By: Gerald Dlubala
Introduction to Southeast Iowa
There’s a wealth of military landmarks, historically significant locations, and outdoor activities to indulge in when traveling in Southeast Iowa. Other parts, with meandering hillsides, local boutiques, and homegrown treats, will transport you back to small-town America, when the living was easy, and the days were spent among friends and family. Days like those often ended with a local, well-crafted beverage in hand, and that is just what you can do by visiting one of the region’s local craft beverage producers to sample their products and learn their stories.
Southeast Region Details
Southeast Iowa provides the recognizable drift plains with rolling hills and sloping fields that are so prevalent in America’s heartland. The far-reaching vistas of the higher peaks easily dissolve into lazy, sloping hillsides like ice cream melting down the side of the scoop. The mesmerizing views are almost hypnotic while driving through rural areas, small towns, and welcoming communities.
The southeast region holds claim to the location of the first state Capitol of Iowa. It also begins a geographical bridge connecting the woodlands of the east with the grasslands and high prairie plains of the west. Iowa is the only U.S. state with two parallel and navigable rivers defining its borders.
The Mississippi River forms Iowa’s eastern border. In contrast, the western boundary is formed by the Missouri River and its tributary, the Big Sioux. The southeast region is also the location of Iowa’s lowest point, located within the city of Keokuk, where the Des Moines River enters the Mississippi, measuring just 480 feet above sea level. With a wide range of available terrain and many nearby state parks, Southeast Iowa offers hikers a diverse number of trails in all difficulty levels and lengths to appeal to hiking and outdoor enthusiasts.
When exploring Southeast Iowa, you’ll experience life in these counties:
Why Visit Southeast Iowa?
History, hometown, friendliness, and authenticity are ingrained into this region. Those qualities can’t help but shine through when interacting with locals. And combined with the ideal agricultural conditions that formed back into the Ice Age, local craft producers are assured quality, local and sustainable ingredients for use in their products. Local farms are abundant, and their products can be found displayed in this region’s exceptional local craft beverages. While taking in the sites and enjoying your newfound tranquility and peace of mind, stop in for a visit and learn a little about Southeast Iowa’s participating producers.
Top Craft Beverage Destinations
Cedar Valley Winery: Located in Batavia, Iowa and traces its origins back to a 1.5 acre family vineyard. With early success, the Miller family expanded their vineyard to include seven different varieties of grapes. As a result, you can now conveniently visit their tasting room and sample their farm-to-glass wines while traveling to or from other regional tourist attractions.
Crane Winery: Known as “The Sweetest Little Winery In Southeast Iowa” and located in historic Van Buren County. Offering a quaint place to sit and sip their wines while relaxing in a charming, perfectly decorated setting that assures you that you are among friends.
Buchanan House Winery: Uses grapes and fruits from its own vineyard to offer red, white, fruit, and sparkling wines to please even the pickiest of palates. Their fresh tasting offerings are made from high-quality Brianna, Frontenac, Marquette, and St Pepin grape varietals with the flavors of homegrown blackberries, currants, and apples. Enjoy your favorite on the grounds of the accompanying Colonial Revival Garden, displaying traditional brick and gravel pathways that wind through 19th-century appropriate plants and ornamental flowers.
Walker Homestead Farm and Winery: Provides visitors a total experience in agricultural stewardship. A farm-to-table format allows diners an intimate insight into where our food comes from. Their commitment to farm stewardship teaches sustainability by using environmentally friendly techniques and shows visitors how to lead a more healthy and sustainable life. The Walker Homestead Farm and Winery is also an event space and wedding venue to compliment those special moments.
Front Street Brewery: Everything you would expect from a river town brewpub. Their first beer was brewed in the basement of their current building, over a century old and stoically positioned along the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Davenport.
Green Frog Distillery: Has become known as “both the newest and oldest distillery” in Southeastern Iowa. Nestled in a rural setting as all good distilleries are, their varied line of flavored corn liquors offers something for every taste profile.
Bridge House Cider: All natural ingredients, minimal preservatives, and a simple process form the basis for Bridge House Cider’s appeal. Hand-picked straight from the orchard, apples are ground with a traditional rack and cloth press, then fermented with high-quality yeast and left to mature before blending, carbonating, and bottling for your consumption. Simple, pure, and refreshing is the way it’s done.
Nearby Local Attractions
Southeast Iowa is a destination for locals, families, and friends alike. There is always something to do in this part of the state.
