Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is located on Lake Michigan's western shore. Boating is popular in the Milwaukee area due to its proximity to Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. The city offers access to a variety of marinas, boat launches, and water-related activities, allowing boaters to enjoy sailing, fishing, kayaking, and other recreational water sports. Milwaukee's harbor and waterfront areas provide opportunities for both experienced and beginner boaters to explore the waterways and the Great Lake.

All Getmyboat operators must follow all local boating laws and regulations, including obtaining the necessary registrations, passes, and permits. They must also meet all US Coast Guard and local vessel and captain requirements, use the correct docks and boating areas for commercial activities, and comply with any other stipulations set by local laws and facility regulations. To help, we have gathered the following essential details for boating in Milwaukee.


All motorized boats and sailboats over 12 feet long must be registered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to be used in Milwaukee. Boats without motors or sailboats 12 feet or less do not need to be registered. Once registered, you will receive a certificate of registration, which must be displayed prominently on the boat whenever it is in use on Wisconsin waters. For more information, please visit the DNR website.

Boat Safety Certificate:

Wisconsin law requires anyone born after January 1, 1989, to have a Boat Safety Certificate to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft. This certificate proves that the operator has completed a boater safety course and has the necessary skills to boat safely.

USCG License:

A US Coast Guard (USCG) license is required to operate commercial boats in Milwaukee. The specific type of license needed depends on the type of commercial activity being conducted. For example, a charter boat captain needs a USCG Merchant Mariner's License with a Boatswain's Mate - Operate Small Passenger Vessel Endorsement. A tour boat captain needs a USCG Master's License with a Passenger Vessel Endorsement. For more information, visit the Mariners Learning System website.


To keep your passengers safe, meet legal requirements, and protect your boat rental business, it's essential to get the right insurance. The specific coverage you need may vary depending on your location and factors like your boat's passenger capacity and the activities you offer. Contact our partner, Boat Charter Insurance, for help finding the right coverage for you.

Passenger Pick Up/ Drop Off:

Numerous sites allow for boat drop-offs and pickups for rentals, and here are a few that have designated passenger areas. Before confirming your plans, make sure to check and confirm the pickup and drop-off policies with the marina or dock.

  • McKinley Marina Boat Ramp: Located at E Lafayette Hill Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
  • Bender Park Boat Ramp: Located at E Fitzsimmons Rd, Oak Creek, WI 53154,

Permits and Licenses:

  • Boating / Launch Permit:
      • All boats must have a permit to launch from Milwaukee County Parks boat launches, including McKinley Marina, South Shore Park, Bender Park, and the Milwaukee River launch site. This includes both motorized and non-motorized vessels.More information can be found on the Milwaukee County Parks website.
  • Commercial Fishing License:
      • Those intending to conduct commercial fishing activities in Milwaukee must acquire a commercial fishing license from the DNR. Various types of licenses are offered, tailored to the specific fishing methods and targeted species.
  • Commercial Boat Permit:
      • A permit is required for any business activity on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan, such as renting out boats, fishing from boats, giving boat tours, and towing other boats. You can apply for a permit online or at the Milwaukee City Hall.

Additional Regulations:

  • Commercial boats are restricted to a maximum speed of 35 mph from 8:00 a.m. until sunset and 10 mph from sunset to 8:00 a.m.
  • Commercial boats are prohibited from operating within 200 feet of the shore or within 100 feet of other vessels when moving at speeds higher than "slow-no-wake."
  • Navigational lighting must be displayed on commercial boats between sunset and sunrise and during times of limited visibility.
  • Required safety equipment, including life jackets, fire extinguishers, and sound-producing devices, must be present on commercial boats.
  • Passenger vessels must have a valid passenger vessel inspection certificate from the USCG.
  • Regular inspections by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are mandatory for commercial boats.

Please note, this serves as a brief overview of the main aspects. For further details, reach out to the City of Milwaukee and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.