Dive into the very best boating destinations across the Midwest, with a wealth of data gleaned from thousands of boat rentals.

Table of Contents

The Midwest is often overlooked in discussions about boating paradises, but it holds a treasure trove of scenic waterways waiting to be explored. From lakeside retreats catering to seasoned sailors to rivers hosting epic fishing opportunities, there are many top-notch boating locations in the Midwest. Several states in the Midwest rank amongst the top in terms of the number of boats registered in the state, and Minnesota has the most registered boats per capita in the country.

From Lake Michigan's vast expanse to Lake Geneva’s serene charm, these are the top boating destinations in the Midwest that are well worth a visit during the summer months.

About This Report

By analyzing proprietary booking data from Getmyboat, the world’s largest boat rental marketplace, we compiled this comprehensive report to create a resource for boating enthusiasts, industry stakeholders, and anyone intrigued by the current state of the boating industry and culture in the Midwest region of the United States.

With this report, we aim to provide valuable insights to industry reporters, travelers, key stakeholders, and all others interested in the boating climate in the Midwest as they look forward to the 2024 boating season.

Our Methodology

To develop this report, Getmyboat analyzed thousands of inquiries and bookings of boat rentals and charters in Midwestern cities in the United States.

Data was cleaned to exclude outlier hourly rates and locations with insignificant sample sizes, while rentals were categorized into the significant categories to be evaluated in this report. Data on the average hourly rate, trip price, most popular style of boat, and number of vessels available in each location are included for the top 15 locations to paint a more detailed picture of each city's boating culture.

The Top 15 List

Midwest Boating Cities Map

#1: Chicago

Average Hourly Rate: $416/hour

Average Trip Price: $1,473

Most Popular Style of Boat: Yachts

Thanks to the mighty Lake Michigan, Chicago is the Midwest's top destination for boat rentals and yacht charters. Here, you can enjoy a blend of natural and urban attractions, historical tours, and plenty of space for water sports and boating activities. The city's extensive shoreline, dotted with numerous marinas and docking facilities, ensures convenience and accessibility for boaters during the summer.

Boaters can explore the Chicago River, which meanders through the city's architectural marvels, including the iconic Willis Tower and the historic Wrigley Building. Additionally, the proximity to Navy Pier, with its vibrant array of entertainment options and the serene waters of the Chicago Harbor, enhances the overall boating experience. The contrast of urban skyline views and the tranquility of Lake Michigan’s waters makes Chicago an exceptional destination for boating.

#2: Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota

Average Hourly Rate: $150/hour

Average Trip Price: $716

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoons

Lake Minnetonka, situated in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota, stands out as an exceptional location for boat rentals and yacht charters. This glacially-formed lake spans approximately 14,528 acres, offering a complex system of interconnected bays and channels. The lake's varied bathymetry, with depths reaching up to 113 feet, supports a rich ecosystem, enhancing both the ecological appeal and the fishing prospects for enthusiasts.

Boaters can explore points of interest, such as “Big Island,” known for its summer boat parties, interesting history, and natural beauty. Charming waterfront towns like Wayzata and Excelsior offer waterfront dining, shopping, and cultural attractions. The presence of well-maintained marinas and public docks facilitates easy access and docking in various cities around the perimeter of the expansive lake.

#3: Milwaukee

Average Hourly Rate: $178/hour

Average Trip Price: $470

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoon

Milwaukee, situated on the western shore of Lake Michigan, presents an ideal environment for boat rentals during the summer. The city benefits from its location on one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, which provides expansive navigable waters and diverse aquatic ecosystems. The Milwaukee River, which runs through the city's heart, allows boaters to see urban landmarks such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, with its striking architecture, and the Historic Third Ward, known for its vibrant cultural scene.

Moreover, Milwaukee’s shoreline features parks and recreational areas, such as Bradford Beach and Lakeshore State Park, offering scenic views and relaxing recreational opportunities. The combination of accessible infrastructure, interesting cultural landmarks, and favorable natural conditions make Milwaukee an excellent location for boating.

#4: Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Average Hourly Rate: $110/hour

Average Trip Price: $876

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoons

Made famous by the Netflix series “Ozark,” the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri is a fantastic location for boat rentals, thanks to its extensive shoreline and diverse aquatic environment. Formed by the impoundment of the Osage River, this reservoir spans over 54,000 acres with approximately 1,150 miles of winding shoreline. The lake’s topography, characterized by its coves, inlets, and peninsulas, creates a dynamic and engaging boating experience.

