14 Best Things to Do at Honey Creek Resort State Park


My visit to HoneyCreek Resort State Park was complimentary, however all opinions are my own.

I’ve lived in the state of Minnesota for 16 years. During this time my exploration of Iowa has been fairly limited. Yes, we made a short trip to Decorah to embrace all things Norske. And we also visited Burr Oak so I could visit the lesser-known Laura Ingalls Wilder site. I’ve also been camping at Pikes Peak State Park, along the Mississippi River, which is a must-see destination during the fall. But my recent visit to Honey Creek State Park Resort was my first true adventure into Southern Iowa. For those of you who reside in Minnesota as well, the journey was an easy and tranquil four and half hour drive from the Twin Cities. 


Located about an hour and half southeast of Des Moines, Honey Creek Resort State Park is a destination within itself for family friendly fun. For all you Minnesota readers who are wondering how a resort can be on a state park, I have an answer. Obviously, each state is run differently. The state of Iowa developed this resort to bring jobs to the area and to create a recreational destination. Resorts are not allowed in Minnesota state parks and Iowa still has many state parks without resorts, but Honey Creek is an exception. 


My oldest son and I had a wonderful time exploring and discovering everything Honey Creek Resort has to offer. While this visit just included my twelve-year-old and myself, it’s clear this place is designed for families with children of various ages. 


Before I dive into my list of fourteen best things to do at Honey Creek Resort let me give you the scoop on lodging. There are guest rooms at the main lodge {hotel rooms}, an RV park, and cottages available. If you are staying at Honey Creek with family I definitely suggest the cottages. Through experience I have found cabins or cottages to be a much more comfortable than hotel rooms when vacationing with children. There is a lot more general space, a kitchen, multiple bathrooms, more than one bedroom and a kitchen area that all make cabins/cottages a better option. 



Our cabin had two bedrooms {one master and one with bunkbeds}, two bathrooms, a kitchen area, a dining area, and a living room area as well as a large porch. 





Once I started to understand all the activities available for families at Honey Creek Resort it was clear this area is something of an oasis. Surrounded by farm land and cute, little towns the state park is it’s own area with all of it’s own possibilities. My son and I had the opportunity to try a wide variety of activities, we truly had the trip of a lifetime jumping from one activity to the next. In no particular order here are fourteen must-do activities at Honey Creek Resort State Park. 

#1  Fishing 


This spring my son had the opportunity to go fishing and he was struck with the fever. The thrill of the hunt, so to speak. He was delighted to grab a rod and give it a try again. As you can see from the image above, he was successful. He was determined. I knew there was no way we were leaving the dock until he caught one, luckily it didn’t take too long. Obviously there are bigger fish out in the lake, but along the marina these little fish are perfect for little ones to catch without too much effort. 


I sort of caught a fish myself. I say “sort of” because the fish was briefly on my line outside of the water…I might have started to shout and scream with excitement and then he proceeded to jump off my line. It was definitely okay with me that I didn’t have to deal with a flapping live fish. For the record all the fish went back into the lake during our adventure. A license is required to keep them. 

#2 Kayaking 


I didn’t realize until I was actually trying to climb into the kayak that I had never tried it before. Sure, I’d been a canoe a number of times. But trying to balance the kayak while attempting to sit down in it, I was sure I’d never been in one before. Ha, ha:) Luckily, I found kayaking to be fairly straightforward. It did help that we had a naturalist with the resort give us a quick lesson. I’m quite positive I would have tipped the kayak straight off had I not followed her techniques. 

Rathbun Lake was fairly mild that day and with easy I was to make my way around. My son didn’t have any apparent issues, but he just didn’t feel nearly as comfortable as he would have anticipated. He took a few laps around the area and was finished with kayaking. Whether you are an expert kayaker or a newbie like us, water activities like this are great to experience. 


#3 Golfing 


Full disclosure here, we didn’t actually golf. We foot golfed. We kicked a soccer ball through hoops at each hole. Foot golf is a great way to take the complicated standard game of golf and turn it into a kid friendly activity. I’m not going to deny our favorite part of the experience was driving around in the golf cart. My son had fun poking fun at my driving skills…or lack thereof. 


I definitely cannot attest to the quality of the golf course, I know very little about the sport. But the course did make for a fun way to spend an afternoon outside. Get all the details about the golf course

#4 Paddleboarding 


This summer I’ve been paddleboarding three times. My strategy is not to fall into the water. I’m pleased to report I was able to maintain my balance, even when my pesky son pushed my board away from his. It was a near miss for sure. He chuckled as he paddled away, while I regained my composure. Have I mentioned I’m not a fan of lake water? 

While my son and I already knew how to paddleboard there are lessons available to teach any newbies the basic methods involved in the activity. More on all the naturalist lessons and classes in a different point below. 

#5 Playground


Full disclosure my son didn’t actually play at this playground. He is beyond playing in this type of place all by himself, though if his brothers had been there he would have enjoyed this place for a while. That being said, my younger two sons {ages six and nine} would have loved it here. 

Near the playground is also the outside pavilion. A beautiful setting for an outdoor wedding and/or reception. 


