3 Days | 190 Miles | in 1-3 Days
Adventure and creativity go hand in hand for Southern Illinois makers. They're busy crafting buzz-worthy goodies from local honey, foraging for ingredients to brew eclectic beers, and making award-winning wine from Illinois grapes. So find the perfect pairing for Southern Illinois' majestic hikes. And don't forget to drop by some of the can't-miss local attractions.
Kick off your Southern Illinois trip on a sweet note in Golconda at The Chocolate Factory (IM), a popular community shop that specializes in a wide variety of gourmet chocolates, fudge and ice cream. Once you’ve enjoyed some sugary goodness, head to nearby Tanglefoot Ranch (IM), an expansive family-owned farm that features row crops, a peach orchard, a cow herd and freshwater shrimp across 950 acres.
After you’ve taken in the pastoral beauty, cruise over to C’s Bees (IM) in Anna to sample some homemade honey and peruse one-of-a-kind handmade products like whipped honey, hot honey and beeswax candles. Feel free to wander over to Annabelle Market, where you’ll find an assortment of treasures made by local vendors (including a selection of lavender-based, handmade personal care goods from Shawnee Hills Lavender (IM). If you're in the area during May or June, you can also pick freshly bloomed lavender at the Shawnee Hills Lavender farm.
By pairing fresh sandwiches and refreshing salads with a cozy, inviting atmosphere, HeBrewz CoffeeHouse in Jonesboro offers a convenient spot to stop for lunch. Or, if barbecue and burgers are more your speed, try Dixie Barbecue across the street.
Next, mosey on over to mother/daughter-owned Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch (IM) to bond with some llama-like mammals who are as friendly as they are adorable. Learn about these fascinating animals, feel their soft fleece, then shop the store for expertly crafted products like yarn, soaps and socks.
Southern Illinois is renowned for its local winery scene, and it’s time for you to discover why. Cobden’s Owl Creek Vineyard Winery & Cidery (IM) produces and bottles all its wines and ciders onsite using local ingredients, and the result is a treat for your taste buds. Woodsy and inviting, Pomona Winery (IM) stands apart by cultivating its award-winning wines with locally grown fruits—none of which happen to be grapes. Alto Vineyards (IM) is one of the state’s oldest wineries, with a glorious outdoor deck that offers both breathtaking views of the property and live music performances on the weekends.
Alas, you won’t have time to hit every spot, but if you’d like to venture deeper into the world of viticulture and vines, keep the The Shawnee Hill Wine Trail and its 11 award-winning wineries in mind for a future trip. Situated along a 35-mile scenic drive in the Shawnee National Forest, the views are just as impressive as the wine and hospitality.
If, at this point, you’re looking for an authentic Southern Illinois dining experience, you’re in luck. Arriving at Peach Barn Cafe in Alto Pass is like stepping into a storybook—the charming rural property is set against the backdrop of rolling hills and majestic trees. Plus, the food is exceptional, with fresh, in-season dishes like goat cheese pasta and strawberry cheesecake for dessert.
After a day replete with adventures, it’s time to rest your weary legs at Davie School Inn in Anna or Shawnee Hill Bed and Breakfast in Cobden. The former is a schoolhouse dating back to 1910 that allows guests to experience a different era—each spacious suite features original chalkboards and bookcases from scholastic days gone by. The latter offers a nice chance to escape from city life and relax on a private deck amid a beautiful forested landscape.
Ease into the morning with some coffee and a light breakfast, then make your way to Alto Pass.
If you’re traveling during the summer or early fall season, sample country life while picking peaches, nectarines or apples at Rendleman Orchards (IM). The farm market—open June 26 through October 31—is packed with seasonal produce, preserves, pickles, specialty food items and gifts.
Continue your day at Alto Clay Works (IM). What once served for decades as the village school is now Steve Grimmer's studio. Step into the historic building to find a showroom for his handmade products, a classroom for pottery classes, resident artist studios and a giant wood-burning kiln. Don’t forget to pick up a unique piece of functional pottery on the way out!
The open spaces, towering trees and natural beauty of Giant City State Park beckon. From horseback riding and fishing to rappelling and hiking, the opportunities for outdoor adventurers here are bountiful. When you get hungry, you’ll find lunch just steps away in the rustic, inviting dining room of Giant City Lodge—which is renowned for its family-style fried chicken. Just note that it’s closed in December and January.
If trekking through woodlands and prairies isn’t your thing, spend the day at one of several gorgeous Southern Illinois golf courses, where both casual and veteran golfers can enjoy a round while they soak in the surrounding scenery.
Next, get acquainted with a local business that embodies what it means to work in harmony with nature. The team at Buffalo Bluffs Hemp Farm (IM) plants, farms and harvests its own fields to produce hemp and hemp-derived products of the highest quality, including tinctures, salves, flower and more. Browse their intriguing selection to see if anything piques your interest!
Tear yourself away from the region’s natural splendor and pay downtown Carbondale a visit. Peruse the charming local shops, checkout the nostalgic Town Square and grab a treat from a food truck if any happen to be around. If you’d like to explore a bit more before leaving town, swing by the William Marberry Arboretum to hike through an authentic bamboo forest or try your hand at pond fishing.
Locals adore the small-batch beer at Big Muddy Brewing (IM) in Murphysboro, and you’re encouraged to join the love fest with a well-deserved libation. If it happens to be a weekend, feel free to stick around for a brewery tour.
Scratch Brewing (IM) in Ava has been named one of the most beautiful places to drink beer in the world by All About Beer Magazine—and it’s a fantastic spot to grab dinner, too. All the beer and food is created with local, seasonal and primarily naturally grown ingredients. Enjoy a succulent wood-fired pizza, sip on a super-fresh draft and bask in an outdoor environment unlike any brewery you’ve ever visited.
Whew, that was delicious. Congratulations on another day well spent! Check into the Holiday Inn Express & Suites - Murphysboro and get some quality shut-eye in preparation for the final leg of your journey.
Once you’re up and about, head to the Marion area to get your caffeine fix at Crown Brew Coffee Co (IM)—one of their rich, flavorful blends is sure to do the trick. Break your fast with a homemade avocado toast or bagel while you’re at it. If you’re in town on a Saturday between April and September, don’t miss out on the Marion Farmers Market and its wide selection of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, delicious baked goods and thriving plants.
Spanning 10,000 square feet, the Marion Antique Mall and its vast collection of fine antiques, rare collectibles, charming decor and quirky goods is always worth a visit. Next, it’s time to live your best lake life at one of Southern Illinois’ hidden treasures: Lake of Egypt. Explore its scenic nooks and crannies, take part in some exciting water sports, then stop by Mack’s Lake of Egypt Marina to satiate your appetite with a burger, sandwich or wings.
Before heading home, unplug at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. With 44,000 acres of land, three lakes and myriad trails, it’s the ultimate nature lover’s experience.