There’s nothing quite like experiencing nature on the open water, paddle in hand, traversing a winding river stretch or the wide-openness of a serene lake, and fortunately, Wisconsin is full of rivers and lakes. Below are five of the best kayaking experiences we think Northeast Wisconsin has to offer.
Adventure Outfitters, LLC, Waupaca
Waupaca is home to a set of scenic and contrasting bodies of water, making it the perfect destination whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or are planning your first trip. Adventure Outfitters makes organizing the kayaking journey easy, with daily tours at four water bodies, equipment provided. The Crystal River provides a winding five-mile stretch for a classic river kayaking experience; the Upper Chain O’Lakes are usually powerboat-free and the water is remarkably still, creating a serene, calming atmosphere; the Waupaca River is a slightly more challenging 7.5 mile stretch that will put your maneuvering skills to the test with occasional rapids and rocky areas; and the Tomorrow River has a forested feel that requires navigating around and under trees. Owner Tim Lemke says each river trip provides a distinct and a unique experience, but it’s also important to choose a trip based on your skill level. “My personal favorite is the Tomorrow River, but I’m a really experienced kayaker,” Lemke says. “For the general public, usually I start them with either … the Crystal River trip or … the Upper Chain O’Lakes.” For those who prefer a more solitary or small-group kayaking experience, Adventure Outfitters offers standard and premium kayaks you can use to embark on the rivers independently, with rates ranging from hourly to weekly. For more information, visit adventureoutfittersllc.com.
Dragonfly Paddlers, Shiocton
Outagamie County’s Wolf River spans a sizable portion of Northeast Wisconsin, and while many parts of the river are worth exploring, the 5.5-mile river strip in Shiocton covered by Dragonfly Paddlers’ signature trip provides the ideal Wolf River experience. Heavily forested and isolated, a trip down the Wolf River makes for a quiet escape from civilization, providing a chance to be part of nature in full force. The route is downstream, too, so you’ll half wade, half paddle along the current on kayak, making for an incredibly relaxing voyage that requires much less arm strength than standard trips. SIngle and tandem kayak rentals are available. Visit dragonflypaddlers.com to start planning the trip.
Victorian Village Resort, Elkhart Lake
If you’re planning a multi-day kayaking trip but aren’t in the mood for a campout, or if not all of your group wants to go kayaking, Victorian Village Resort provides not just a memorable kayaking experience, but also a number of other activities to do after a rewarding day on the water. The resort offers several luxurious hotel rooms overlooking the 292-acre Elkhart Lake, a crystal clear, almost turquoise-hued water body that gives the Village a quaint lakeside atmosphere. Judith Salzwedel says the lake itself tends to get overlooked compared to others in Northeast Wisconsin, but it’s a must-see spot for any kayaking or boating enthusiast. “I don’t think everyone knows about it,” Salzwedel says, “but when they do, they fall in love with it.” After taking in the lake, dinner and drinks are within walking distance at the either the on-site Back Porch Bistro or Tiki Bar, which features local performers on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and for a slightly longer walk, Salzwedel recommends checking out the local businesses downtown. “The village itself has a lot of little shops and restaurants and taverns to go and you can walk everywhere, which is really charming,” Salzwedel says. Kayak rentals are available on-site. For information about booking and activities, visit vicvill.com.
Action Marina, Green Lake
As the deepest natural inland lake in Wisconsin and having 29.3 miles of coastline, consider your next kayaking trip at Green Lake for a spacious experience on the vast open water. “Our customers love that … [there’s] plenty of room for water sports activities without ever feeling crowded on the busiest weekends,” says Action Marina Owner Byron Lewis. Action Marina rents out many types of boating equipment, including kayaks, to be used at one of Green Lake’s many boat landings or beyond. Lewis recommends Dodge Memorial Park on the southwest end of the lake, which he says has plenty of scenic grassy areas, grills and a sandy area for swimming before and after the kayaking trip. To see the other ends of the 7.5 by 3 mile lake, you can also start at Deacon Mills Park on the north end or Sunset Park on the east end, along with five other landings distributed around the lake. For more information about the lake’s boat landings, visit dnr.wi.gov/lakes/lakepages/LakeDetail.aspx?wbic=146100, and for renting details at Action Marina, visit actionmarina.com.
Door County Kayak Tours, Fish Creek
Door County is widely renowned for its awe-striking natural geography, so being able to observe impressive lakeside rock formations and caves on the water easily makes the Lake Michigan-based Cave Point County Park and Peninsula State Park, hosted by Door County Kayak Tours, worth the drive. At the cave tour, you’ll get to see and enter a grouping of thousand-year-old coves and caves, obscured from view on land and only visible on water. At Peninsula State Park, you’ll paddle by the massive tree-covered Eagle Bluffs Door County is known for, along with other popular locations such as the Eagle Bluff lighthouse and Eagle Harbor. To schedule a tour, go to doorcountykayaktours.com.