The state of Wisconsin provides the outdoorsy types with ample opportunities to fill their cravings. The hunting, fishing and hiking opportunities are nearly endless across the state. Like most states, however, the metal detecting opportunities are relatively unexplored. If you’re interested in expanding your outdoor hobbies, metal detecting is a perfect option.
You’ll have the chance to explore near the shores of two of the Great Lakes, wander through dense woods and visit the quaint towns all across the state. Don’t only visit with your metal detector! Enjoy all of the other activities Wisconsin offers.
Here is a list of the 15 best places to metal detect in Wisconsin.
1. Bradford Beach – Plenty of Relics!
Bradford Beach is located right along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. Being that it is one of the more popular beaches in the state, it’s a wonderful place to visit. Plenty of relics and treasures to be found along the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan.
When you’re detecting along the beach, be sure to focus on the areas where people spend their time. It may require you to visit during the day, locate the popular places and return early in the morning or late in the evening to gain some peace and quiet while you are hunting.
I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.
- My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
- I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
- When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
- Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.
People are not big fans of being too close to a metal detector. Therefore, it’s important you time your visits and digs properly. A nice sunset walk on the beach with your detector can be extremely relaxing!
You can access Bradford Beach here:
Be careful to stay away from the golf course land as well as the light house. These are specifically regulated and do not allow metal detecting.
METAL DETECTING TIP: When you’re searching beaches, look for dips or low points in the sand. This is where many of the treasures will be washed. Spend quite a bit of time around these areas! They usually lead to some pretty impressive finds.
2. Jacobus Park – 30 Acres of Land
Jacobus Park is a legendary park in the heart of Milwaukee. It’s fairly large for being in the middle of the city. You have over 30 acres of land to detect. You can search through woods, around ponds and trails.
Remember that Wisconsin rules are fairly strict with how deep you can dig. Dig right around six inches deep and you won’t face any issues. Jacobus Park allows access to many wonderful restaurants and is a perfect place to bring the family and allow you to escape for a few hours to do some detecting.
You can access Jacobus Park here:
Again, similar to beaches, keep your distance from people. For some extra courtesy go ahead and use headphones while you detect. This will allow you to hear more clearly and not interrupt those who are trying to enjoy a day at the park.
3. Historic Third Ward – 19th Century Treasures!
The Historic Third Ward is one of the most unique places to metal detect on this list. Located right along the banks of the Milwaukee Bay, you’ll have a nice taste of nightlife, upscale restaurants and art. If you can visit early in the morning, you’ll have plenty of the area to yourself and a great chance to find some amazing artifacts.
There was a significant fire in the area in the late 19th century with some treasures still left to discover. It’s registered to the National Historic society so be sure that you return any significant historical artifact to the state so they can place it in the proper hands.
You can access the Historic Third Ward here:
If you’re searching in public parking areas and beaches, you won’t face any trouble. Be careful of private parking areas and green space. Business owners require permission for you to detect! If art and interesting architecture are of interest to you, the Historic Third Ward is a perfect place to spend your time.
4. Marathon County Park
The parks within Marathon and Wausau allow metal detecting. You are not required to have a permit if you are detecting in these counties. However, there are some restrictions about where you can detect these parks.
You aren’t allowed to detect in environmentally sensitive areas, archaeological and historical sites. These should be clearly marked in the parks. These counties also don’t allow people to dig further than six inches into the ground! You’re expected to follow the leave no trace policy when detecting in these parks.
Marathon County Park is one of the larger parks in the area. Located about an hour and a half from Eau Claire, this is not a bad drive from Minneapolis or the other larger cities around the area. You’ll have access to fields, trails and some smaller bodies of water across the park.
Be mindful of those trying to enjoy the park. Don’t abuse the regulations and you won’t be bothered by anyone. It’s a beautiful spot to bring the family.
Access Marathon County Park here:
5. Bluegill Bay County Park
Located on Lake Wausau, this park offers 68 acres to explore. The forests, trails and beaches are wonderful areas to spend your time. Since it’s located within Marathon County, you do not need a special permit to do your detecting.
This park is fairly busy on the weekends so either time your hunting for the mornings or evenings or go during the week. A nice morning or evening in the park is well worth your time. Popular locations with tourists are going to likely lead to some impressive finds.
Plus, you can plan an entire day with the family around the park. It has something for everybody. The fishing close by on the Wisconsin River is also worth trying. There is plenty of water to cover.
You can detect along beaches, trails and in the woods.
