10 Bars You Can Boat to in Milwaukee

Rent a boat – or find a friend who owns one – to check out these waterfront bars and restaurants.

Come summertime in Milwaukee, the best kind of friend is one who owns a boat. Experiencing Milwaukee by water is a great way to see the city through a new lens. And since the summer months are fleeting, make the most of the season by eating and drinking your way through waterfront bars and restaurants.

Not just a great city on a great lake, Milwaukee also has three rivers to explore – Milwaukee, Menominee and Kinnickinnic. So if just the thought of waves cresting makes you dizzy, opt for cruising the rivers and enjoy a much more relaxing experience. Plus, the all the best places to stop are along the rivers. 

If you don’t have access to a friend with a boat, rent a Milwaukee Duffy, which conveniently launches from the Boone & Crockett. These electric boats are as easy to drive as a golf cart, or if you don’t feel like driving, there’s a “skipper service” for added fee – well worth it if you plan on testing out each of the 10 bars along the river route. Rates start at $149 per hour and boats can accommodate up to 12 people.

Now get out and make the most of these last few months of warm weather. Starting from south and heading north, all of these fine establishments are accessible by both foot and boat. 


 

 

 

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1. Barnacle Bud’s

1955 S. HILBERT ST. 

This quirky gem is far off the beaten path and much easier to find from the water than the road. During busy weekend hours, finding a slip to dock might be tricky. With a full menu of food and cheap drinks, you can easily waste away an afternoon at this hidden enclave and might even forget you’re in Milwaukee.

2. Boone & Crockett

818 S. WATER ST. 

Making the most of their waterfront property, find kayaks, pedal and paddle taverns, and the infamous Taco Moto truck all in Boone & Crockett’s parking lot. Retreat inside for a cozy spot to sit and a strong Old Fashioned if you need a break from the sun.

3. Sail Loft

649 E. ERIE ST. 

This spot is accessible from the Third Ward Riverwalk and adjacent to a colorful grassy patch, compete with oversized yard games and a Little Free Library. The large bar is a great spot to meet a new friend or just order some apps and ask them to deliver dockside. 

4. Riverfront Pizzeria

509 E. ERIE ST.

Also on the Riverwalk, Riverfront Pizza’s carb-heavy menu is a great place to satiate during a long day of drinking. Enjoy the view of the old railway trestle in the water and stretch your legs a bit out on the patio. 

5. The Starling’s Pier Garden

102 N. WATER ST.

The new kid on the block, where Water and Erie Streets meet, is a private event venue with rotating pop-ups from Tall Guy and a Grill. The Flour Girl and Flame brunch pizza is not to be missed. Watch for other concepts through the year. 

6. Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria

249 N. WATER ST.

For the foodies out there, Blue Bat is a great stop to fill up on dishes inspired by global street food. And there are more than 160 tequilas to try if you’re beer-ed out.

Photo courtesy of Blue Bat

7. Rock Bottom Brewery

740 N. PLANKINTON AVE.

Just past a giant fish mural, find a huge outdoor terrace that’s often filled with people guzzling craft beer and waving at the passing boats. Rock Bottom has a huge menu and great views of the Bronze Fonz.

8. The Harp

113 E. JUNEAU AVE.

The Harp is the place to party. Live music every Sunday and rowdy crowds make this Irish pub a great place to stop if you’re with a group who is ready to let loose.

9. Lakefront Brewery

1872 N. COMMERCE ST.

This northern section of the river feels a bit sleepier, but there is still plenty to see. Dock and stay for one of Lakefront’s famous brewery tours, or maybe enjoy a Friday night fish fry.

Kegnado. Photo courtesy of Lakefront Brewery.

10. Stubby’s Gastrogrub and Beer Bar

2060 N. HUMBOLDT BLVD.

Finally, someone has mastered gourmet bar food to pair with an enormous selection of craft beer – 53 rotating taps, to be exact. Budget a little extra time if you stop so you can enjoy air hockey, shuffle board pop-a-shot and other favorite games before you savor snacks like fried Brussels and pulled chicken nachos.


NOTE: My husband Ramsey Renno, is owner and operator at The Starling. I limited my bias to the Flour Girl & Flame pizza, which we take no part in preparing. Ask anyone, it is truly a slice of heaven. 

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Jenna Kashou is a writer, storyteller and journalist specializing in lifestyle and culture feature writing for print and web. She is a frequent contributor to Milwaukee Magazine, MKE Lifestyle Magazine, The Business Journal and more. She was chosen as the fifth writer in residence at the historic Pfister Hotel where she wrote about and photographed guests and events. A Milwaukee native, Kashou has lived abroad and visited far-flung locales like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina. She has always had an enormous sense of pride for her hometown and spreads this Milwaukee love everywhere she goes.