A pleasant walk along the Geneva Lake shore path is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the West End. Some visitors are surprised to learn that the entire shoreline is publicly accessible. Although there will always be some mystique behind the doors of the impressive homes along the shore, walkers are free to enjoy spectacular views from the path. The entire journey around the lake is approximately 21 miles. Though possible to accomplish on a long summer day, most people enjoy breaking it up into several shorter adventures.
For a lovely 2-mile walk along the West End shoreline, begin in Fontana, just past the legendary A-Frame of the Abbey Resort and Fontana Spa. Metered parking is available near the lakefront. If you’d like to begin your journey with lunch or a cold beverage, stop at Chuck’s or Gordy’s on Lake Street.
Head north beyond the Fontana boat ramp to continue the shore path. The first cluster of houses is the Buena Vista Club. Originally a public campground, members began constructing permanent residences in the early 1900s.
The next neighborhood, Belvidere Park, is a picturesque residential association that was established at the turn of the century. It was once the site of Russell’s Forest Glen Park, a lakeside resort with hotel, cottage, and camping accommodations.
The prairie-style Embree House lies ahead, built in 1902 for Jesse Embree, a Chicago banker and lumberman. It remains a private residence.
Just beyond is the Sunny Hill Historic District, consisting of four white homes built between 1890 and 1910. The third one is Angel’s Flight, so named for the long staircase that connects it to the lakefront.
A group of five camps are ahead on the path. The first one, Holiday Home, was founded in 1887 as a summer camp for underprivileged children from Chicago, and still hosts hundreds of inner city youth each summer.
Chicago minister Norman B. Barr purchased his lakeshore acreage in 1908. Today the Norman B. Barr Camp continues to serve as a summer retreat and conference center for various church groups.
The Lake Geneva Campus of Aurora University (formerly George Williams College) boasts 60 buildings and 25 acres for conference and environmental programs, including a golf course, adventure course, yacht club and boat rentals. The property hosts camps, classes, and conferences yearround. Towering above the treeline are the telescopes of Yerkes Observatory, owned by the University of Chicago.
Around the bend are two other historic camps, Wesley Woods and Conference Point. Wesley Woods offers special needs and family camps. Conference Point is the oldest camp on the lake, begun in 1874 as a summer getaway for a Delavan minister and his friends. It later opened to the public.
Gage Marine‘s boatyard is a hub of activity-beware of the occasional steam whistle! Widely known for the Geneva Lake Cruise line excursion boats, they also offer a range of services for area boat owners.
This walk ends as the peaceful village of Williams Bay and its lakefront park appears. Visit the local businesses.
Don’t forget to plan another day of walking, as there are still over 18 miles of shoreline to see!