The view from the lakeside of the many amenities offered at Pirates Hideaway includes the stage location to the left, the sky deck above and the tiki bar to the right. Outdoor seating and lawn games near the lake also are available.
The view from the lakeside of the many amenities offered at Pirates Hideaway includes the stage location to the left, the sky deck above and the tiki bar to the right. Outdoor seating and lawn games near the lake also are available.
While the pirate ship that sails the high seas of the Eagle River Chain of Lakes each summer is a well-known attraction in the area, Pirates Hideaway has been hard at work in the off-season to bring visitors so much more.

The ship, which travels the Chain, its tattered sails waving in the summer wind and bringing delight to all who see it, was created, built and manned by Steve, Linda and Stevo Strauss, along with other family members. 

Helmed by Captain Steve Strauss, the ship has offered public and private tours of the North Wood’s impressive chain of lakes since 2004. 

Heading into its 17th year, the family has had to make some changes to both keep things new and exciting for those who visit, and now, also to keep everyone safe from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Anyone who has visited the Hideaway has experienced the many amenities there. Some of the activities provided include the beautiful lake view and live music offered by the open-air tiki bar which serves beer, wine and snacks; landscaped flower gardens; unique baubles, jewelry, costumes and more for sale at the gift shop; and sweet treats served at the ice cream shop. 

Each year, the Strauss family puts in countless hours of manual labor making improvements to the grounds and building or improving attractions to delight the masses. This off-season proved more challenging than most as the team worked to not only make its usual lofty upgrades, but also make last-minute changes to add to the safety of its guests.

Just some of the changes that have put into action for this year’s opening, which is slated for June 25, include remodeling the space where the tiki bar is located to offer better flow for guests and provide more space, and building an impressive new 1,000-square-foot “sky deck” for families to enjoy. 

“The view of the lake is just unbelievable up here,” Captain Steve said, standing on the deck and squinting into the bright sunshine bouncing off Duck Lake. 

“Everything is safe up here for kids and families of all sizes. This is our 17th season, and anyone who hasn’t seen this place needs to,” the captain added.

Gardens which offer walking paths around the grounds also have been planted. 

“Come and enjoy — soon they will be in bloom and beautiful!” said Linda Strauss while digging in the dirt and displaying her impressive green thumb.

Steve said that many of these improvements were underway long before COVID-19 struck, but once that happened, some last-minute changes and additions were made. 

Paths were widened to the lakefront and around the grounds to allow for social distancing, and an outdoor ordering window for ice cream was added to help regulate the flow of people. 

Steve added that tables on the new deck are also spaced to provide distancing for guests to enjoy their ice cream and take in the views.

Although Pirates Hideaway is usually open in time for Memorial Day weekend, this year’s challenges both with the coronavirus and the extensive construction work forced the Strauss family to hold off on opening for the season.

“We pushed the opening date not just because of COVID-19, but once that happened we decided not to open Memorial Day weekend. We rearranged some priorities to get these projects completed. We wanted to do it right,” Stevo said.

“It’s horrible for a small seasonal business to lose that initial summer income, but we’d rather default on the safe side for everyone’s comfort and safety,” he added.



Pirate ship rides

In addition to all the building going on, pirate ship rides are also seeing some changes for this season. 

Boat rides are running with a reduced capacity this year to keep both passengers and staff safe. In addition, rides that once offered self-serve coffee and donuts will now be served to guests by staff. Swimming also is not available during outings this year due to the close contact required for staff to help passengers into swimming gear.

The Strausses are working on ways to reduce the numbers on the boat and create smaller adventures while still offering the expected “high seas” experience they have provided for the last 16 years.

“We are creating smaller, private family and small group adventures, and still trying to figure out exactly how to provide intimate gatherings that are cost-effective, and how that works given the ever-changing times,” Captain Steve said. 

Tables have been removed from the ship in order to provide better flow for passengers and free up more space so everyone can keep their distance.

“It’s not about safety only to the customers. We are a family-run business, we treat our employees like family, and it’s for the protection of everybody,” said Captain Steve.

Stevo added that while not every detail is worked out at the moment, they are brainstorming ideas to continue providing a quality experience for all.

“We don’t have it all figured out yet, but we are working on making a limited public schedule. We are pulling back the reins right now on public tours — this year is gonna be big for small, family tours,” Stevo said.

“We are taking it as it comes. If we need to make more adjustments, more changes, so that we are 100% confident that we are doing this right in unprecedented times, we will absolutely make those changes,” added Stevo.



Live music

In a normal summer, Pirates Hideaway provides a full schedule of live performances throughout the season, but that also looks a little bit different this year.

“We are working our way through the live music and waiting to see how comfortable the entertainers are with playing,” Stevo said.

“We’re going to encourage distance, we’re going to do our best to keep things spaced. We are not scheduled as heavily this year, and plan to phase it in to see how it goes. These are uncharted waters for everybody,” Stevo said.

Some musical guests have been scheduled to provide entertainment throughout the summer, including weekly and bi-weekly performances by Brett Winters and Scott Kirby, as well as shows by other local and nonlocal musicians.

With so many areas to spend time in, guests who visit the Hideaway can choose any option that they are comfortable with. Seating is set up at the covered horseshoe tiki bar, and tables are near the stage as well as scattered around the lake frontage, all within earshot of the band.

“The nice thing about all these different spots is, if you want to sit out by the lake and enjoy the music, you can do that. If you want to kind of mingle at a respectful distance from others inside, you can do that,” Stevo said. “Even under cover we are still all open air to have safe distances. Guests don’t have to sit down, and there are so many places to go on the grounds.”

Stevo said that in the off-season they put an addition on the tiki bar which created a lot more bar space, as well as took down some of the barriers and ramps so everything opens up right onto the lakefront.

The Strausses plan to hold a grand reopening later this season to welcome visitors in to see all the changes they have made at the Hideaway. More information will be announced at a later date.

To see in person all the amenities offered at Pirates Hideaway, visit the pirates at 1998 Highway 45 N., 2 miles north of Eagle River.

For more information on live music and other events or to book a spot on the pirate ship, visit eagleriverpirates.com, call (715) 479-6756, or email eagleriverpirates@gmail.com.