Located on the shores of Geneva Lake in the southeastern corner of the state, Williams Bay is a picturesque oasis away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. The area was originally a vacation spot for Chicago natives whose houses were burned in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, it is a summer destination for those living in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison and a full-time residence for just over 2,500 people.
The Village of Williams Bay is located on the northern side of Geneva Lake, surrounding an inlet bay. The central part of the town (where all of the businesses and city services are located) is on the northeast end of the bay. Houses are built on either side of the bay as well as inland. The area has tall trees and lush lawns, creating a friendly, peaceful, small-town setting.
Here is the ultimate guide to living in Williams Bay, WI, in 2022.
Williams Bay is centrally located between three major metropolitan areas – Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. This makes it a vacation destination. Chicago is around 90 miles southeast on US Hwy 90. O'Hare International Airport is 74 miles away via public and toll roads.
Milwaukee is just over 50 miles away to the northeast via US Hwy 43. The quickest way to Lake Michigan is straight east to Kenosha – about 40 miles. The state capital of Madison is around 70 miles northwest via US Hwy 90.
Due to its location, climate, and ambiance, Williams Bay was voted among Wisconsin's top places to retire.
Over three-quarters of the residents of Williams Bay own their own homes. As a result, the area is very stable, and the home prices are steady. The Village of Williams Bay is well-kept and a desirable place to live. There are established neighborhoods, lakefront mansions, and new construction sites. There are houses on each side of the bay. Some are right on the waterfront, and some are tucked just a few blocks away. There are also homes to the west of the main town in prairie or forested areas. You are never very far from Geneva Lake. Nearby Lake Como and the town of Geneva also offer alternative home sites.
Here are a few of the desirable neighborhoods:
- Lakewood Trails is a higher-priced neighborhood to the north and west of the lake.
- Prairie View is to the west of Lakewood Trails and to the north of Williams Bay High School.
- Willabay Shores Condominiums are in the northeast corner of the bay.
- Baywood Estates and Dartmouth Woods are outside the Bay on the central waters of Lake Geneva. Here you will find homes over one million in price.
Children attend the Williams Bay School District. Public schools are Williams Bay Elementary or Fontana Elementary, Williams Bay Junior High School, and Williams Bay High School. Faith Christian School also serves grades K-12.
George Williams College of Aurora University is located on the lake. Undergraduate programs include business management, environmental studies and sustainability, nursing, psychology, and social work. The home campus is in Aurora, Illinois.
Geneva Lake is a 5401-acre freshwater lake that is 7.7 miles long with a depth of up to 135 feet. Six boat ramps are scattered around the perimeter, including one in Williams Bay. Anglers can catch panfish, large and smallmouth bass, northern pike, trout, and walleye. If you are new to the sport, The Hook Up Fishing Guide Service is a local business at the top of the bay; they will take you out and show you the ropes.
Geneva Lake has swimming areas, navigation lanes for cruising, and mooring areas. Water skiing is popular. Regulations are posted. There's plenty of water for everyone
Williams Bay is an inlet on the north side of the lake. One of the boat launches is at the north end of the bay. The Williams Bay Beach and piers surround the boat launch. You can tie your boat up on a private pier or dock close to shore.
The Williams Bay Recreation Department rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards and hosts events and camps for adults and children. Take a yoga or tai chi class at nearby Edgewater Park. Sit on the water's edge and paint or draw.
Edgewater Park also has a playground and picnic shelter where you can grill while the kids run around on the lush grass.
Other lakefront parks include Oak Grove Park, Walnut Grove Park, and Duck Pond Recreation Area.
For a nice dinner, a quick bite to eat, dessert, or a social gathering, The Village at Williams Bay has a fine selection of eateries.
- Pier 290 is on the west side of the Bay. They serve upscale American fare with lake views and an outdoor bar. A sandy beach and fire pits accommodate crowds. Come for brunch on the weekends. The lunch and dinner menu has salads, sea/lake fish, steaks, soups, and more. Save room for a selection from the dessert menu.
