Illinois—you might know it as that state in the Midwest where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, the home of numerous Chicagoland sports teams, and the subject of Stufjan Stevens’ 2005 album of the same name. What you might not know about Illinois is that it’s a great place for a weekend getaway, especially if you book a one-of-a-kind cabin to stay in.
For the unfamiliar, here’s a quick lay of the land. Chicago sits at the northeastern corner of Illinois, along Lake Michigan, and at the southwestern edge, St. Louis lies just across the state line on the other side of the Mississippi River (which forms Illinois’ western boundary). Outsiders might take a look at a map and assume that the vast expanse of land between these two cities is filled with nothing but cornfields and cows. While there are plenty of those, Illinois also has many great places for outdoor adventure.
Public lands like Shawnee National Forest, in southern Illinois offer miles of hiking trails and lakes for fishing and swimming. Starved Rock State Park between Chicago and Peoria has stunning seasonal waterfalls as well as hiking trails, biking, boating, horseback riding, and more. You can get a taste of real prairie—the massive grasslands that covered much of the state before white settlers arrived—and even spot buffalo at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. As you’ll see at some of the private cabins below, there are also plenty of opportunities for kayaking and canoeing on placid lakes and creeks. Finally, if you’re looking for a more relaxing hideaway, there are wineries and farm stands to visit and lots of historic towns to stroll through. Late spring, summer, and fall are the best times to visit for those activities.
10 Best Illinois Cabin Rentals for an Outdoorsy Getaway
Vibe: Chic Riverside Retreat
Located on the eastern shore of Upper Peoria Lake (technically a wide portion of the Illinois River), this modern, airy, and freshly renovated space is a great spot for a weekend getaway or post-Covid family reunion. Although it has just one king-size bed, the lofted bedroom and large open living room give couples plenty of space for a romantic getaway. You’ll likely spend most of your time outside anyway: the water is just steps away and the wraparound deck is perfect for catching sunsets.
Vibe: Cozy Frontier Living
This charming log cabin was originally built in the 1800s, and with its timber walls and floors, it’s a time capsule from a different era. It comes with some modern conveniences though, like WiFi and a smart TV, but the biggest highlights are the simple ones: a fireplace, firepit, grill, copper bathtub for two, outdoor hot tub, and a small lake with a dock for fishing and swimming. Added bonus: The hosts are beekeepers, and if you’re interested, you can help them care for the hives.
Vibe: Modern Cabin
This handsome vacation rental cabin combines hand-built craftsmanship with plenty of modern creature comforts. With its three bedrooms and three baths, it’s spacious enough for a small group trip, and you’ll have plenty to do. Relax in the private hot tub, grill burgers on the deck, or explore the surrounding area: nearby Trail of Tears State Forest and Shawnee National Forest offer plenty of fishing and hiking. The cabin is also located in the heart of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, so vineyards and wine tasting are just a short drive away.
Vibe: Where the Woods Meet the Water
Tucked into the forest in northern Illinois (and less than two hours by car from the Chicago Loop), this secluded cabin on stilts is a great home base for a weekend in nature. Located on a five-acre wooded property, the cabin offers views of the Rock River and Kyte Creek and easy access to the water. Check-in yourself and then set off to explore the area on one of the cabin’s kayaks, or nap in the hammock, then build up a blazing fire in the fire pit and watch the stars.
Vibe: Rustic Cabin in the Woods
This white oak cabin was constructed by fur trappers in Missouri nearly 200 years ago. It’s a great pick for an escape into the woods. Build a fire in the wood-burning fireplace, cook up some dinner on the grill, or curl up with a book on the couch. It’s also close to the town of Nauvoo, which is steeped in unique history (it was founded by Mormons before they decamped to Utah). Just keep in mind that this cabin is more rustic than the others on this list—it has an outhouse with a composting toilet, an outdoor shower, and there’s no running water in the winter. It sure ain’t a luxury cabin, but spending time among nature at this rustic getaway can still feel quite luxurious.
Vibe: Historic and Charming
Located on a seven-acre farm, this quaint cabin was relocated from another farm in Lima, Illinois and painstakingly restored using reclaimed materials over eight years. The result? A rustic space that’s full of history and very comfortable, too. Whip up a meal in the full kitchen or grab a book and while away an afternoon on one of the front porch rocking chairs.
Vibe: Yellow House on the Prairie
Bunkhouse Seventy-Four is located on the same property as Audrey’s Abode, and it’s also full of history. The building was originally a bunkhouse for migrant farm workers, and it was relocated from a nearby farm and lovingly restored (check out those stained glass windows!) into a bright, spacious cabin that’s perfect for couples. While you’re here, spend time exploring the nearby town of Jacksonville and then enjoy a soak in the outdoor tub while you stargaze.
Vibe: Adaptive Reuse
Ever wanted to spend the night in a shipping container? We won’t blame you if the answer is no, but the Fox Den might change your mind. While it’s not exactly bright and airy on the inside (it is a metal box, after all), it has a cozy, renovated interior, and there’s plenty of space outside; you can explore the owner’s sprawling 35-acre property while you’re here. Plus, it’s pet-friendly, so you can bring your dog, too.
Vibe: Weekend on the Water
How often do you get the chance to stay in a houseboat? Check that experience off your bucket list with a weekend at this floating cottage. This two-bedroom, two-bath boat has plenty of space for a small group or two couples, and it includes access to a yacht club with a private pool and waterside dining. The best part? The gentle motion of the boat as it rocks you to sleep each night.
Vibe: Small Town A-frame
This renovated A-frame cabin is located just outside of Quincy, Illinois, a historic town that’s full of unique Victorian architecture. Spend a day wandering through town, and then unwind on one of the house’s large covered porches, which offer expansive views of the rolling countryside.