DayTripper is supported by its audience. When you purchase though links on our site, we may earn a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything additional. I never promote things I haven’t vetted myself.
Washington Island in Door County, WI is a family destination with plenty of things to do for kids and adults alike.
Washington Island is a small island community in the heart of Door County that offers visitors an escape from the ordinary. With just over 500 full-time residents and no stoplights, Washington Island has maintained its sense of serenity and charm while becoming a popular destination for boaters, cyclists, hikers, and artists. Visitors come to Washington Island to enjoy the views of Green Bay from scenic bluffs, explore nearly 100 miles of shoreline on foot or by bike, take in the beauty at one of several art galleries or find solitude at one of many nature preserves and enjoy some bird watching. There are also plenty of restaurants to choose from.
The charming community of Washington Island lies as an island gem, nestled about 7 miles northeast of Door County.
The Island has a year-round population of approximately 783 residents, the island spans across 23.5 square miles.
Washington Island proudly stands as the largest of six islands, which together with Detroit, Rock, Plum, Pilot, and Hog.
This summer we decided to check out Door County’s Washington Island Wisconsin for ourselves. We were a little concerned it would mean we would be trapped on an Island, but instead we found the island offers fun things to do! Here are the best places to visit.
29 fun things to do on Washington Island in Door County Wisconsin
Crossing Deaths Door on the Washington Island Ferry
Traveling to Washington Island begins with a ferry ride. Unless you are flying or taking your own boat, chances are you’ll be taking the Washington Island Ferry.
The 30-minute ferry ride is a lot of fun. The staff is amazing at getting you on board and even handles large RVs like it’s nothing!
The rides is normally very calm through the picturesque bay. But they don’t tell you if you are crossing a channel of water known as Death’s Door. This narrow passage is only 6 miles wide.
But is known to have terrible current. There are a couple of legends about it. One included French traders and Native Americans.
Others say there was a conflict between tribes. In the end, a group of Native Americans tried to cross with birch bark canoes and didn’t make it. The event(s) because so well known, that they called it Death’s Door. Don’t worry, it’s very safe.
Schoolhouse Beach Park
Schoolhouse Beach Park is an iconic destination you have to visit while on Washington Island. Home to crystal blue water, the water is only part of the draw.
Bring your swimsuit, and swim out to the floating diving platform. It is one of 5 beaches in the world that are part of the Niagara Escarpment.
The beach is made of up smooth white limestone rocks. These rocks are protected and it’s illegal to take them from the beach.
Regardless of if you plan on swimming or not, the breath-taking scenic views make it a must see. Park passes required.
Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm
When it comes to Washinton Island, you have to visit the Lavender Farm. It’s probably one of the most sought-after attractions.
The farm produces the world’s finest lavender oil and sells it to various companies around the world. The project also manufactures lavender soap, candles, and other cosmetics.
In addition to their Lavender Market, the farm also has a large collection of lavender growing years. Visitors can walk through the farm and enjoy the fragrant smell in the immaculate rows.
It does cost a small charge per person to enter the main garden. They also have a few rows of lavender out front you can see for free!
Rock Island State Park and Rock Island Ferry
Take a ferry trip from Memorial Day to Columbus Day to this smaller island just off Lake Michigan to the remote Rock Island State Park. No vehicles allowed.
The most dominant feature is the Pottawatomie Lighthouse. The rustic island has walk-in campsites, hiking trails, a swimming beach and shoreline to explore.
Little Lake Nature Preserve
The shallow 24-acre Little Lake is the only lake on the island. It once was home to a large village of Nativameriancs and host a burial ground. The lake is owned by the Door County Land Trust.
One thing I love about Washington Island is how small things are. It’s like things on the mainland were miniaturized. Little Lake Nature Preserve is not much different.
From the road, take the trail 1.25 miles around Little Lake’s northern half, all the way to the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Percy Johnson County Park
Washington Island has plenty of places to hide away. The Percy Johnson County Park is one of them. Filled with a shaded picnic area, all sitting along the east side of the island. Once on the beach, you’ll catch views of Hog Island.
