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The Heartland’s Great Lakes


Courtesy Door County CVB

Door County, Wisconsin

Door County juts into Lake Michigan on the tip of Door Peninsula. With the lake’s open waters to the east and Green Bay to the west, Door County is surrounded by water on three sides, so it makes perfect sense that the county would have 11 lighthouses.

Door County Trolley’s lighthouse tours offer groups an easy way to see more than half of them. The trolley-style buses stop at four locations: Cana Island and Eagle Bluff lighthouses for interior tours and Baileys Harbor Range Lights and Canal Station lighthouses for exterior tours, and visitors will see a couple more lighthouses from afar.

“If you were counting, you would see six different lighthouses at four locations,” said Jon Jarosh, director of communications and public relations for the Door County Visitor Bureau.

The Door County Maritime Museum manages the Cana Island Lighthouse, where visitors can walk the grounds and climb the 97-step staircase to a deck at the top of the 89-foot tower. Docents lead tours of the 1868 Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, perched on a bluff high above Green Bay.

The Door County Maritime Museum operates three locations: the Sturgeon Bay Museum, which is open year-round, and the Gills Rock Museum and Cana Island Lighthouse, which are open seasonally.

At the Gills Rock Museum, guests learn about the area’s commercial fishing history, see replica net sheds stocked with fishing supplies and walk through a wooden tugboat called the Hope. Exhibits also feature items salvaged from shipwrecks and information about the dangerous passage between the peninsula and Washington Island known as Portes des Mortes, French for “Death’s Door.”

Groups can board the 149-passenger Island Clipper and cross Portes des Mortes to spend a day on Washington Island. There, visitors can hop on the Viking Train, an open-air tram that shuttles guests to some of the island’s highlights, such as Schoolhouse Beach, which has smooth, white limestone pebbles rather than sand, and the Stavkirke church, which was modeled after a church built in 1150 in Borgund, Norway.

At the Sturgeon Bay Museum, visitors can explore exhibits about shipwrecks and ship raising, fishing and freighters, lighthouses and wheelhouses. The museum also gives guided tours of the John Purves, a restored 1919 tugboat that worked on the Great Lakes in the 1960s.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.