Seeing the Light: Door County Lighthouses Connect the Past to the Present
Some of the most familiar and iconic sights in Door County are lighthouses. Eleven lighthouses to be exact. The lighthouses are as much a part of the landscape as cherry trees and fish boils. Surrounded on all sides by water, the peninsula has a long and storied maritime history. Since the early 1800’s, lighthouses have played a very important role in keeping intrepid ship’s captains and hearty sailors safe on the often treacherous waters of Lake Michigan.
The Door County lighthouses are among the most interesting and intriguing spots to visit on your vacation. Get yourself settled in your delightful room at Julie’s Motel, unpack at one of the elegant Evergreen Hill Condos, or stow your stuff in a comfortable cottage at Countryside Cottages, all conveniently located in Fish Creek. Don’t forget to fuel up with a delicious breakfast or lunch at Julie’s Park Café, then head out for some lighthouse explorations!
Door County got its name from the tricky stretch of water between Washington Island and the tip of the peninsula at Gils Rock. Early French sailors named it Porte des Mortes or “Death’s Door”. In addition to Death’s Door, all 250+ miles of Door County coastline posed many dangers, with numerous shoals and sandy reefs hiding to snag unsuspecting ships. This explains the abundance of lighthouses lining the shores. Not every one of them is available to tour all year, but there are still some great choices. Let’s start south…
There are three lighthouses in Sturgeon Bay. For 100 years, Sherwood Point lighthouse was manned by a lighthouse keeper. In 1983, it was the last one in the Great Lakes to be automated. Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light is part of a working coast guard station and the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light is located at the entrance to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal.
Head north on Highway 57 to Baileys Harbor and Fish Creek where there are four more light houses. The Old Baileys Harbor Lighthouse (Bird Cage), Baileys Harbor Range Lights, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, and the Cana Island Lighthouse. The Cana Island lighthouse is probably the most famous of all those in Door County, prominently featured in paintings and photographs.
Finally, the last four lighthouses are a bit more inaccessible, The Plum Island Lighthouse, between the northern tip of the peninsula and Washington Island, can be viewed from the ferry. The Chambers Island Lighthouse is only accessible by a boat to Chambers Island. The Pottawattamie Lighthouse can be found on Rock Island, which is accessible by ferry or private boat. Finally, the Pilot Island Lighthouse, that can only be seen from the water. For general information on Door County lighthouses, head to: www.doorcounty.com/experience/lighthouses
For an easy way to see all of the Door County lighthouses in one weekend, attend the twice-yearly Lighthouse Festivals. The Door County Maritime Museum makes all eleven lighthouses available for viewing and run tours. This year’s fall Lighthouse Festival is October 12-13. For more information sail on over to: www.dcmm.org/door-county-lighthouse-festivals.
When you’re done with an enjoyable day of lighthouse explorations, stop by Sweetness for hand-crafted desserts and cocktails or a specialty wine or coffee. Located at Julie’s Park Café from 5:30-11:00pm every night but Tuesdays, Sweetness is Door County’s first and only dessert and wine bar.
Looking forward to chatting with you next time!