The Best Places in Wisconsin to Enjoy a Relaxing Water Adventure

As an alternative to the road routine, group tour planners can enliven their itineraries with a boat tour on the rivers or lakes of Wisconsin. Here, we offer a few ways to make a splash.

Top Wisconsin Lake and River Cruise Lines:

  • Dells Boat Tours
  • Original Wisconsin Ducks
  • Lake Geneva Cruise Line
  • Milwaukee River Cruise Line/Edelweiss
  • Madeline Island Ferry
  • Washington Island Ferry Line

Dells-Boat-ToursIn Wisconsin Dells, the classic activity is a relaxing trip past the sculpted sandstone cliffs and narrow gorges along the Wisconsin River. Dells Boat Tours’ double-decker vessels offer several options. From mid-April to early November, the one-hour Lower Dells tour showcases unusual rock formations like Hawk’s Bill and Baby Grand Piano, while the two-hour Upper Dells tour includes stops to walk through the cool passageways of Witches Gulch and witness the famous dog leap at Stand Rock. There’s also the Sunset Dinner Cruise (mid-May to early September).

Another Dells must is a rollicking ride on the World War II amphibious vehicles that are the Original Wisconsin Ducks. This forest-and-water adventure is highlighted by barreling down Roller Coaster Hill and splashdowns into the Wisconsin River and Lake Delton.

geneva bay tour LadyLake Geneva Cruise Line offers a variety of outings from late April to November, including the two-hour Full Lake Tour. Or your group might want to take the 2½-hour U.S. Mailboat Cruise and watch the mail carriers make deliveries to 75 lakefront homes. Another cruise includes a tour of the 1888 Black Point Estate, once the home of a wealthy brewer and one of several historic homes that overlook the lake. Other options include lunch, dinner and Sunday champagne brunch cruises, or treat your group to the Ice Cream Social Tour.

For a big-city cruise experience, consider the Historic Milwaukee Boat Cruise with Milwaukee River Cruise Line/Edelweiss. These narrated trips start downtown on the Milwaukee River and make their way into Lake Michigan, going under bridges, passing historic landmarks and offering great skyline views. Commentary on the one-hour, 20-minute cruise covers brewing and manufacturing history, German heritage, architectural treasures, famous locals and current developments around the city. Lunch, brunch, dinner and themed cruises also are available.

There’s something special about hopping board a ferry, and Wisconsin offers several exciting choices. On Lake Superior, the Madeline Island Ferry sails between Bayfield and Madeline Island, the largest in the Apostle Islands group. Once on the island after the 25-minute voyage, your travelers can take a walking tour in the town of La Pointe or travel by coach with a step-on guide who talks about the island’s history and natural features. As Madeline Island is the spiritual home of the Ojibwe people, who lived there for hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived, signs are in both Ojibwe and English.

Washington island Ferry Line The Washington Island Ferry Line operates year-round from the tip of the Door Peninsula to Washington Island, located six miles across Death’s Door Passage. Combination tickets include the Cherry Train Tour, a 15-mile, open-air tram tour of Washington Island attractions. Home to about 70 people, the island is surrounded by the waters of Lake Michigan and Green Bay. The population is predominantly Scandinavian and includes the largest Icelandic settlement in the U.S.

Travelers to the Door Peninsula will also want to visit the Door County Maritime Museum. Located on Sturgeon Bay’s downtown waterfront, it tells the tales of brave seamen, rugged fishermen and bold ship captains. Visitors will see vintage outdoor motors and marine engines, ship models, and exhibits on shipbuilding and lighthouses. They also can tour the restored 149-foot tugboat John Purvis, which is moored adjacent to the building.

For more travel ideas, download our current issue of Leisure Travel Guide.