Planning a getaway to Okoboji, Iowa? Look no further – we’ve got your key to adventure! Okoboji has so many incredible experiences it’s hard to choose. But the exciting news is that even if you’re only spending a weekend here, you can sample many excellent outdoor activities!
Whether it’s water adventures on the shimmering lakes, basking in the natural beauty of parks and trails, catching a big fish, or taking a relaxing boat ride under the endless blue skies – Okoboji has something for everyone.
Top 10 Things to Do in Okoboji, Iowa
Take your own boat or rent a boat on the Iowa Great Lakes! Getting out on the water is one of the top things to do in Okoboji! Whether you enjoy the heart-pounding thrills of water sports, a leisurely boat ride, or fishing by boat, boating is the name of the game here.
For those with their own boat, plentiful boat ramps and access points offer many options, and several places also have boat slip rentals.
Don’t own a boat? No worries! Several boat rental businesses rent different types of watercraft. See our guide to Okoboji boat rentals to find the perfect rental for your needs.
What better way to experience the beauty of the Okoboji area than to go camping!? Not only do you save money on your vacation, but it’s great fun. And the good news is that there are several excellent campgrounds around Iowa’s Great Lakes!
Whatever your camping needs, there’s a campsite waiting for you! Lakeside campsites, full hookups, and rustic tent sites can all be found in the Okoboji area.
Several campgrounds have modern amenities, and most accept reservations. In fact, we recommend making reservations since many campgrounds fill fast on weekends during peak season.
There’s a good reason anglers flock to the Iowa Great Lakes for its excellent fishing. The fish are abundant year-round, so it’s the perfect spot for memorable and fruitful fishing trips!
East and West Okoboji Lakes and Big Spirit Lake are the largest and most popular lakes to land a great catch.
During peak season, anglers often head out in the mornings on East and West Lakes before the leisure boat traffic. Big Spirit Lake has less sport boat traffic and is always a top pick for excellent fishing by boat or shore.
What fish species can you catch here, you ask? The list is long! Some of the more popular species include Walleye, Bluegill, Black Crappie, Yellow Perch, Northern Pike, Muskies, and Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. The Iowa DNR stocks Walleye and Muskie.
Fishing in the Okoboji region isn’t just for the pros, either! Anglers of all ages and abilities enjoy catching fish here. Plus, several area fishing guides are available to help you learn and have a great time fishing the lakes.
Bring your bike to Okoboji (or rent one) – you won’t regret it!
The area has 70 miles of trails, the most popular being the Iowa Great Lakes Trail. This multi-use trail is a great way to explore the area and enjoy the views. The central part of the trail is called the Spine Trail, which extends fourteen miles through towns and along the lakes in the area.
The West Lake Loop Trail surrounds West Okoboji Lake. It extends through Arnolds Park, so it’s perfect for exploring many of the area’s attractions and popular restaurants.
Of course, you can always walk the Iowa Great Lakes Trail. It’s a great way to walk to the attractions at West Okoboji Lake and the Arnolds Park area. It extends throughout the region, so wherever you are, you can hop on this trail and explore.
If you’re looking for more nature trails, below are other options you’ll want to check out!
- The Barney Peterson Memorial Trail at Gull Point State Park is a 1½-mile soft-surfaced trail winding through the woods, with several points of interest along the route.
- The paved trail at Elinor Bedell State Park is another good one for soaking up nature. The accessible trail extends throughout the park, through the wetlands and prairie, and along the lakeshore.
- The Kettleson Hogsback Wildlife Management Area has over 2 miles of soft-surfaced trails just west of Big Spirit Lake (near Marble Lake and Hottes Lake). It’s a fantastic place to hike with birdwatching and native prairie.
- The Tatonka Ska Trace Trail is still under development, but 11 miles are complete (& paved) between Spirit Lake and Lake Park. It connects to the Iowa Great Lakes Trail at 153rd & Peoria Ave in Spirit Lake.
- For another option, head to Fort Defiance State Park, 20 minutes east of the lakes. Several trails wind through the hills, woodlands, and prairie.
