Five miles beyond the tip of the Door Peninsula sits Washington Island, where wilderness, beaches, and small town living combine for an honest-to-goodness escape from your daily cares.
You’ll begin to unwind even before you arrive – courtesy of a long and winding road. To make your way from the mainland to Washington Island, take the Door County Coastal Byway. You’ll pass through forest and farmland, quaint towns and villages as you drive up towards Gills Rock. There, you’ll reach a particularly wonderful section of Highway 42. Designated a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, this stretch winds snakelike through a forest of northern hardwood, aspen, oak, and pine.
Highway 42 will take you right to Northpoint Pier, where you and any friends or vehicles you’re traveling with can catch a ferry to the island for a day trip or an overnight. Be sure to check the ferry schedule in advance. (Being stranded, even in a beautiful place, can undo some of that relaxation….)
As soon as you arrive on Washington Island, you’ll find life moves at a more peaceful pace. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of options for fun. Here are a few to get you started:
- Rent a bike. Viking Biking offers both electric and “Huffy Puffy” (regular) bikes. Island Rides offers guided tours and will deliver a bike right to the ferry dock for you.
- Go to the beach. This being an island, you have a few beaches to choose from. Our top pick? Schoolhouse Beach. We promise you won’t get sand in your shoes – the beach is made up of smooth limestones, and is one of only five like it in the world. It’s the best swimming spot on the island, and great for picnics too.
- Ride a horse. Field Wood Farm offers trail rides, lessons and family “groom and learn” time with rare – and hypoallergenic – Icelandic horses.
- Visit a lighthouse. Take a guided tour of the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse. It’s just over the water, in Rock Island State Park. The ferry to tiny Rock Island departs from Jackson Harbor. Again – be sure to check the schedule before setting out.
- Get a birds-eye view. Head to Mountain Park & Lookout Tower, where a climb of 186 steps will be rewarded with beautiful views of the island and surrounding waters. This is another excellent picnic spot. And yes, the picnic tables are at ground level.
You’ll have plenty of food options to keep you fueled up for island fun. If you’re planning on picnicking, stop into the Danish Mill to stock up on fresh deli sandwiches and – since you’re on vacation – a kringle. When it’s time for an ice cream break, head to the Albatross Drive-In, a Washington Island institution. And for dinner, try K.K. Fiske Restaurant, home of the “Fish Mortician.” Their daily catch includes lawyers and whitefish. That’s “lawyers” as in the cod-like fish also known as burbot.
Whether you end your night on the private beach at the Sunset Resort, on the wrap-around porch Frog Hollow Farm Bed & Breakfast, or at any of the island’s other historic hotels, cottages, or campgrounds, be sure to make time to look up at the sky. Far removed from the bright lights of more populated areas, Washington Island offers awe-inspiring stargazing, for a magical end to a truly fun and relaxing day.
Plan your own Washington Island getaway.