There are over 15,000 lakes in Wisconsin, so it can be hard to decide on one for your next getaway. Discover the 10 best lakes in Wisconsin for boating.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the rich history of the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior or perhaps you want to go ice fishing for sturgeon on Lake Winnebago, you’re sure to discover your next adventure on the waterways of Wisconsin.
- Lake Winnebago
- Lake Michigan
- Petenwell Lake
- Lake Geneva
- Lake Chippewa
- Wazee Lake
- Lake Superior
- Elkhart Lake
- Devil’s Lake
- Green Lake
1. Lake Winnebago
You can’t miss Lake Winnebago – after all, it’s the largest inland lake in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the country, covering 137,700 acres.
The lake’s enormous size attracts all types of fishermen. Although it’s stocked with a wide variety of fish, walleye and sturgeon are among the most popular. In winter, it’s not uncommon for over 10,000 cars to park on the lake’s surface for ice fishing.
Besides fishing, Lake Winnebago hosts all sorts of other attractions. Boaters come to go sailing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, or just cruise around. There are numerous harbors, marinas, boat ramps, and six lighthouses dotted around the lake to facilitate boating activity.
On the shore, surrounding parks make it an excellent place for families to hike, camp, picnic or even explore the small amusement park. So whether you’re looking for a day out on the boat or just to spend a few hours relaxing by the shore, Lake Winnebago is one of the best lakes in Wisconsin to visit.
2. Lake Michigan
No list of Wisconsin lakes would be complete without mentioning Lake Michigan. Spanning 22,400 square miles, it’s one of the area’s most famous tourist spots. Dozens of towns and cities are situated along its shoreline, so you’re sure to find just about every activity you’re looking for.
The lake is so large that some people compare it to an ocean, so just about any boating activity can be done on Lake Michigan. There are endless miles of coastline to explore on your canoe, kayak, or fishing boat. But, if you’re looking for more of a thrill, then try out water sports like kitesurfing or scuba diving among the hundreds of shipwrecks found in the lake.
Lake Michigan’s Wisconsin shoreline also hosts several beautiful beaches. Some of the most popular ones are North Beach in Racine, Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island, Big Bay Beach on Madeline Island. If climbing sand dunes sounds fun, head to Kohler-Andrae State Park for the largest sand dune complex on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coast. Michigan is also home to miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan and many other beautiful lakes.
3. Petenwell Lake
Petenwell Lake is Wisconsin’s second-largest lake, covering 23,040 acres. Since most of the land surrounding the water is undeveloped forest, this is an excellent destination for getting in touch with nature.
The popular angling spot is stocked with many varieties of game fish, including bass, northern pike, walleye, muskellunge, and panfish. This abundance of fish also makes Petenwell Lake a great place to spot bald eagles, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars.
Other activities that can be enjoyed at Petenwell lake include picnicking, hiking, hunting, and camping. If you want to spend a weekend exploring the great outdoors, then Petenwell Lake is a great place to visit.
4. Geneva Lake
Beautiful Geneva Lake has a long tradition of being one of the most famous lake destinations in Wisconsin. Formed thousands of years ago by the path of receding glaciers, the lake’s shoreline stretches along 21 miles of pristine coast. It’s now home to quaint cottages and charming lakeside resorts.
Lake Geneva is the largest town on the lakeshore and is a good place to start water-based activities. There, you can rent kayaks, go water skiing, take a sunset boat cruise, charter a fishing boat, or swim at sandy beaches. When you’re done on the lake for the day, head back into the town for a bite at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the water.
If you’d like to enjoy the lake from the land, take a hike along the scenic Pottawatomie trail that hugs Lake Geneva’s coastline, and explore the historic mansions that have looked out over the lake for generations.
5. Lake Chippewa
Lake Chippewa is another lake renowned for its untouched natural beauty. Located in Sawyer County in northern Wisconsin, the lake is dotted with undisturbed islands along its coast that can be explored by kayak or canoe.
