Way before warm temperatures start to spread across America’s heartland, there are plenty of outdoorsy types who start thinking about the best places for boating in the Midwest. The best Midwest boating destinations offer easy access, good fishing, and family-friendly amenities.
If you’re wondering where to boat or want a list of the best boating lakes in the Midwest, you don’t have to look any further. In fact, these ten boating spots may already sound familiar because they’re the lakes that are frequently mentioned when anyone asks about the best places to go boating in the Midwest.
1. Big Green Lake, Wisconsin
Located in central Wisconsin, Big Green Lake is a natural spring-fed lake that spans close to 8,000 acres and has eight boat ramps. It’s also known for being a prime fishing spot for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout, and panfish.
2. Lake Vermillion, Minnesota
Not only is Lake Vermillion often considered to be one of the top ten most scenic lakes in the Midwest, it’s often cited as one of the best boating vacations because the lake is easy to navigate given its 40,000-acre size. There are numbered channel markers and protected areas where you can seek refuge on windy days.
3. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
While Lake St. Clair is situated partially in Canada, the lake waters within Michigan’s boundaries are a haven for boaters, anglers, and water sports lovers. There are several access points in Michigan, sandy beaches where families can relax, and even a few waterside restaurants with boat docks.
4. Spirit Lake, Iowa
Spirit Lake may be known for excellent smallmouth bass and black crappie fishing, but it’s also a great boating destination considering the fact that it’s Iowa’s largest natural lake at 5,684 acres. That means plenty of water to explore by fishing boat, pontoon boat, or deck boat.
5. Chain O’Lakes, Illinois
Grass, Marie and Nippersink are three of the best places to go boating on the Illinois Chain O’ Lakes waterway. In fact, Chain O’Lakes State Park borders these three natural lakes and offers a number of activities for boaters, anglers and water skiers.
6. Geneva Lake, Wisconsin
The city of Lake Geneva is a Midwest summer vacation hotspot, so you may need to plan a boating vacation here well in advance. There are six state-owned boat ramps that provide access to Geneva Lake in Walworth County. You can trailer your own boat, take a historical boat tour, rent a boat, take a dinner cruise, or head out on a fishing charter boat.
7. Table Rock Lake, Missouri
Located approximately 20 minutes from Branson, Table Rock Lake has 45,000 surface acres of water for you and your family to explore this summer. Access to Table Rock Lake is easy due to the fact that there are 24 boat ramps and over a dozen public marinas.
8. West Okoboji Lake, Iowa
West Okoboji Lake is a natural glacial lake that spans nearly 3,847 acres in northwest Iowa. Sailing, fishing, and cruising are all popular boating activities. Boat access is provided via the ramp at Emerson Bay Recreational Area or near Triboji Beach on the North end of the lake.
9. Tippecanoe Lake, Indiana
This large glacial lake is part of the Barbee Lakes chain in north-central Indiana. Fishing (there are over 25 different species that can be caught on Tippecanoe Lake), cruising, kayaking, and canoeing are among your options on a summer visit to Tippecanoe Lake.
10. Tappan Lake, Ohio
Boating and water sports are the primary draw to Tappan Lake, also referred to as Tappan Reservoir. There is a 399 horsepower limit on Tappan Lake, which is plenty of speed for the recreational boating activities that families can take advantage of here. There are also guided paddle trips along with good fishing opportunities for bluegill, sunfish, or saugeye.
Now all you have to do is take your pick from the best places for boating in the Midwest and start planning your family’s upcoming adventure on the water. Check the OH, IA, IN, IL, WI, MO, MI, MN state pages to find out about any specific boating regulations or laws you may need to know before you go.