Access Bluegill Bay County Park here:
Go on Your Next Metal Detecting Trip to These Awesome Locations!
METAL DETECTING TIP: If you’re detecting along the beach, be sure your sensitivity is manually set. If it is on auto, you could get some inconsistent signals. Do some experimenting and manually set your detector while spending time on the beach.
The town of Hurley was once a booming town in Wisconsin with over 7,000 people living in it. As the years have progressed, the population has dropped to around 2,000 people. It’s another small town in the northern portion of the state. It’s located not far from the Iron County Museum near Montreal, WI.
It’s an old mining town filled with all sorts of interesting history. It was a prominent town during the prohibition. Many gangsters from Chicago spent time in the town and opened quite a few saloons. If you visit the Iron County Museum, the employees will have plenty of information on the metal detecting in the area.
METAL DETECTING TIP: When seeking permission to metal detect in small towns, be courteous. These people don’t have to let you access their land. Do your best to be polite and gracious in whatever way possible!
7. Nelson Caves
Nelson, Wisconsin is a common area to metal detect in Wisconsin. Located in the center of the state near the Minnesota border, the bluffs are filled with caves ready to be detected. It’s rumored that soldiers hid treasure throughout the caves, but there is nothing of significance that has been found yet.
Spend your time wandering through the bluffs and seeing what you can discover. Much of this land is publicly owned, but be sure that you’re careful with where you are accessing the land. Wisconsin is fairly strict on how deep you can dig so be sure you’re not going deeper than six inches.
Be sure to have your sensitivity set to auto when searching throughout the caves. It’s a fairly diverse landscape so you’ll need to be able to adapt at all times.
8. Racine Beach
Racine North Beach is one of the most popular beaches in all of the state. Popular beaches mean a nice variety of artifacts to discover. Don’t waste time searching the areas where people don’t congregate; you’ll likely have less success in discovering things.
Since you’re going to be searching along Lake Michigan, be careful of the cold temperatures of the water. Spend your time above the high water line or be prepared to get cold. This beach is massive and there are ample access points throughout the town of Racine.
If you insist on searching during the middle of the day, wear headphones so you can properly listen to your detector. Too many artifacts are missed on beaches because folks aren’t fully immersed in the experience.
All beaches are a bit different so be sure you experiment a bit with your sensitivity before you make a decision on the best way to detect. If you leave your detector on auto, it may not provide you with the best opportunities.
The Zoo Beach north of Racine Beach is another smart area to visit. This is going to be a more popular beach for young families. If you’re having a beach day here, pack your detector! Beaches are the least regulated areas to search in Wisconsin.
Having the right tools to dig with makes a HUGE difference when Metal Detecting. Digging items quickly allows you to work more ground. I recommend three tools:
- Lesche RS Hand Trowel (link to Kellyco) – This hand shovel ROCKS
- Lesche Ground Shark (link to Kellyco for price and availability) – Essential on EVERY outing for me!
- Lesche Mini Pick If I’m in the woods cutting through roots and digging out rocks.
METAL DETECTING TIP: Many Lake Michigan beaches are fairly rocky so be sure that you have a cover to keep your coils protected. If the coils break, you’re in for a costly repair!
The town of Donaldson is legendary in the Wisconsin treasure hunting world. It’s considered to be one of Wisconsin’s “ghost towns”. As a result, there are plenty of interesting areas to do some detecting. It is located right on the Michigan border near the town of Land O’ Lakes.
At one point in the early 20th century, it was a logging town. The land is not owned by the state and quite a bit of it is private land. Therefore, you need to receive permission to do some detecting. However, the land that is public is available for you to detect.
Spend your time near the abandoned building and railroad tracks. Railroad tracks are government owned so you’re not allowed to detect them, but spending time near is smart. It was a common stop in the early 20th century!
10. Grant Park Beach
Grant Park Beach is located within Grant Park and is a beautiful place to spend an entire day searching. You have access to forest as well as a fairly rocky beach. Remember to have something to protect your coils!
Since this is a small, local beach, you may have to spend a bit more time detecting. When searching a rocky beach like this, be sure you have a small metal shovel. Plastic shovels don’t stand much of a chance against the rocks.
If you’re looking for some more privacy in the Milwaukee area, Grant Park Beach is a wonderful place to spend your time. It’s in the southern portion of the city, but still offers all of the beautiful views that the northern part of the city provides!
