Murphysboro, Illinois. Spillway lake area.
Murphysboro, Illinois. Spillway lake area.

Jessa Brooke, writer and media producer, continues to mold the fabric of Southern Illinois culture. In her first piece, she highlights the top three spots to visit during summer in the southern section of Illinois. 

Top 3 Summer Spots

Written by: Jessa Brooke


Rend Lake – South Sandusky Beach

Benton, Illinois

Who doesn’t love sand and water? 

Throw in some grills and a sand volleyball court and this spot could be a summer game changer. The fee for use is only a few dollars and you can stay all day.

It’s family friendly and equipped with clean bathrooms and places to change. Only downsides are the lack of lifeguards and no glass (it is a beach after all). If you’re lucky there will be some hotties playing bags like the last time I was there. Bring some sunscreen because this could easily be an all day trip with plenty of fun to be had.


Murphysboro, Illinois. Spillway lake area.
Murphysboro, Illinois. Spillway lake area.

Spillway – Happy Hollow

Murphysboro, Illinois

Southern Illinois is known for its beautiful scenery and who doesn’t love a little road trip off the beaten path?

The spillway is a favorite of the locals. Just off 149 before you reach Route 3 look for Spillway Road.

A word of warning, this area may flood so come prepared.

Follow the road down to a small parking area where you can walk along the dam, or walk down to the spillway from this area but be warned, its muddy and messy but worth it. If you don’t want to brave the mud you can continue along this road to a parking area in front of the spillway. 

The spillway is a manmade waterfall that is especially pretty after rain when the water levels are up. There are tables to use for eating or drinking and plenty of parking if you’re just looking for a secluded spot to have a tailgate party to celebrate summer or just life in general.

Happy hollow is a personal favorite located just down the road from the spillway. When I have friends in town that aren’t from the area I usually show them both before we head to beer and chicken at Bottoms Up on Wednesdays. Happy Hollow is off route 3 on your way to Anna, IL. The road is on your right so be sure to watch for it because it’s worth finding. Happy Hollow road starts out like a normal country road but be prepared for the steep rocky incline ahead.

Be warned this is a one car road and there is a drop off if you’re not careful. There are two parking spots to pull in and continue the hike by foot.

I personally go for the view of the Mississippi once you park and hike just to get more time out of it. My friends and I brought a drone up and caught great footage from the view. Make sure to keep an eye out for big foot because if he had to pick somewhere to live this would be it.



Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

Makanda, Illinois

The winery is always a great time. Live music, fresh air, good vibes and great food are only a few of the reasons to get out to the wineries in Southern Illinois.

My personal favorites are Rustle Hill, Blue Sky and Owl Creek.

Rustle Hill has some of the best pizza I’ve had in the area.

Blue Sky is beautiful, the building is rustic and unique with a beautiful area to sit by the water and relax.

Owl Creek is also a great place to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine outside and it’s like being in an adult tree house. There are trees all around and lights; the atmosphere is exactly what summer is about.

One thing that is nice about wineries is that most of them are family friendly; all are welcome to come enjoy the live music. Be sure to designate a driver because these trails are winding and narrow, not for the feint of heart driver after a few glasses of potent wine.

Pomona WInery. Photography by: Matthew McGuire.
Pomona WInery. Photography by: Matthew McGuire.