Visit Racine, Wisconsin – boating, fishing, biking, and kick scooting

View of the Racine harbor in August 2015

I left Racine, Wisconsin, for the “big city” of Milwaukee when I was 26. Frankly, I never thought of my birth-town as a tourist destination until having spent time in Brittany, France, where we stayed on its stimulating, water-recreational coast.

Like many of the cities in Brittany, Racine (population around 80,000) is small, and is surrounded by even smaller communities. It was once famous for manufacturing, but by the 1970s, most companies folded or moved away. What continues to thrive at a high level, however, thanks to Racine’s city planners, is its Lake Michigan coastline. Today, Racine is a prime recreational area for people who love lakes, rivers, and water-related sports.

View of the Racine harbor in August 2015

Salmon-A-Rama, for example, is a nationally popular fishing contest based in Racine, and in support of it, the charter fishing industry is well established. Further, at river and lake access points around the city, crafts of all sizes and types can be seen, with ramps for canoes, kayaks, and trailable boats.

Partial map of the Racine, WI coastal area on Lake Michigan

Frankly, if you seek old city centers, fine dining, and architecturally unique areas, Racine is not a place to visit. If, however, you want a world-class coastal experience without famous area crowds and prices, Racine is the place for you.

Not only is its coast beautiful, but stunning Milwaukee (with its own parks, coast, and lots of interesting architecture) is just 45 minutes north. Heading south a half hour, coastal Kenosha is there to enjoy, and if you seek even more lake-related things to do, Chicago is an hour further. Racine offers many budget options within a region filled with world-class activities.

View of the Racine harbor in August 2015 looking at the Chancery and the Racine Harbourwalk Hotel

During our last visit, we stayed at The Harbourwalk Hotel. This is a “big city” hotel situated in a small community. Prices are higher here than in other suburban Racine inns, but its location is spot-on perfect for a vacation. Want to bike, stroll, kick scoot, or access your boat or a charter? Just step outside of the hotel’s harbor-facing doors.

Frankly, I do not believe that another waterfront hotel exists between Racine and Milwaukee. Rooms in Chicago hotels with a Lake Michigan view do exist, but there are none with direct access to the lake and their rates are at least twice as much.

The photo above looks east at The Harbourwalk Hotel, with a very popular regional chain restaurant, the Chancery, at its corner. (Note: Dining in Racine is primarily casual, with specialities in pub grub and Italian. Beer flows. Do not, however, expect fine dining. Do expect a good time.)

Where you will find gourmet food is in the city’s Danish-European bakeries. Founded by Danes, among Racine’s first wave of immigrants  after 1865, these are the only bakeries of this type in the world outside of Denmark. Ask for “Kringle.”
View of the boat launch area in the Racine, WI, harbor

There is a long biking/kick scooting/strolling path accessible from the location of the red arrow on the map placed earlier in this article. Some areas require traveling on city roads, but commonly, traffic should not be a problem.

Kick scooting along the Racine, WI, harbor

Although Lake Michigan’s water is chilly,  along it, you can access miles of sandy beach, a large playground or two, a nicely kept zoo, and a beautiful botanical garden. Musical events and other entertainment are regularly held in the area.

The picture below is of a portion of Racine’s long North Beach. To the right is a parking area and playground. To the left, miles of beachy coast leading to the city’s zoo area.

View of North Beach in Racine, WI

Wind Point, at the far north end of coastal Racine County, is home to the famous Wind Point lighthouse and park.  Sign up for the “lighthouse climb” tours, plus roam the property, with its museum and garden, at any time. Somewhat nearby is Wingspread, which is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed conference center of the Johnsons Wax Foundation. In Racine proper, visit the very popular SC Johnson Corporate Center, home to Wright’s famous SC Johnson Research Tower and related architecture.

Windpoint, WI Lighthouse


A little bit of research will easily reveal the wonders of Wisconsin’s coastal areas, including its shores from Milwaukee, to Racine, to Kenosha. These links will help you along.

Nearby destinations:

Kringle and Danish Bakeries (listed in order of our preference, but all are good):


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This article and photos are by Karen Little. Posted August 27, 2015 on Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at