Warning: If your metal detector isn’t completely waterproof you might not want to scan beaches. When a metal detector manufacturers WATERPROOFS a unit it has been designed to keep SAND, SALT WATER and MOISTURE out. Don’t ruin your machine get a waterproof unit – I highly recommend the: Garrett AT MAX link to Kellyco
11. Big Bay Park
Big Bay Park is another lesser known beach along Lake Michigan. It’s one of the most family friendly areas on this list. The demographic is primarily younger families so you don’t have to worry about any extracurricular activities.
Focus on the parking lot, the trail to the beach and the other trails throughout the park. Also, spend your time searching as close to the water as you can. The water is going to wash up some artifacts and pull others down from the higher points of the beach. The low points of the beach are going to be the most productive!
LaPointe is another town in Wisconsin with a semi-famous treasure story. Supposedly, there was $35,000 worth of gold buried in the town in the mid 19th century. Since then, people have been trying their luck at finding the treasure. There has been no confirmed report of this treasure, but it does provide an extra incentive.
LaPointe is located on Madeline Island in Wisconsin. To access the island, you either need to take your boat across Chequamegon Bay or take a ferry. The Madeline Island Museum has some great information on metal detecting across the island. There are fairly strict regulations across the island so be sure you have up to date information from the museum before you begin detecting.
Also remember that any significant historical artifact must be turned into the state. They’ll make the decision about what to do with it! While it’s not an ideal situation, these rules are in place for a reason. Be sure to not abuse them or metal detecting will become even more limited across the state!
Plan your Next Metal Detecting Adventure at These Awesome Locations
13. Star Lake
Star Lake is located in the far north of Wisconsin about 10 miles north of Saynor, Wisconsin. It was a common logging area, but as the logging industry slowed down, people began moving out of the town. There are a few homes, a post office and a grocery store still on the site. The land is privately owned, but seeking permission has not proven to be too complex.
The owner is not too picky about letting people metal detect. If you visit the Vilas County Historical Museum in Saynor, they have information on how to gain access to the land. The museum is closed during the winter so be sure that you’re seeking permission in the warmer months of the year!
Searching abandoned land is always promising. Spend some quality time in this area once you receive permission. You’ll be appreciative of the seclusion and variety of artifacts that you can find in Star Lake.
14. Schoolhouse Beach
Schoolhouse Beach Park has one of the prettiest beaches in the whole United States. The crystal clear water of Lake Michigan is alone worth the visit. Even if you don’t find anything, you’ll have a wonderful time being in nature and experience the beauty of the lake.
Schoolhouse Beach can be found in the northern portion of the state so be prepared for a bit of a drive. However, it’s less busy than the beaches around the Milwaukee area so it’s well worth the drive. Be sure to bring your family! They won’t want to miss this beauty.
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15. Private Land– Ask First!
There are an impressive amount of farms across the state! Don’t be afraid to ask for permission to search some of it! Farmers are generally grateful for metal detectors. They don’t want metal in their soil so if a metal detector is willing to remove the metal they find, you’ll likely receive permission.
Remember, if you find anything of significance it’s best to alert the landowner before you do anything with it.
Wisconsin Metal Detecting Laws
Before you visit, it’s important to understand some of the laws in place for those trying to metal detect. You are not allowed to metal detect on state owned lands. This includes state forests and state parks.
If you discover a historic artifact it is your responsibility to hand it over to the state. Also, any sort of private land prohibited to detect unless you have received prior permission.
You can read further in the Wisconsin Legislature article NR 45.04 (general rules for state property) – https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/nr/001/45/04/3/i
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says you can search for specific lost items. A special permit is required. If you would like to read more about this at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The special permit form can be found HERE.
Wisconsin Metal Detecting Clubs
Central Wisconsin Treasure Hunters– The name of this club speaks for itself! It’s a large community with over 1,000 members. Visit their Facebook page for more information. They’re very responsive.
Midstate Metal Detector Club– Midstate Metal Detector Club is another club in the central portion of Wisconsin. They branch out all over the state and provide awesome insight into what it takes to successfully detect in Wisconsin.
Favorite Metal Detecting Shops in Wisconsin
Deerfields Detectors– Located in Hancock, this is a small business with everything you’d need for your next metal detecting excursion. Small metal detecting businesses like these need our support. Don’t be afraid to visit on your next trip to Wisconsin!
Famous Metal Detecting Finds
Many folks think Metal Detecting is a waste of time, but this article in the Fond Du Lac Reporter discusses the incredible finds made in Wisconsin . Check out the article HERE.
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.