Skip to site content
group travel leader select traveler small market meetings

Waterfront Wisconsin

The soul of Wisconsin can be found on its waterfronts.

Few other states in the Midwest enjoy the kind of natural beauty and peaceful settings that come from Wisconsin’s rich and varied waterfronts. The state enjoys its position alongside two of the Great Lakes — Michigan and Superior — and visitors get stunning views of both at various cities and towns along the coastlines. Smaller lakes throughout the state lend waterfront charm to inland destinations as well.

For some of the best experiences that Wisconsin has to offer, take your group on a trip to these five waterfront destinations in the southeastern part of the state. This itinerary begins in Milwaukee and then follows the shore of Lake Michigan north to the scenic Door County peninsula and back down to Green Bay. From there, it continues south to the state capital, Madison, which is situated between two lakes, before ending in the charming resort town of Lake Geneva. From there, it’s a short trip back to Milwaukee to head home.

Lakefront Fun in Milwaukee

The long and beautiful shore of Lake Michigan is the defining characteristic of downtown Milwaukee, and it presents a number of ways for visiting groups to enjoy the water and the views.

Groups that visit the city should take advantage of the numerous ways to get out on the lake. Edelweiss Cruises offers a number of sightseeing and entertainment cruises on the lake and the Milwaukee River, including dinner cruises, city skyline cruises, brunch cruises and themed outings such as pirate cruises and murder mystery excursions. Another company, the Milwaukee Boat Line, operates narrated history and architecture cruises, as well as live music cruises and other excursions.

The Lake Michigan shore is also home to some of the city’s best visitor attractions, among them the iconic Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World Wisconsin. There are several beautiful parks and public beaches on the lakeshore as well.

While you’re there: During the summer, Milwaukee hosts some of the country’s largest outdoor festivals. Plan your trip to coincide with the food, live music and cultural performances during Summerfest, German Fest or Irish Fest, the world’s largest Irish heritage event.

Scenery Defined in Door County

Driving a couple of hours north of Milwaukee will bring Wisconsin travelers to Door County, the state’s long peninsula jutting out into the lake. Vacationers from throughout the Midwest have long treasured Door County for its small-town charm and gorgeous scenery — it is brilliant in the fall — and groups from all over the country will enjoy its laid-back vibe and rustic natural beauty.

The small towns up and down the peninsula feature bed-and-breakfasts, boutique shops, wineries and more visitor favorites. But the area’s best feature is its natural scenery. Visitors can discover some of the best views of Lake Michigan and its small islands from lookout points in Peninsula State Park or take in miles of sandy formations from atop the observation tower at Whitefish Dunes State Park. And at Cave Point Park, visitors can kayak into sea caves carved out by the lake’s crashing waves.

While you’re there: About seven miles off the northern tip of the Door County Peninsula, Washington Island is inhabited by about 650 people and is accessible only by boat. Groups can take a ferry ride over and then hop on the Cherry Train tram for a tour of the island and encounters with some of its fascinating residents.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.