Amana Colonies, IA
• AMANA COLONIES VISITORS CENTER: The Amana Colonies Visitors Center is located in the village of Amana, in a restored corn crib. The Visitors Center is your first stop for information about the Amana Colonies, providing Visitors Guides, maps and brochures for area businesses. Menus for all Amana Colonies restaurants are also provided.
• MILLSTREAM BRAU HAUS: The name “Brau Haus” simply means “Brewing House!” For years the Millstream Brewery owners had said that it would be wonderful to add an authentic German Bierhalle to the Amana Colonies. In August 2016, the Millstream Brau Haus was born! Adding the Brau Haus gave the Millstream Brewery the opportunity to make more ‘one of a kind’ brews and specialty beers only to be sold in the Brau Haus!
• WHITE CROSS CELLARS: Located in the historic village of Amana, Iowa, White Cross Cellars is a new approach to the Amana Colonies wine industry. While the Amanas have long been famous for fruit wines, White Cross Cellars delivers a more traditional approach to the wines of the Amanas. They feature Award-winning wines from classic wine grapes as well as Midwestern varieties; producing wine in the European or California style. Specialties are white wines reminiscent of the traditional German and French styles, along with red dinner wines designed for beef and Italian dishes.
• AMANA MEAT SHOP AND SMOKEHOUSE: The tradition of the Amana Meat Shop & Smokehouse began when the seven villages were a communal settlement and families enjoyed meals together in kitchen houses. Each village had its own meat shop and smokehouse where ham, bacon, and sausage were cured the old-world way with long-held recipes and a commitment to quality. Today the tradition of quality continues, sample their products, send gifts through the catalog, and take home the flavors of another century.
Iowa City, IA
• Downtown Iowa City: One of Iowa City’s big strong points is its downtown area, with scores of independent shops, restaurants and bars, as well as top-notch entertainment venues, hotels and offices. One unique feature downtown is the Pedestrian Mall, which was laid out during the city’s urban renewal project in 1979.
• University of Iowa: With more than 30,000 students and a 1,900-acre campus that mingles with downtown, daily life in Iowa City revolves around the University of Iowa.
The 75-minute guided tour is aimed mainly at prospective students, but still gives an insight into the history and day-to-day of this esteemed institution. Visit the Old Capitol and the new Stanley Museum of Art, while game day at Kinnick Stadium is an experience no sports fan will want to miss.
• Rhythm City Casino Resort: Over 32,000 square feet of gaming space with 1,000 slot machines, 25 game tables, the Elite Sports Book, a hotel, 3 restaurants, a full service spa and an event center. It is adjacent to the intersection of I-80 and I-74.
• Iowa 80 – The World’s Largest Truckstop: Located along Interstate 80 off exit 284 in Walcott, Iowa. It sits on a 220-acre plot of land, three times larger than an average 75 acres truckstop, and it receives 5,000 visitors daily. Iowa 80 features a 67,000 sq ft main building, parking for 900 trucks, 15 diesel fuel pumps, and also has a dedicated pump for dispensing bulk diesel exhaust fluid.
Fort Madison, IA
• Old Fort Madison: Is a replica of the first U.S. military fort in the upper Mississippi region. It is the site of the first battle of Chief Black Hawk and his warriors against the U.S. troops in 1812. The fort stands along the river and has replicas of significant buildings near the actual site of the historic fort. Located in Riverview Park, Old Fort Madison is a living history demonstration.
• Kingsley Inn: If you are in need of a place to stay for the night, check out Kingsley Inn in downtown Fort Madison, a 19 room property with serene river views, comfortable beds and impressive attention to detail.
• Tri-State Rodeo: The 2022 Tri-State Rodeo is set for action September 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. For years this premiere community event brings fast paced Rodeo action and top-name entertainment to Fort Madison.
• The George M. Verity River Museum: Located in Victory Park on the riverfront. The paddle boat was built in Dubuque, Iowa by the U.S. Government in 1927 to revive river transportation and move barges from St Louis to St. Paul. It was then known as the S.S. Thorpe. Armco Steel Corporation bought the boat in 1940 and put it into service on the Ohio River, renaming it after the founder of their company, George M. Verity. The George M. Verity was donated to the City of Keokuk in 1961 after being retired from service.
To learn more about things to do and where to stay in Southeast Iowa or elsewhere in the state, check out the official Travel Iowa website www.traveliowa.com and browse our guide Iowa Trails & Tales for fun trip ideas and inspiration or visit our website www.trails-tales.net