- For a more casual dining experience, head to Harpoon Willie's. Open for lunch and dinner; you will feel like you are in a rustic pub on the seashore. They specialize in BBQ, burgers, tacos, entrees, pizzas, and salads. Specialty coffees, cocktails, and desserts are also on the menu.
- Bay Cooks is a new restaurant that just opened in early 2022. Offering Mexican and American dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll find something for everyone. Skillets, sandwiches, salads, burgers, pasta, traditional Mexican fare, seafood, and desserts are just part of the menu.
- On hot summer days, stop by the Frosty Moose for ice cream. There are 5,000 flavors of soft serve ice cream, plus gluten-free and dairy-free options. There is a selection of sandwiches available as well.
- Daddy Maxwell's Diner & Café is a quirky, old-fashioned eatery shaped like an igloo. There are homemade pies, quiches, cakes, Wisconsin brats, and numerous breakfast and all-day fare. Each Friday, they host a fish fry.
Williams Bay and the nearby town of Lake Geneva have all the stores for groceries and necessities. There are some other charming independent shops that you should check out.
- Geneva Lake General Store is filled with home items, handmade jewelry, and themed souvenirs.
- Clear Waters Salon and Day Spa is centrally located on Geneva Street. Get your hair and nails done, and treat yourself to a calming facial treatment.
- The Cashmere Cape is the local yarn and supply store for all of your woven projects.
- Winslow Studio 11 is a gallery owned by two artists – one specializing in fine art and one creates wood pieces.
The Village of Williams Bay is a charming small town with a sense of community.
- Barret Memorial Library has adult and children's programs and an extensive collection of books, videos, and reference materials.
- Town Government – there are elected and appointed officials and over a dozen committees that set guidelines for the town. Williams Bay has a police department and municipal court.
- In the summer, the US Postal Service delivers mail from the water. It's called mail jumping and was first practiced in 1873. Mail boats cruise close to piers, and the mail delivery person jumps from the boat to the pier, delivers the mail, and then jumps back on the boat.
A Place to See the Stars
Williams Bay is far enough away from metropolis areas to have very dark skies. As a result, the area has been a mecca for astronomers. The University of Chicago established the Yerkes Observatory in 1897. It contains the world's largest refracting (lens) telescope. On Albert Einstein's first visit to the United States, he visited this observatory. Several famous astronomers made Williams Bay their home, including Edward Emerson Barnard, George Ellery Hale, Edwin Hubble, Gerard Kuiper, Otto Struve, and Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar.
The Yerkes Observatory is now open for public tours. Known as "the birthplace of modern astrophysics," it's a gorgeous building filled with history.
- Belfry Theatre was a summer stock theatre host to actors such as Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, and Gary Burghoff. It's currently used as a music theatre with local productions.
- Rex Park is a local dog park located in Williams Bay. There are separate areas for both large and small dogs. Dogs must be licensed, but the park is free for all to use.
- Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy is a protected area with over 65 acres of prairie, 4 miles of trails, a 15-acre arboretum, and woodlands. Former lands of the Potawatomi Indians, residents of the area spent two years fighting against development. The result is a beautiful area dedicated to the children of tomorrow.
Moving to Williams Bay
If you are looking for a small town with a lot of charm that is close to the water and not too far from a metropolitan area, look no further than the Village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin. With tree-lined streets and manicured lawns, the town is filled with a combination of retirees and families. There is a sense of community, and everyone is welcome. You will enjoy living in Williams Bay, WI.
Sal Dimiceli, located in Lake Geneva, WI is a detail oriented REAL ESTATE professional that offers his clients total customer satisfaction whether they are first time homebuyer, or experienced seller/buyer relocating to Lake Geneva. This experienced real estate professional knows the industry and thrives on getting the clients exactly what they are looking for.