** I have changed the format of the site around pretty dramatically. You can now access the full buyers guide HERE.
Lake location is probably the most overlooked factor when it comes to finding the right lake. The 20 minute drive on the winding roads through the woods is beautiful the first 10 times you do it. After that it gets to become quite the hassle when a "quick" trip ends up eating two hours of your day, 40 of which are driving! The further you get from town the less time you will have to spend with your family. One thing I hear over and over is that people underestimate how many times they will run to town on a trip up north.
Another reason lake location is important is that proximity to town, especially a "big" town, greatly increases the chances that you'll have what I'll label as modern amenities. High speed internet and cell phone coverage are important to a lot of people. With the abundance of state land and the relative lack of a year round population, there are many spots in Northern Wisconsin where you won't have high speed internet or even cell phone service. If you plan to work from home at all or need to be available at times while at your lake house, this is worth considering.
The other modern amenity that is related to proximity to a bigger town is natural gas. The winters up here are cold. Even if you won't be coming up for the winter, you still will be keeping some heat in your house if it isn't a seasonal place. Natural gas is significantly less expensive, more reliable and less of a hassle than heating with propane. It's also nice to not have to look at your (and your neighbors) propane tank every time you drive in.