Here is a fun fact, the longest State Route in Illinois runs through our region! Illinois Route 1 is 325 miles long, starting in Cave-in-Rock and ending in Chicago. It runs parallel to the Indiana border, and it is full of small towns with great stories. We have taken the liberty of putting together a weekend road trip from Carmi in White County, all the way north to Marshall in Clark County. If you want to Immerse yourself in Illinois heritage and awesome eats, keep reading! These communities are full of fun and adventure.
Start in Carmi, a city with over two hundred years of history. Nestled on the banks of the Wabash River, Carmi is home to a plethora of eateries, attractions, and fun! But before the fun starts, get some grub at Carmi’s Main Street Cafe. Take one look at the reviews on social media, and you’ll find a nearly perfect score – that goes to show you how AWESOME this place is. They have all your brunch favorites from stuffed pancakes to French toast! After you get your fill, take a hike in Burrell Woods Bicentennial Park! This park is great for camping, hiking, fishing and more – and it’s especially beautiful in the fall.
A quick 19-minute drive north on Route 1 will run you right into Grayville, which intersects with Interstate 64. Grayville is home to I-64 KOA, and although it is a campground – they have so much more to experience. We’re talking about everything from a 27-hole miniature golf course, a children’s playground, and an indoor shooting gallery to a restaurant. Once you’ve had all your fun there, make sure to hit up Carey’s Magnificent Mercantile for a unique shopping experience.
History buffs won’t want to pass up Mt. Carmel, especially those who have a passion for historic radio programs. If you visit the Wabash County Museum there is an exhibit centered around the Lone Ranger. It’s significant because the radio voice of the Lone Ranger back in the 1940’s was Mt. Carmel native Brace Beemer. If you’d rather explore the outdoors a little, Beall Woods State Park is definitely worth a stop. If you go, pay close attention to the size of the trees because this State Park is home to one of the few remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi River. The trees here can be up to 120 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter! If you’re needing a bite to eat while in town, we highly recommend Twin Rivers for lunch. As long as the weather is nice, you absolutely have to eat on their deck – which has a GREAT view of the White and Wabash Rivers!
About fifteen minutes north of Mount Carmel, we recommend a slight detour for a really cool experience. From Route 1, take St. Francisville Road and head east. After you get through St. Francisville, you will come to the Wabash Cannonball Bridge, a truly historic one-lane bridge that comes with a ton of stories if you ask the locals. It was originally a railroad bridge but a farmer bought it in 1970 and opened it for vehicular traffic for folks to cross over the Wabash River into and out of Illinois. Make sure to take plenty of pictures of this one!
Once you get back onto Route 1, the next town north is Lawrenceville. If you’re a fan of Abe Lincoln, we definitely suggest you check out the Lincoln Trail Memorial. It’s located right on the Illinois/Indiana border and commemorates the crossing of the Lincoln family from Indiana to Illinois in 1830. Not far from this historic marker sits Lasata Winery, which features a wide assortment of wines from blush and sweet to white or dry. Once you have your fill of wine, head back to downtown Lawrenceville and check out New Leaf, which has everything from the Mandarin Spa to a Fitness Center! The same building is also home to Coco’s Café and Wine Bar, which serves up some of the BEST food in southeastern Illinois. Take it from us, you have to try the buckeyes with beer cheese.
By now you’re probably about wiped out, so the next town north on Route 1 is where we recommend to ‘hit the hay.’ There are a couple of different hotels in Robinson, but we always love to recommend things that are a little more out of the ordinary. The Cobalt House is an early 1900’s home with a TON of charm, and well worth a stay. Another great place to rest your head is the Quail Creek Country Club and Resort; complete with a tennis court, a swimming pool, racquetball, and a stocked lake for fishing. After you’re well rested, make a visit to Pelican Cove Water Park at the Robinson City Park. This awesome facility features a nearly 20-foot pirate ship and water cannons! There are also water slides to zip on into the big pool. After you’re dried off, head downtown and experience the famous Heath Museum & Confectionary. Did you know that Robinson is the birthplace of the always delicious Heath Bar? This venue gives you the opportunity to learn all about the chocolate and toffee bar, and you can even buy a bag of wrapped or unwrapped Heath Bars.
Due east of Robinson not far off of Route 1 you will find Palestine, a small town of about 1,300 folks that is a true hidden gem in southeastern Illinois. One of the neatest stops in Palestine is the S.D. Meadows Folk Art Gallery where you can purchase pieces of art unlike any other. Steve Meadows uses literally anything he can get his hands on to craft these pieces of art. They’re colorful, they’re eccentric, and they could be just what your home is missing. Right across from the Art Gallery is a statue of Honest Abe that you can snap a photo with before heading down the street to Gatter Brewing Company, where you can get your fill of local craft beer and other beverages. If you have time before hitting the road, look up Mullen’s Salad Dressing which is made right here in Palestine – and take home a bottle of this unique, mustard-based goodness to try for yourself.
Finally, Marshall where you can spend an entire day exploring a wide variety of different things. Head to the Clark County Courthouse on the square and snap a photo next to the World’s Largest Gavel! As you meander throughout downtown Marshall, keep an eye out for a ton of different art. They are home to well over 20 different murals which are scattered throughout the community, and they are also known for their painted lions. That’s right…painted lions. There are nearly 40 decorative lions placed strategically in Marshall, perfect for a scavenger hunt. Another place to view art is the Gaslight Art Colony, which is open from 10-1 on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Marshall is also proud to be a stop on the Historic National Road, so make sure to visit the National Road Welcome Center in the Historic Harlan Hall, located across from the courthouse. If you need a cup of joe or a sweet treat while you’re exploring Marshall, Latte Dough Coffee Shop and Bakery is right up your alley. For a little nature exploration, head out to Lincoln Trail State Park for hiking, boating, camping opportunities and more! While you’re there, you will probably run into Lincoln Trail Restaurant, located right near the water. They are open April through October and offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner – so they can accommodate you any time of day.
Alas, our journey on Illinois Route 1 has come to an end – we hope this article has given you plenty of travel ideas. Remember to snap a ton of photos and use the hashtag #ilsouth if you post them on social media. Have fun out there!