Beacons among the Beauty: The Lighthouses of Door County, Wis.

As the RBG crew heads to Door County, Wisconsin this weekend, it’s likely we’ll take in one or more of “The Door’s” famed lighthouses, 10 beacons set among the natural beauty of the peninsula.

A handful of the lighthouses are easily accessible. Several require a short boat ride for a close-up view, and one, the Potawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island, requires a high level of dedication to see it in person: two ferry rides and a hike. The payoff is substantial, however, as this is the oldest and northernmost lighthouse of Door County.

Please note that some lighthouses are open to the public on a limited basis, and (bring your telephoto lens!) some can only be viewed from a distance.
The Canal North Pierhead Light, Canal Station Lighthouse, Door County, Wis.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

1. Canal Station Lighthouse and North Pierhead Light – 1899 & 1882
The cherry-red color of the North Pierhead Light set against the blue of Lake Michigan makes for great photos. Visitors may walk the pier to get a close-up view of the tower.

Getting there: North of Sturgeon Bay’s Bay View Bridge, turn right onto Utah Street, right on Cove Road, and left on Canal Road.

2. Sherwood Point Lighthouse – 1883
Visits to this lighthouse, the last manned lighthouse on the Great Lakes, are discouraged; it serves as a vacation rental for active members of the U. S. Military. Tours are offered to the public only once a year, during the Door County Lighthouse Walk the third weekend in May.

Getting there: Perched on top of a 30-foot limestone bluff, this lighthouse is located on the bay-side entrance to Sturgeon Bay harbor.

Cana Island Lighthouse on a foggy morning. Photo by Charish Badzinski. 

3. Baileys Harbor Range Lights – 1869

These two lighthouses are located within the Ridges Wildlife Sanctuary. The architecture is unique, and the front range light is especially beautiful in structure, with a square footprint and an octagonal top.

Getting there: From highway 57 north of Baileys Harbor, turn east onto Ridges Road and follow it to the parking lot of the Ridges Sanctuary. A public trail leads to the range lights.

4. Old Baileys Harbor Light – 1852

This, the only bird cage-style lighthouse remaining on the Great Lakes, is visible from Anclam Park in Baileys Harbor. However, now that it is on private property, it is not open to the public for tours. You should be able to snap a photo for your scrapbook, but if quality is what you’re looking for, you’ll need a good lens.

Getting there: Anclam Park is located on the east side of Hwy 57 in Baileys Harbor. Looking east from Anclam Park across the harbor, watch for the lighthouse, which can be seen on the east side entrance of the harbor.

5. Cana Island Lighthouse – 1869

The morning I visited the Cana Island Lighthouse, it wore a shroud of fog. In fact, the entire island was invisible to visitors crossing from the mainland, and I felt as if I were walking into a cloud. Once on the island, only a spooky ghost of a shape rose out of the mist. It was a breathtaking sight, but one that is surely just as beautiful on a clear, sunny day.

Getting there: Take County Z north of Bailey’s Harbor to Cana Island Road. You must cross a rocky path to the island on foot. Admission.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wis.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

6. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse – 1868
Set within the beautiful Peninsula State Park, this stone-sided lighthouse has a storybook charm to it. Tours are available for an additional fee.

Getting there: Take highway 42 north of Fish Creek to Peninsula State Park. Park rangers will direct you to the lighthouse. Admission.

7. Chambers Island Lighthouse – 1858
Open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Boat tours to this lighthouse are also available during the Door County Lighthouse Walk the third weekend in May.

Getting there: Public boat trips to Chambers Island are not offered, with the only access being via private boat or chartered boat tour.

8. Pilot Island Lighthouse – 1858

Seagulls call this lighthouse home these days, but in its heyday this lighthouse was considered to have the loudest foghorn in the Great Lakes, audible 40 miles away.

Getting there: Barely visible from the Washington Island Ferry, closer views of this lighthouse are available by charter, or during Door County Lighthouse Walk boat tours, held annually the third weekend in May.

9. Plum Island Range Lights – 1895
Now falling into disrepair, the upper range light is still charming and photogenic. Snap pictures while you can; while natural decay can create character, the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation listed this among the Most Endangered Historic Properties in 2000.

Getting there: Located off the northern tip of the Door County peninsula, this lighthouse is visible from the Washington Island Ferry, and you can nab a decent photograph from that distance. Charters are also available.
To get to the Pottawatomie Lighthouse, you’ll have to take a car ferry, a passenger ferry, and hike
Rock Island, pictured here. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
The Pottawatomie Lighthouse, Rock Island, Door County, Wis.
Photo by Charish Badzinski. 
10. Potawatomie Lighthouse – 1836

Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse, this light has been completely renovated and tours of the lighthouse grounds, keepers’ quarters, lighthouse tower and lantern room are available from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. This is a real treat for lighthouse aficionados.

Getting there: Take the ferry to Washington Island. From Jackson Harbor on Washington Island, take the passenger-only Rock Island Ferry. Once on Rock Island, a one-mile trail hike will lead you to the lighthouse.Want more? Door County hosts an annual lighthouse festival, a must-do for lighthouse lovers. The 2012 Door County Lighthouse Festival is slated for June 8-10. 

Portions of this article were originally published in Coulee Region Women magazine, and are republished here, with permission. 

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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Creative Commons License
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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