Giant City State Park, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, noted for their all-you-can-eat family style fried chicken but offering a wide variety of entrees. The Lodge itself is worth checking out. Built by the CCC during the depression it’s architecture is that of large rough hewn beams and stone.
None of these choices interest you or you’re thinking that you‘d like to check out one of the bigger towns?
Carbondale, Marion and Cape Girardeau (each approximately 30 minutes away) offer a multitude of restaurant options such as Olive Garden, Panera, Outback Steak House, Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel, Applebees and more. Cape Girardeau also has a very nice Italian restaurant called Belle Italia if you find yourself craving some great pasta. They’re open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Our favorite place in Marion is Honeybakers with truly great desserts – 7 or 8 kinds of pie and equal number of cakes from which to select – as well as terrific rolls to enjoy with your meal. And I highly recommend their Louisiana sweet potato as a part of dinner! Last but not least, try the number one ranked "Place to Pig Out in America" ... Lambert's Cafe , Home of the Throwed Roll, in Sikeston, Mo.