We Tried Boating on Lake Michigan

We loved it so much we did it twice!

What better way to break up a day of back-to-back concerts than a quick spin on Lake Michigan? 

For the second consecutive year, Mercury Marine is offering Summerfest guests free boat rides on the lake. The boats go out every half hour, and guests can take their pick from two speedboats and a pontoon boat. Be sure to drop by the Mercury Marine Go Boldly tent (near the Uline Warehouse Stage) to sign up in advance.  

I checked out the rides yesterday with Hannah Hoffmeister, a fellow intern, and trust me; you don’t want to miss them.

We signed up for a ride on the Hey Day, a glittering green speedboat that took us just over 40 mph. Since we arrived pretty early in the afternoon, we had the boat to ourselves, stretching our legs out on the front seats. 

As the boat gathered speed, the crest of each wave felt a bit like the moment before a roller coaster drops. 40 mph might seem pretty slow when you’re running late to work, but with all of Lake Michigan before you, it’s more like flying. You’ll get the most out of the ride at the front of the boat; you might also get a little wet, but it’s definitely worth it.

We went out again later in the afternoon, this time on the other speedboat, called the Sea Ray (reportedly faster than Hey Day). This time, every seat was filled. Less leg room, but it was worth it to see the reactions of the kids who sat at the prow. 

Their giddy anticipation as the boat slowly left the cove reminded me of family beach trips when I was little, my siblings and I scrambling to stick our faces out the window as we got close, seeking the exhilarating first scent of the ocean. 

The speedboat conjured a similar kind of thrill. “I smell the sea!” One of the kids crowed into the wind. “I smell the scent of the sea!” (I don’t know if I’d go quite that far, but Lake Michigan certainly looks a lot like the ocean.)

Whether you’re looking for a break from the zealous Summerfest crowds or just waiting for your favorite artist to come on, the Mercury boat rides are a great afternoon activity, weather providing. If you’re looking for something a little calmer than the speedboat, the pontoon is a more leisurely trip, still providing the same great views. 

Photo by Elizabeth Johnson



Elizabeth Johnson is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine and a journalism major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.