#6 Naturalist Programs 


Just like any state park, Honey Creek has a variety of programs designed to educate their guests about nature. In addition to naturalist classes are the sporting variety I’ve mentioned above. These outdoor educators add great value to the resort providing guests the education to engage in activities and the nature around them. 

Learn how to fish, kayak, paddleboard or take a guided hike. Depending upon the season there are other classes available to learn about nature. Naturalists teach guests about their local bee hives, monarch population, amphibians, and a variety of other animals. I found the nature staff to be very knowledgeable and friendly throughout our visit. Consider them your almost personal guide to the great outdoors during your visit. 

During our visit the naturalists taught us how to make our own DIY lip balm from local beeswax. In a nearby energy efficient building the staff have all the equipment to teach visitors about the local natural history. One class offering even provides guests with constellation stories to enhance their campfire experience. 

#7 Relaxing 


It’s seems almost silly to add this to the list, but make sure to take time to just relax. Just be. Sit and watch. Listen and observe. Enjoy your surroundings. The sky, the lake, the animals – Honey Creek offers plenty of opportunity unwind and relax from the regular world. 


Soak up the best of Iowa outside or if the weather is rainy you can always spend sometime relaxing in the beautiful lodge lobby. It was warm during our visit, but I’m sure it is super cozy there once the fire is turned on. 


#8 Waterpark 


There is no mistaking the draw of a waterpark for children. My twelve-year-old loved this area. The park isn’t extremely large {one slide, a lazy river, basketball area, and toddler/baby area}, but my son spent hours here entertained. Aptly titled Buccaneer Bay this area offers enough diverse water activities to keep kids of various ages entertained. And as a mom focused on safety I loved that the area was laid out in a way that made it easy for me to keep my eyes on my fella at all times. {Staff are also on hand in certain areas to maintain safety.} 


#9 Campfires 


Of course no state park visit is complete without a campfire. Each cottage has a fire ring for personal campfires or join the communal fire ring near the lodge to forgo messing with building a fire yourself. S’mores and stories about the stars go hand-in-hand. The night sky at Honey Creek is spectacular with a wide glimpse in the Milky Way if the clouds are away. The grounds follow a no light pollution policy which means that all night lights are capped to point towards the ground. Certainly there is no need to light up the night sky. This common sense policy is one of the simply ways that Honey Creek maximizes the natural assets this area has to offer.

#10 Foosball 


Table games and boys are a match made in heaven. My son and I had epic battles over the foosball table. Located just outside the lobby there is also table tennis. My son was dismayed to learn that I play a mean of table tennis and instead focused his energy on mastering me on foosball. These types of table games are simple and perfect for summer relaxing and entertainment. 

#11 Biking 


The best way to get around the resort {when you are staying in the cottages} is to rent a bike or bring your own. There are trails from all the cottages to the main lodge and a quick bike ride will get you to any location on the property.  We had such fun racing around the place. I felt like a kid again. 


#12 Arcade 


Not every day can be beautiful and picturesque. We were lucky during our stay that the weather was perfect, but for those not so perfect days there is an arcade near the waterpark to keep your crew entertained. 

Full disclosure we did not enjoy the arcade during our visit as we were too busy enjoying lots of other activities. 


#13 Breakfast at Rathbun Lakeshore Grille


Whether staying in one of the cottages or in a guest room at the main lodge it’s nice to have someone else do the cooking while on vacation. Connected to the main lodge is the Rathbun Lakeshore Grille. Serving breakfast, lunch or dinner guests can enjoy the lake view while noshing on the delicious food. Those that are staying in cabins can, of course, cook their own meals, but I recommend taking at least one meal off to enjoy this grille. 

#14 Boat Rental 


We didn’t have a chance to rent a boat or jet ski during out time at Honey Creek Resort, but the marina {near the lodge} has different options available. Rent a pontoon or a different sort of boat for an hour or for longer to enhance your visit. Of course renting a boat and tackling some larger fish would have been my son’s preferred option. 


My son is starting middle school today. My aunt mentioned to me that he is half way through his school days. Grab me a tissue! I can’t handle it. When you think about it we have our children at home for such a short amount of time. It’s so important to create memories that will last a lifetime. Honey Creek Resort State Park is a wonderful place to make memories. Play, learn, interact and enjoy all the best that Iowa has to offer your family. For my oldest son I know this trip will have a special place in his childhood recollections and that is invaluable. 

Must Do Activities at Honey Creek Resort State Park

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  1. This looks like a fun place to visit! Love the water activities!

  2. This looks like a great place to visit, stay, and play!

  3. Looks like a ton of fun things to do! I’ve never tried paddleboarding before. Looks fun!

  4. Looks like the perfect family getaway!

  5. Laurel Stein says

    wow – that’s not too far from us, and i’ve never heard of it. thanks for the heads up!! i will DEFINITELY consider this for a future vacation!

  6. Diane Sallans says

    I haven’t been to Minnesota yet – this place looks great for families!

  7. Looks like an awesome time! I’d love to visit there someday 🙂

  8. Sarah Hayes says

    this place looks amazing! I really want to paddle board

  9. Desiree Glaze says

    We LOVE to visit our state parks. This one looks so beautiful! I would love to visit.

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