9 Boat Tours and Rentals in Downtown Milwaukee (2022)

One of the best parts about living in Milwaukee is enjoying the natural beauty of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. And when the weather gets warm, what better way is there to enjoy them than on a boat?

If you don’t own a boat yourself, there are still ample options to get out on the open water with these local boat rental and tour companies.

You’ll get a unique perspective of the city, and see the Historic Third Ward, the Milwaukee Riverwalk, the Hoan Bridge, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World and the city skyline like never before.

1. Milwaukee Duffy


Perhaps the most family-friendly Milwaukee boating option is renting a duffy boat through Milwaukee Duffy.

The manufacturer’s tag line is literally “as easy to drive as a golf cart”, and their staff will help you land and launch the boat. Anyone over 25 with a valid drivers license can rent a duffy.

Photo from milwaukeeduffy.com.

Duffy boats are eco-friendly with zero emissions. They use electricity instead of gasoline. 

A 90-minute cruise rental allows you to do a lap of the entire downtown corridor to see downtown Milwaukee from a new angle. 

They have life jackets in all sizes, and all ages are welcome on the boats. 

The duffy boats are good for a variety of weather conditions with windows that can be easily zipped up and sun decks for enjoying the sunshine.

Bringing your own beverages and food is allowed, and they provide a Yeti cooler and a bluetooth sound system.

2. Edelweiss Cruise and Boat Tours


Edelweiss cruises offer a variety of themed options and private charter opportunities along the Milwaukee River and on Lake Michigan. 

The City Skyline cruise features a DJ, but if you prefer live music you can opt for the Concert Cruise. They also offer “Dinner With A View” dinner cruises that include a chef-prepared meal.

Photo from edelweissboats.com.

Other cruise themes include Sippin Saturdays for the bachelor/bachelorette crowd, Sunday Funday with mimosas, Trivia Thursdays, and a Wisconsin Brat Cruise.

Perhaps best suited for families, Edelweiss offers a historic Milwaukee boat tour in partnership with the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

3. The Milwaukee Boat Line


Explore Milwaukee’s beautiful rivers, harbors, and Lake Michigan aboard the double decker Vista King and Voyageur.

Photo from mkeboat.com

The Milwaukee Boat Line offers great options for cruises, including narrated history and architecture cruises (with one focused especially on historic shipwrecks), as well as cocktail cruises, a summer concert series with live music, and more.

4. Riverwalk Boat Tours & Rentals


Rent a pontoon boat that you can self-captain for half a day or a full day on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. Or, you can book captained private charters for birthday parties, a sunset cruise, or other special occasions . Riverwalk Boat Tours is located in Pere Marquette Park.

5. Boat MKE


Boat MKE allows you to rent a boat for to enjoy for a couple of hours with up to ten people.

You can cruise down the river in style with a 1950’s original restored cruiser that seat up to 4 people comfortably. Or you might opt for a Donut Boat that fits up to 10 people, perfect for a lazy day cruising on the river and enjoying conversation. There are also Classic Cruisers that fit up to ten people.

Photo from boatmke.com.

You can bring your own coolers, drinks, and food. They provide a built-in or wireless speaker.

Boat rentals include a mini tutorial will be given to your party about how to operate the boat, where to stop along the Milwaukee river, and answer any other questions you may have. 

Kids 12 and under are welcome, and need to wear a life jacket.

6. Milwaukee Paddle Tavern


Milwaukee’s Paddle Tavern offers a unique excursion on the Milwaukee River. Load up with up to 14 of your friends and family for a tour of the Milwaukee River. Public tours are 1 hour and 45 minutes long and BYOB. You can also rent a boat for a private tour.

A good option for a family with kids is to rent a Duffy boat to cruise the river. These luxury boats are easy to drive, fit up to 12 passengers, and come with a bluetooth sound system and coolers with ice.

7. Sea Dog Sailing


Sailboat rides in Milwaukee? Check!

Photo from seadogsailingmilwaukee.com

Enjoy a private sailing experience aboard the gleaming white 38 foot sailing vessel Quinn Marie, a 1999 Catalina 380 cruising yacht. View the world famous Calatrava and the city skyline with up to six of your friends and family. You can hop aboard as a guest or a sailor, depending on how involved you want to be.

Bring your own refreshments, snacks, and playlist.

8. Swan Boat Rentals


You’ve probably seen the iconic swan boats driving or walking past Veterans Park. You can rent them through Wheel Fun Rentals.

Each swan boat seats up to five people. You can even go at night on an illuminated LED swan boat.

They are located on the northeast end of Veterans Park, near plenty of parking, as well as restrooms.

9. Milwaukee Kayak Company


Daily kayak, paddleboard, and canoe rentals with Milwaukee Kayak Company are for up to four hours. The weekly guided tours are about three hours long with safety boaters to help guide everyone.

All rentals include a boat (kayak, paddleboard, or canoe), life jacket, and paddle. Life jackets must be worn at all times.

All participants need to be 12+ to paddle their own kayaks. If under the age of 12, then that paddler can share a tandem kayak or canoe with an adult (18+). All participants need to know how to swim.

We hope you loved learning about these fantastic opportunities to get out on the water this season. Let us know if we missed anyone! Our email is hello@mkewithkids.com

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