Key attractions accessible by boat include the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the largest state park in Missouri, and Bridal Cave, known for its stunning geological formations. The lake also has waterfront restaurants, marinas, and entertainment venues, enhancing the boating experience.

#5: White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Average Hourly Rate: $70/hour

Average Trip Price: $334

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoons

White Bear Lake, located in Ramsey County, Minnesota, is optimal for boat rentals due to its favorable geographical and environmental characteristics. Notable attractions accessible by boat include the White Bear Lake County Park, which features scenic picnic areas and walking trails, and the historic Fillebrown House, situated on the lake's western shore. Multiple marinas and public boat launches provide easy access, and many calm areas around sandy beaches are ideal for a swim stop during a boat day.

#6: Torch Lake, Michigan

Average Hourly Rate: $120

Average Trip Price: $470

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoon

Torch Lake, located in Antrim County, Michigan, is a stunning destination for boating and swimming. This glacially formed lake is 19 miles long and is renowned for its strikingly clear, turquoise waters, which are called “The Caribbean of the Midwest.”

On Torch Lake, boaters can explore notable attractions such as the famous Torch Lake Sandbar, a shallow area popular for social gatherings and swimming, and the Chain of Lakes Water Trail, which offers interconnected waterways leading to additional scenic destinations. It’s also a popular lake for paddleboarding and kayaking.

#7: Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin

Average Hourly Rate: $120

Average Trip Price: $668

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoons

Lake Winnebago, located in eastern Wisconsin, is a premier destination for boat rentals. As the largest inland lake in Wisconsin, covering approximately 137,700 acres with a maximum depth of 21 feet, Lake Winnebago offers vast navigable waters suitable for various boating activities, including tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and fishing. Pontoon fishing is a very popular activity here, so be sure you have a Wisconsin fishing license before you get on the water.

Notable attractions accessible by boat include High Cliff State Park, which features dramatic limestone cliffs, and the city of Oshkosh, known for its waterfront events and amenities.

#8: Saugatuck, Michigan

Average Hourly Rate: $145/hour

Average Trip Price: $595

Most Popular Style of Boat: Fishing Charters

Saugatuck, Michigan, situated along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, is a prime location for boat rentals due to its unique blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. The Kalamazoo River flows through Saugatuck and into Lake Michigan, providing ideal conditions for boating activities.

Boaters can explore notable attractions such as the Saugatuck Dunes State Park, which features expansive sand dunes and pristine beaches, and the historic Saugatuck Chain Ferry, one of the last remaining hand-cranked ferries in the United States. The waterfront area is dotted with art galleries, restaurants, and charming shops, enhancing the overall boating experience.

#9: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Average Hourly Rate: $272/hour

Average Trip Price: $831

Most Popular Style of Boat: Bowriders

Lake Geneva, located in southeastern Wisconsin, is an exceptional location for boating. It spans approximately 5,400 acres and has a maximum depth of 144 feet. Its clear waters are ideal for swimming, water sports, and relaxing cruises.

Notable attractions accessible by boat on Lake Geneva include the historic Geneva Lake Shore Path, which offers views of grand estates and natural beauty, and Riviera Beach, a popular spot for swimming and relaxation. Well-maintained marinas and public boat launches also ensure easy access and docking convenience for boaters.

#10: Detroit, Michigan

Average Hourly Rate: $125

Average Trip Price: $568

Most Popular Style of Boat: Bowriders

Exploring Detroit by boat offers a unique perspective on the city's iconic landmarks. Cruise past the Detroit Riverwalk, a scenic promenade along the river showcasing views of the city's skyline. Boaters can also navigate towards Belle Isle, a 982-acre island park with lush greenery, fountains, historic structures, and the Belle Isle Aquarium, one of the oldest in the United States. The Detroit River also provides a gateway to the Ambassador Bridge, an architectural feat that connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario.

Another significant sight is the Renaissance Center, a group of interconnected skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline and serve as General Motors' global headquarters. Detroit is a great city to tour by boat during the warmer months.

#11: Traverse City, Michigan

Average Hourly Rate: $150

Average Trip Price: $1,300

Most Popular Style of Boat: Wake Boat

Traverse City, Michigan, sits along the shores of Grand Traverse Bay and offers a wealth of highlights accessible by boat. Boaters can begin their journey exploring the stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where towering sand dunes provide a dramatic backdrop against the blue waters. The bay itself is dotted with islands, such as Power Island and Bowers Harbor, ideal for anchoring and picnicking on a boat.

