Ten Ways to Get Out (or in) the Water in Madison

By Shelby Rowe Moyer  | Photo by Mike Rausch

No matter your mood or energy level, there’s an activity for you, from pontoon boat rentals to log rolling to splash parks. Add these to your must-do list and your summer will be anything but ordinary.

Rent a Pontoon Boat

Madison Boats — which has three locations and also rents duck boats, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards — has the hookup for your ultimate day on the water. At its Marshall location in West Madison, you can hop aboard a 12-person pontoon boat and soak up the sun. Rentals start at $200 for two hours and go up to $500 for a full day. Or, book your boat on a weekday for discounted pricing. (Just an FYI, no alcohol is allowed on board, so make time for happy hour afterward.)

Did you know Madison School and Community Resource has three pontoon boats? MSCR has had to adapt their offerings due to COVID, but boat rentals are available through Sept. 30, with limitations on how many participants can be onboard. Visit them online for the most up to date information on restrictions and pricing.

All Aboard the Paddle Pub

If you’re a fan of the boozy bike tours, we’re betting you’ll love this Paddle Pub experience. Up to 16 people can board the paddle pub, which departs from lakefront restaurant Breakwater. Before you take off, grab a to-go drink from Breakwater and then settle into one of the 12 paddle seats. Two-hour private tours are available for $580 and include a $30 gift certificate to Breakwater.

Zip Around on a Jet Ski

If you’ve never done this, consider it officially added to your summer adventure list. Jet Ski Madison offers two-hour or full-day jet ski rentals starting at $160. (You can get your pontoon boat fix here as well.) It’s one of the fastest and most fun ways to cruise the water. Before booking, note that kids need to be at least 16 years old to operate the jet ski.

Paddle Around Olbrich Park

Get a workout in and enjoy the sunshine with paddle board, canoe and kayak rentals from Rutabaga Paddlesports at Olbrich Park. Two-hour rentals range from $25 to $30, making this one of the most affordable ways to enjoy the water. Restrictions are in place to protect the health and safety of staff and customers, so check out Rutabaga’s website before booking your reservation.

If you’re interested in a guided tour, Madison School and Community Recreation offers canoe and kayak trips that range from introductory clinics to advanced excursions. We love the sunset series and the birding by boat trip. Information and registration can be found online.

Kiteboarding Lessons

Want more than a one-time experience? Give kiteboarding a try with lessons from Kite Riders that start at $200 for two hours and go up to a five-hour lesson package for $499. Once you’re a pro, you can hit the water on your own time. Warning, though, we’re betting you’ll get addicted. Once you get good at kiteboarding, you can give foilboarding a try.

A True Test of Balance: Log Rolling

Ok, “American Ninja Warrior” fans, here’s your chance for a mini test of ultimate strength, agility and endurance. The experience is pretty much what you’d imagine: Climb atop a faux log and try to keep your balance. Madison Log Rolling has open rolling sessions available that allow you to test it out on your own, or enroll in lessons for a fun-filled class that’s sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Open rolling is $15 per hour and a one- to two-person class is $45 per hour, with options to add more people.

Just a Splash

Want the benefits of water fun without the extra expense or scheduling? Cypress, Reindahl and Elver Parks all have a splash park with spray toys and fountains suitable for children of all ages. The parks are free to use and are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Labor Day weekend, weather permitting.

Dog Paddling Encouraged at Warner Park Lagoon

These toasty days inspire all of us to cool off, including our H2O-loving doggos. At Warner Park Lagoon, an off-leash dog park on Sheridan Drive, dogs can take a dip. It’s worth noting that the water is not tested by Public Health Madison & Dane County, so it’s recommended that dog owners check the water conditions before allowing their dogs to swim. Also, dog park permits are required.

And, Two Keep it on Your Radar:

The Ultimate Waterfront Porch

Sadly, the Pontoon Porch is closed for the 2020 season, but it’s so cool that we felt it was worth mentioning for next year’s waterfront activities.

If you’ve always dreamed of having a home on the lake, well, this is about as close as it gets. The Pontoon Porch is a two-level boat with a screened-in porch and the capacity to host up to 30 people. Bring your own food and grill aboard the pontoon or simply relax on the porch furniture with something bubbly. We love this option because it’s wheelchair accessible and your pups are more than welcome to join.

Where Hoverboards and Water Meet

Madcity’s Flyboards are so wild looking we’ve got to try it. Flyboards attach to your feet and propel you above the water’s surface or help you dive in like “Aquaman,” according to the company. Madcity Flyboards isn’t taking reservations this year, but check back in 2021 for future fun.

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