Monroe Lake Cabins Offer Fun On Dry Land

Rocking chairs on a deck in Bloomington
Rocking chairs on a deck in Bloomington
Cedar House deck

BROWN COUNTY cabins get all the love, but it’s time Monroe County got on your radar. The rentals around Monroe Lake come with the advantage of being within shouting distance from the three public beaches at the state’s largest body of water. And as lovely as it is to dip in those cool waters, this hideaway just south of Bloomington has plenty more to offer.

Airbnb cabins and lake houses, from traditional to modern to quirky, abound. Take Cedar House, which sits on six acres (frequented by bunnies, say the owners) and is a four-minute drive from the lake. It has a pool table and retro arcade games, as well as a rambling porch, perfect for stargazing. The firepit is just begging for s’mores. Even closer to the lake, Historic Hideaway, a church built in 1872, has been updated with contemporary decor and amenities. It’s just a single room, but every inch is maximized. A vintage-camera display even found a spot.

The lake is known for bass fishing, so you’ll find a bounty of watercraft for rent, from pontoons and double-decker party boats to kayaks and WaveRunners. When you’re ready to get back on land, hike the 1.2-mile Ted T. Turtle Trail at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area for its babbling creek and verdant valley. Easy-to-read signs succinctly explain highlights of the local wildlife, history, and geology. Birders, rejoice: It’s easy to spot red-bellied woodpeckers, Eastern bluebirds, warblers galore, blue herons, great egrets, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, and osprey. And then there’s the state’s conservation success story, the American bald eagle. Ken Keffer, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited opening this month in Bloomington, calls Monroe Lake a hotspot for eagle-watching. Though their numbers are higher in winter as the birds nest, young eagles can be seen fishing in the Paynetown and Cutright recreation areas all summer. 

A party boat on Monroe Lake

72 miles

1¼ hours

Stay on the nature theme at The Elm ( The woodsy restaurant serves up Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. 

Stunning views await with SkyVista Ballooning ( Flights last about an hour, but will pass in a twinkling.

On the way home, stop at McCormick’s Creek State Park (812-829-2235). Don’t miss the waterfall, Wolf Cave, and the remains of an early homestead.