Traverse City’s vibrant downtown waterfront, visible from the water, features a charming array of shops, restaurants, and the historic Clinch Park, which includes a marina and beach. Boaters can cruise past the iconic Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula, surrounded by lush vineyards and orchards.

#12: Table Rock Lake, Missouri

Average Hourly Rate: $90

Average Trip Price: $560

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoon

Table Rock Lake in Missouri is an expansive reservoir created by a dam on the White River nestled in the Ozark Mountains. This lake provides boaters access to over 800 miles of pristine shoreline, surrounded by rolling hills and dense forests. One can explore the lake's numerous coves and inlets, ideal for fishing, swimming, and anchoring for a peaceful day on the water. Notable sights include Table Rock State Park, which features well-maintained marinas, picnic areas, and hiking trails that extend from the shore into the scenic landscape.

On Table Rock Lake, boaters can cruise past the iconic Showboat Branson Belle, a paddlewheel riverboat offering dinner cruises and live entertainment. This creates a unique visual and cultural experience from the water. The Kimberling City Bridge is also a striking landmark you may notice while boating on Table Rock Lake.

#13: Kabetogama, Minnesota

Average Hourly Rate: $77

Average Trip Price: $210

Most Popular Style of Boat: Fishing Boat

Boating in Kabetogama, Minnesota, offers an exceptional experience within the pristine waters of Voyageurs National Park, an area renowned for its unspoiled natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Here, boaters can navigate through the interconnected waterways of Kabetogama Lake, which is dotted with over 200 islands. These waters are ideal for fishing, with plentiful walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass populations.

Boaters can also visit the historic Ellsworth Rock Gardens, an artistic display of rock sculptures and gardens created by Jack Ellsworth. The park's abundant wildlife, including bald eagles, loons, and occasionally sighted black bears, adds to the allure. Additionally, several campsites accessible only by boat allow for immersive, overnight wilderness experiences.

#14: Fox Lake, Illinois

Average Hourly Rate: $123

Average Trip Price: $308

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoons

Boating in Fox Lake, Illinois, situated in the heart of the Chain O'Lakes waterway system, offers a vibrant mix of natural beauty and recreational activities. Boaters can explore the extensive network of interconnected lakes and rivers, providing everything from calm bays to more bustling channels.

Fox Lake is perfect for various water sports, including water skiing, jet skiing, and paddleboarding. On the lake, one can visit Mineola Bay, home to the historic Mineola Hotel, a century-old landmark. Additionally, boaters can enjoy dining at several waterfront restaurants, offering picturesque views and dock-and-dine options. The Chain O'Lakes State Park, accessible by boat, provides scenic picnic spots, hiking trails, and excellent fishing opportunities with abundant bass, walleye, and muskie populations.

#15: Madison, Wisconsin

Average Hourly Rate: $112

Average Trip Price: $531

Most Popular Style of Boat: Pontoons

Boating in Madison, Wisconsin, is a no-brainer, thanks to the city’s location nestled among four lakes: Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa. Lake Mendota, the largest, is a popular destination for sailing, kayaking, and fishing. It provides panoramic views of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and the striking Memorial Union Terrace.

Boaters can explore Governor’s Island, a lush retreat perfect for picnicking and swimming. Lake Monona, known for its vibrant downtown shoreline, features iconic landmarks such as the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the stunning Capitol Building visible from the water. During the summer, boaters can enjoy concerts and festivals at parks along the lake’s edge. The interconnected Yahara River offers a route between the lakes, perfect for leisurely cruises.

In Summary

No coast? No problem. The Midwest region of the United States is an exceptional area for boating, thanks to its extensive network of lakes and rivers, diverse aquatic ecosystems, and favorable climatic conditions. It’s home to some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, including the Great Lakes, which provide expansive navigable waters suitable for a wide range of boating activities. The region’s humid continental climate, characterized by warm summers and a prolonged boating season into the autumn months, enhances the appeal of renting a boat and enjoying the breeze off the lake or anchoring for a refreshing swim in a calm cove.

About Getmyboat

Getmyboat is the world's biggest and best marketplace for fun, safe, and easy boating experiences of all kinds. Launched in 2013, over 2 million customers have gone boating through the platform, with 180,000+ listings across 184 countries and thousands of 5-star reviews for boat owners and captains. Boating professionals captain 70% of trips, so customers feel safe while they enjoy being together with family and friends on the water.

Citing this Report

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