Officially established in 1857, Sterling has been a city of hard-working people, deeply rooted in local industry since that time. Originally home to a few mills powered by the river, the industrial base grew with the country and the small City of Sterling soon became the Hardware Capital of the World. Today, much of that history is still with us, but the City has matured and diversified.
The community is now a strong blend of industry, commercial and retail business and residential areas. In fact, Sterling has become a regional retail hub. We invite you to explore more of the City of Sterling website to see what Sterling is today, what it offers and what the future holds for the community.
Sterling has an abundance of indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities. The Rock River provides plenty of summertime fun for boaters, skiers, paddlers and fisherman. Kayak, fish, hike, bike or walk the Hennepin Feeder Canal, a 29 mile canal and path that connects to the 105 mile Hennepin Canal. There are golf courses, indoor/outdoor tennis and pickleball courts, a pump track, walking paths, and trails. There are 4 State Parks within 40 miles plus additional State Recreation areas. The Sterling Park District also operates a marina, a dog park, an indoor pool, along with fitness centers and an abundance of recreation programming.
Location, Location, Location
Situated along the Rock River, Sterling (population 15,370) is located in Northwestern Illinois on the eastern edge of Whiteside County, one of the largest counties in the state. The City is approximately 100 miles due west of the Chicago loop, 55 miles southwest of Rockford, Illinois, 55 miles East of the Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities and 70 miles north of Peoria. It is 35 miles East of the Mississippi River, which forms the western boundary of Whiteside County.
Interstate 88 and U.S. Highway 30 both run just south of the City limits, providing quick access to the Illinois-Iowa Quad City area and the Chicago area. Illinois Route 40 and Illinois Route 2 both run through the City of Sterling and provide quick access to Rockford and Peoria.
Our location along major U.S. thoroughfares, and central location in relation to Chicago, the Quad Cities, Rockford, and Peoria, contributes to Sterling's excellent business atmosphere. As well, being able to access these larger cities with ease makes the area popular for residents as well. Imagine all the qualities of living in a smaller town without the headaches of living in large metro areas, yet still being able to make the most of the big city attractions within a short drive.
Convention & Visitors Bureau
Visit the Blackhawk Waterways Convention and Visitors Bureau website for ideas of what to do and experience in Sterling and the surrounding Northwest Illinois area.
- Chocolate Trail stop
- Antique emporium
- Woodlawn Arts Academy
- Dillon Home Museum
- Westwood Sports Center
- 3 18-hole golf courses within 15 minutes
- Rock River: boating, marinas, skiing, fishing, paddling and eagle watching
- Hennepin Feeder Canal: Connects to Sterling via Martin's Landing and pedestrian bridge over the Rock River. Includes a packed limestone pedestrian/cycling path, single track mountain bike trails, calm paddling and fishing for 29 miles until it meets the 104 mile Hennepin Canal
Regional Tourism Highlights
One of the great benefits of living in Sterling is the advantage of small city life that still has the necessities such as a premier hospital and first class school and park districts without the congestion and high costs of a larger area. We're also close enough to the big cities for the occasional day or weekend trip. You can be downtown Chicago via I-88 or I-88 and the Metra at Elburn or Aurora/Naperville in just over 2 hours or make it to the Quad Cities or Rockford in an hour.
The Quad Cities and Rockford regularly attract major concert tours. Both offer renowned museums and theatrical troupes. The John Deere museum is one of the newest and largest museums to be opened. Both areas are also home to local symphonies that regularly perform. Theatrical presentations are a constant presence in the areas.
For the more sporting types, there are three minor league baseball teams in Clinton, Quad City River and Beloit. Rockford and the Quad Cities also home to professional hockey teams. The Quad Cities is also home to an arena football team.
For the more involved athlete, the area provides for rock climbing along the Mississippi River bluffs, downhill skiing in Galena, the Quad Cities, and Dubuque, and golfing on a PGA tour course (Deere Run).
Rarely will you need to shop or dine outside of the Sterling area as it has a large diversity of shopping outlets, including a mall, and restaurants, but for the occasional odd or end, both areas also offer numerous shopping opportunities, nightlife and entertainment districts. Chicago is a simple, straight-forward drive along Interstate 88 and offers up everything you could ask of in terms of entertainment, shopping, recreational, cultural, and dining opportunities from a world class city.
Best of Both Worlds
Living in Sterling gives one access to all Chicago can offer, but without the daily grind and headaches associated with big city living. Spend a weekend shopping on Michigan avenue, viewing downtown from the top of a skyscraper and dining at one of any number of ethnic restaurants in the area. Or take it easy and relax at a Cubs game, followed by a lakefront stroll.
Visit the art, history and science museums lined up along Lake Michigan or head to the planetarium and aquarium located there as well. And when you're done with the crowds, the traffic, and the high prices, head back home to Sterling where life's a bit easier, and a good measure less worrisome.