With deep Midwest roots, Iowa extends a warm Heartland welcome to visitors with four distinct seasons and an abundance of natural beauty year round. From rustic log cabins to expansive, modern lake homes, Iowa vacation rentals keep you in the heart of summer hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing. In winter, pack up your ice fishing gear, go cross country skiing, and enjoy vast indoor activities. No matter what your itinerary includes, your Iowa cabin rental gives you a cozy, convenient home base for your Iowa adventures.

1. Okoboji

 Lake Okoboji
Source: Flickr/Mary Fairchild

Situated along the shores of one of the six natural Iowa Great Lakes, Okoboji is a prime summer vacation spot. Spring-fed West Lake Okoboji is a blue water lake — one of only three in the world. It’s a natural choice for all forms of water recreation, including boating, tubing, skiing, and swimming. Across the lake sits Arnolds Park, a classic amusement park delighting visitors with vintage rides, games, and attractions. The area comes alive each winter with the annual University of Okoboji Winter Games. There isn’t really a University of Okoboji, but that doesn’t stop participants from having fun like coeds each winter. Ice fishing and snowmobiling are two other popular winter activities in the area.

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2. Clear Lake

Clear Lake
Source: Flickr/Elliot Teters

Visiting quaint Clear Lake feels like taking a step back in time to a town that still embraces the ideals of the ’50s. The beautiful spring-fed lake is the center of activity in the summer. Sandy beaches along the shores attract visitors of all ages. Lakeside resorts that once lined the shores are now replaced with vacation rentals, giving you gorgeous views and easy access to boating, fishing, and swimming. Clear Lake’s other claim to fame is The Surf Ballroom, the last place Buddy Holly played before his chartered flight crashed near the town. Follow a path into a corn field to see the spot. A giant pair of Buddy Holly glasses marks the spot. An annual winter party at The Surf commemorates the anniversary.

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3. Storm Lake

Storm Lake
Source: Flickr/Laura Bernhardt

With a 3,200-acre lake, a bustling college campus, and natural beauty to spare, Storm Lake attracts lots of visitors year round. Summer is the busiest season with all of the lake activities available. As Iowa’s fourth largest glacier lake, Storm Lake offers up two marinas, boat rentals, swimming, fishing, and miles of walking and biking trails. AWAYSIS Park along the water features play areas, a lighthouse, and plenty of green space. In winter, head to the skating rink at Scout Park. Ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are other winter activity options.

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4. Spirit Lake

 Spirit Lake

Another popular vacation spot in the Iowa Great Lakes Region, Spirit Lake offers year-round entertainment often centered around East Lake Okoboji. The small Midwestern town greets visitors with a warm welcome in a resort-like community with local restaurants, shops, and amenities. Its location in the middle of the Iowa Great Lakes lets you easily visit the different lakes and nearby small towns to get a sampling of this heavily visited vacation area. Spend a winter trip exploring the many museums and shops in the area, or head out into the beautiful snowy Iowa countryside with hikes, skiing, ice skating, or ice fishing.

5. Harpers Ferry

Mississippi River
Source: Flickr/EarlRShumaker

Located in the northeastern corner of the state, Harpers Ferry offers sweeping views of the Mississippi River. Harpers Ferry greets visitors with small town charm and the beauty of wooded bluffs along the river. Visitors enjoy fishing in the river and taking hikes to explore the natural beauty of the surrounding bluffs. Explore Effigy Mounds National Monument for beautiful views and a history lesson. The area features over 200 mounds built by Native American tribes in the area. Its location above the Mississippi gives you plenty of photo ops. It’s an ideal place to see beautiful autumn foliage.

6. Decorah

 Decorah
Source: Flickr/Matthew Robey

Decorah sits in Northeastern Iowa and offers a diverse slate of activities for families. Drive by the location of a bald eagle nest made popular by a web cam that captures the hatching of baby eagles each year. The nearby fish hatchery is a popular spot for kids. Stop by the Decorah Ice Cave Preserve where kids can see ice on the cave walls even into summer. Nearby Dunnings Spring Park delivers stunning views of a 200-foot waterfall. Follow trails to see the falls from above, or splash in the pools at the bottom. In winter, explore the area’s ethnic influences at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Cross-country skiing is another popular winter activity.

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7. Lansing

Lansing
Source: Flickr/Jerry Huddleston

Another Mississippi River town in Northeastern Iowa, Lansing offers natural beauty that lets you enjoy the great outdoors all year long. The small town sits at the base of beautiful bluffs, giving it an idyllic backdrop for year-round outdoor adventures. Explore the thick woods on trails crisscrossing the countryside, or cast a line in the river to catch a meal to cook at your vacation rental. The town’s main street features historic buildings standing as a living monument to the river town’s mercantile history. In the winter, take snowy hikes, go cross-country skiing, or check out the Museum of River History.

 
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