Used for centuries for work, commerce, sustenance, shipping, transportation, and of course leisure, Lake Michigan is 22,000+ square feet of pure freshwater playground, perfect for just about any water sport or activity you can imagine.
Getting on the water will give you a new perspective of the land and its beauty as well as get you closer to places only accessible by boat, such as islands (including Rock), caves, cliffs, bluffs, and lighthouses. Here are just a few ways to get out and get on the water to take advantage of all the lake and other local waterways have to offer.
Check out the very end of this article for new guidelines for the 2020 boating season.
Rent a power boat, pontoon boat, or jet-ski
Ever dreamed of getting in a boat and sailing into the sunset? Here’s your chance.
Door County has numerous boat rental companies that can help you get on the water so you can explore Lake Michigan or an inland lake by boat and see the county from the water.
Some rental places also offer water sports equipment, such as tubing, snorkeling, fishing, rafting, and wakeboarding gear. Rent by the day or half day.
Set sail from a picturesque marina
If you have your own boat and you’re seeking somewhere to store it and/or launch from, Door County has many marinas that can fit the bill. Nearly every town in the region will offer some kind of marina or formal boat launch, so no matter where you’re staying, there’s likely to be one nearby. Plus, they’re often located near town, so you won’t be far from restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses for fulfilling your post-water needs.
The area’s marinas are known for their full-service offerings as well, so do a little research if you want one that offers equipment and gear rentals, repair services, boat and parts sales, weather monitoring, electrical or water hook ups, pump-out service, Wi-Fi, and other amenities.
Take a dreamy sailboat ride
Just the wind, the water, the sails, and the horizon: that’s it. Everything else will melt away the second you step aboard and sail Lake Michigan’s vast waters.
A sailboat ride is great for all kinds of trips, including family-friendly vacations, romantic getaways, and small-group visits. The area has several sailboat operators, so find one that suits your style and hit the waves.
Let a fishing charter lead the way
If you’ve got walleye, bass, salmon, whitefish, or trout on the brain, look no further. A charter is the ideal way to get out on the lake if it’s a guided fishing adventure you seek. Not only do you get to fish with professionals who can help you find and catch the kinds of fish you want, you get access to their professional-grade equipment like boats, poles, tackle, navigation, and safety gear.
Local charter companies cater to all kinds of fisherpeople, from serious anglers and people looking to expand their experience to first-timers and families with kids. Most offer half- or full-day outings.
Sit back and enjoy the ride on a scenic tour
If you’d rather leave the navigating to someone else and you’re in search of stunning views and fascinating hydrographic features, a guided boat tour might fit the bill.
Not only does a ship captain drive the boat, they or a tour guide will point out all the major sights and explain their significance. Be prepared to see islands, rock formations, shipwrecks, lighthouses, caves, bluffs, and remote beaches from right on the water.
Propel your own: kayak, canoe, & SUP
If piloting your boat by your own power sounds like a fun challenge, make plans to rent a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddle board from a local vendor.
Gliding across the water, inches from the water’s surface, is an experience in itself. But there’s nothing quite like a fish knocking on the bottom of your kayak or a dragonfly landing on your paddle during a quiet moment, reminding you of your place in the world. Being in a human-powered boat brings you physically and mentally closer to nature and lets you feel like you are truly a part of it all.
See remote sights on a ferry ride
Cross the famous Death’s Door Strait by ferry to see where many historical ships found their final resting places due to notoriously choppy waters and unpredictable weather. The strait is now perfectly safe to cross via ferry and other boats in good weather, thanks to modern boat technology.
From a ferry, the views of the lake and water are simply unmatched. You’ll get glimpses of Pilot Island and Detroit Island as well as seabirds, plantlife, sapphire blue waters, and seemingly endless horizon.
When you’re in Door County, you’re never far from water, whether it be a river, creek, estuary, bay, or the great Lake Michigan. Getting on the water is easier than ever, even if you’ve never driven a boat or piloted a canoe before. With a little planning, water safety training, and sense of adventure, there’s no limit to what you will discover and discover about yourself on the water.
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