#6 Go to the beach
You’re at the lake, so it makes sense to go to the beach! Several beaches throughout the Okoboji area are great for soaking up the sun and splashing in the clear lake waters.
Below are some of the more popular area beaches.
- Terrace Park Beach
- Ainsworth-Orleans Beach
- Arnolds Park Public Beach
- Arnolds Park Amusement Park Beach
- Emerson Bay State Park Beach
- Gull Point State Park Beach
- Pikes Point State Park Beach
- Isthmus Park Beach
- Okoboji Boat Works Beach
- Beaches do not have lifeguards.
- Some have a roped-off swimming area, while others do not.
- Boats are often near beaches; use caution.
#7 Kayak or canoe or SUP
Watersports of all kinds are the best things to do in Okoboji. And while many visitors enjoy pontoons and ski boats, paddling is another excellent option!
Explore the quieter areas of the Great Lakes Region by kayak or canoe. Paddling provides an opportunity to see wildlife up close and get away from the busyness of the main attractions.
Some popular spots to paddle include the Canals of Wahpeton, Marble Lake, and Hottes Lakes. See our article on kayaking in the Okoboji area for more information.
You might also try stand-up paddleboarding or SUP Yoga near the lakeshores. Many of the boat rental businesses offer SUPs.
#8 Golf (+ mini golf!)
Whether you love a day on the golf course or prefer to putt around a mini golf course, Okoboji has the thing for you!
Several popular golf courses and golf clubs are near the main lakes. And if you prefer mini golf, some area courses provide great fun for all ages, including Pirates Cove and Treasure Village.
Allow your captain to take you on a tour of the lake while you relax and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere! Cruising the lakes is a super fun way to experience Okoboji.
The area has many cruise options, from leisurely sunset and narrated history cruises to dock hops and yacht parties. So, whether you’re taking your family sightseeing or want to celebrate with friends, you can book the cruise that fits your needs.
See our article on boat rentals and cruises for more on cruises in Okoboji.
#10 Explore the parks
City, county, and state parks abound in the Iowa Great Lakes! So whether you’re looking for the perfect playground, picnic area, beach, camping, or more, you can bet you’ll find it there.
There are too many parks to list here! But below are some must-see parks and nature areas to put on your list.
- Dickinson County Nature Center
- East Lake Park
- Emerson Bay State Recreation Area
- Gull Point State Park
- Arnold Park Amusement Park
- Arnolds Park Promenade, Pier, & Boardwalk
- Terrace Park Beach
- Pikes Point State Park
- Isthmus Park and Beach
- Elinor Bedell State Park
More things to do
- Arnolds Park Amusement Park is one of the most popular Okoboji attractions and one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Find amusement rides for all ages, games, a go-kart track, food, shopping, and much more!
- Disc golf is another popular activity in the Okoboji area. Okoboji Gold and Kenue Park are a couple of local courses to consider here.
- See the museums! The Maritime Museum, Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Museum, Pearson Lakes Art Center, Okoboji Classic Cars, and the Dickinson County Nature Center are some of the most visited.
- Visit the shops and restaurants. Walk, drive, or boat to the Central Emporium to find lakeside shops and restaurants. Stroll along Broadway Street and Lakeshore Drive for even more in the Arnolds Park area. And drive north along Hwy 71 from Arnolds Park to Spirit Lake for even more options.
- Resorts! Whether you’re looking for a no-frills resort or one with all the amenities, you can find what you want. From the highly rated Fillenwarth Beach Resort in Arnolds Park to Cutty’s Okoboji Resort in Spirit Lake (with camping and more), find the right overnight stay for you!
There you have it, folks, the top things to do in Okoboji, Iowa! As you can see, it’s perfect for a fantastic Iowa getaway with water adventures, parks, trails, fishing, and relaxation.
• Okoboji Boat Rentals: Best Boat Rentals in Okoboji [+ cruises]
• Okoboji Campgrounds: Guide to Camping near Okoboji in Iowa
• Emerson Bay State Recreation Area
• Gull Point State Park
• 12 Best Iowa Lakes for Recreation and Relaxation