If fishing is your passion, then you’ll want to take a trip out to Lake Chippewa. It’s known to be one of the best walleye fishing holes in the state. It becomes a popular ice fishing spot in the winter, so be sure to plan a visit regardless of the season.
Besides fishing, Lake Chippewa is a treasure to explore by hiking along the shore, cross-country skiing, or camping out in full view of the lake’s stunning scenery.
6. Wazee Lake
Wazee Lake is the deepest lake in Wisconsin, as it’s a filled-in iron mine. This makes the Wazee Lake Recreation Area a prime destination for scuba divers from all over the country. In addition to being deep, the lake’s waters are exceptionally clear – so much so that divers can explore old mining remnants below the surface.
Besides diving, visitors to the lake can enjoy fishing for bluegill, bass, trout, catfish, and walleye. A boat landing makes it convenient to launch your watercraft of choice and enjoy the day out on the water.
Several picnic spots, campsites, and miles of hiking and bike trails ensure that there are enough activities at Wazee Lake to keep the whole family happy.
7. Lake Superior
In addition to Lake Michigan, the other Great Lake that borders Wisconsin is Lake Superior. This lake is so big that it holds 10% of the world’s surface freshwater!
One of the best spots to visit is the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a 28,704-hectare area full of natural beauty and interesting history. 21 islands can be reached by boat, each one with a unique landscape. Whether you are interested in spotting black bears and other wildlife or exploring old lighthouses, sea caves, and dense forests, there is plenty to see.
Of course, other activities like fishing, kayaking, boating, and water sports are also popular on Lake Superior. With so much coastline to explore, you’ll never run out of things to do.
8. Elkhart Lake
Elkhart Lake has long been a popular resort lake destination, conveniently located an hour away from Milwaukee and around two hours from Chicago. Cottages and summer homes overlook the lake’s blue-green tinted waters, which can reach over a hundred feet in depth.
One of the more unique aspects of this lake is its sailing culture. An active sailing club holds races on Sundays when motorized boats are prohibited from operating. During the week, fishing boats float around the clear waters searching for trout, muskellunge, pike, and bass.
You can also visit the public swimming beach and try a wide variety of water sports like water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing. The nearby Village of Elkhart Lake is a quaint town that caters to tourists with weekend markets and local museums. It’s easy to see why Elkhart Lake remains a favorite destination for people in Wisconsin and beyond.
9. Devil’s Lake
Devil’s Lake was formed thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers. Located near Baraboo, in Sauk County, the 975-acre lake lies within Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin’s largest state park.
The surrounding landscape is lush and offers many hiking trails. You can even climb up 500-feet high bluffs that overlook the lake and take in the incredible views. Bird-watching, camping, and hunting are some other popular lakeside activities.
Devil’s lake has two swimming beaches located on either end of the lake. Motorized boats are not allowed to protect the natural environment, so canoeing and kayaking are preferred to travel on the lake. Perhaps due to the quiet waters, the lake is known for having a wide variety of fish throughout the year, including rainbow trout, sunfish, catfish, pike, pumpkinseed, and perch.
10. Green Lake
Green Lake holds the distinction of being Wisconsin’s deepest natural lake, with a depth of 239 feet. It also hosts the oldest resort community west of Niagara Falls.
Due to its depth and the crystal-clear spring-fed waters, Green Lake is an excellent fishing spot. It contains over forty different fish species, including pike, sturgeon, and largemouth bass.
The clear water also makes it an excellent choice for scuba diving. Swimming, kayaking, sailing, boating, and other water sports make Green Lake a popular destination for all lovers of water activities.
After reading this list, you may have decided to make your next holiday destination one of the best lakes in Wisconsin. There’s something about each of these beautiful lakes to excite your friends and family members. So whether you will be boating, bringing your fishing rod or water skis, start planning and get packing!