You can’t miss ‘em. Madison’s lakes are responsible for so much of the city’s beauty, recreation and memories. Even if you’re in the heart of downtown, you’ll have lakes to your right and left. Mendota. Monona. Wingra. Waubesa. Kegonsa. Take your pick!
Top Madison Lake Activities
Paddling: Kayak, Canoe & SUP
We highly recommend paddling as a way to experience Madison’s lakes. And it’s totally fine if you don’t have your own watercraft. Try Brittingham Boats and Wingra Boats to rent a canoe, kayak, row boat, paddle boat, stand-up paddle board or sail boat. Visit Marshall Boats if pontoon boats are more your style. If you’re planning to undertake the Lake Monona Loop adventure — or even if you’re not — swing by Olbrich Park (right along the loop) and rent a kayak, canoe or paddle board from Rutabaga Paddlesports.
Fishing: Where to cast a line
Madison’s a fantastic place to fish. We’re talking perch, crappie, bluegill, walleye, bass and northern pike. But where to go? Try shoreline fishing on Wingra Creek, outside the Arboretum. Or boat to Governor's Island on Mendota's north side. Closer to the Capitol, fish the shore of Monona Bay, with the skyline in view. Seeking something more secluded? Lake Kegonsa or Waubesa are your best bets. Once you’re ready to cast a line, grab a fishing license from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Swimming: Cool off on the Beach
Summer in Madison can be hot. Good thing we have 12 beaches ready to cool you off. Read up on their amenities and choose the spot that has what you’re lookin’ for. Vilas Beach is a kid-friendly favorite, located on Lake Wingra. And Bernie's Beach and Ester Beach Park are two neighborhood spots on Lake Monona.
What better backdrop for outdoor activities than a lake? Big on biking? Try the Lake Monona Loop adventure. Ready to run? Hop on the Capital City Trail that runs along John Nolen Drive. Or follow the Lakeshore Path up to Picnic Point for a great view of Lake Mendota.
Kids in tow? Relax alongside Lake Wingra while they run off energy at Vilas Park, right next to the Henry Vilas Zoo and the UW-Madison Arboretum. Or, grab an adult beverage at the Olbrich Biergarten while they play at Olbrich Park — bordering Lake Monona.
Boating: Cruise or BYO Boat
Got a boat? Bring it to Madison! A complete list of boat landings, along with detailed information about Lake Access Permits from the City of Madison Parks Department, will help you get started. Find more info on Lake Access Permits through the Dane County Parks Division.
Rather sit back and relax? Betty Lou Cruises take you around Mendota or Monona, with drinks and dinner, too. Or hop aboard a pontoon with the Madison School & Community Recreation Boat Program.
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