Field Wood Farm Icelandic Horses
Visit and ride on some hypoallergenic Icelantic Horses. Learn about what makes them different from normal horses. Pony Rides and mini lessons are also available for people of every age.
Bird Sanctuary & Butterfly House
The island is home to over 270 bird species including cedar waxwings, black-capped chickadees, red-tailed hawks, and Canada geese.
Numerous hiking trails wind through the island’s woodlands and meadows, providing opportunities for visitors to see rare or endangered species. There are five main bird habitats on the island.
One near the ferry, just west of Sand Dunes Park, north of Percy Johnson Park, near Johnson Harbor, and by the Trinity Evangelical Church.
For kids looking to see more, check out the Butterfly House. Walk through the gardens of Wisconsin’s insectarium. Watch caterpillars transform into butterflies, and learn about their life cycles!
You may even get to release the Monarch butterfly. The Butterfly garden is part of the Bread & Water cafe.
Art & Nature Center
Located in an old schoolhouse on the Northwest corner of the island. the Arts Center and Nature center features an art gallery of local artists.
On the other side of the building is a nature center with live exhibits and hands-on activities for families. You’ll also find a small gift shop inside. Open mid-June-September. Daily Admission is $1 for 12 and up.
Mountain Park Lookout Tower
Looking to get a 360-degree view of the island? You need to climb the 186 steps to the top of the island. The Island is not actually flat but comes to a point right at Mountain Park Lookout.
With the added help of the steps, you’ll be able to see it all. There are picnic tables at the bottom to rest at. Park Pass required.
People’s Park (Best Sunset Viewing Location)
Looking to see an island sunset? Peoples Park on Washington Island is the best place. With views of Green Bay’s scenic shoreline to frame it up.
The park is relatively small but has picnic tables for you to enjoy the view. The park is conveniently located next to Little Lake and the Jacobsen Museum. Pack a lunch and enjoy the views. Park pass required.
Washington Island Farm Museum
The Washington Island Farm Museum is a small, but interesting museum located on Washington Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin.
The museum features various exhibits about the history of farming and dairy production on Washington Island, as well as displays of farm equipment, vintage milk cans, and other artifacts from the island’s past.
The Washington Island Farm Museum has a few animals to feed as well as some fresh lavender donated from the Island Lavender. Open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, and admission is free.
Jackson Harbor Ridges
Jackson Harbor Ridges is a nationally designated wilderness area on Washington Island in Wisconsin. The property was protected in 1984 as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System and encompasses 608 acres.
The scientific area has a beach, dune, boreal, and shore meadows. There are hiking trails, and wildlife including beaver, deer, and bald eagles. The nature trail is open daily. Park pass required.
The Jacobsen Museum is a small, but interesting museum on Washington Island in Wisconsin. The museum contains a lot of Scandinavian artifacts from the 1800s, as well as some Native American items.
The museum also has ship models hand-carved by Jacobsen. Outside of the museums, you’ll find large artifacts from shipwrecks, including a huge rudder from the shipwreck of The Louisiana.
Open daily 10am-4pm Memorial Day Weekend thru Columbus Day weekend and admission is free.
Stavkirke – Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Stavkirke church on Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin is a beautiful example of Nordic architecture.
The church was started with a funding drive by volunteers in 1983, but didn’t finish with construction until 1999. A Stavkirke design is Norwegian.
While Europeans were building their churches out of stone, the Norwegians used wood, made from ‘stavs’ or masts and ribbed rafters.
From the outside to the inside this chuck is impeccably designed with hand carvings The church is open for self-guided tours during the summer months.
Outside the church is a prayer walk through the woods. This stop is one of the best places to see every visitor!
Red Barn Park/Gislason Public Beach
The Red Barn Park is a great place to take kids with its playground. There are picnic tables, grills, and trails. In summer on Friday nights, there is live entertainment by local and visiting artists.
Across the street from the park is a Gislason Public Beach. It provides a scenic backdrop for your park adventure. While there is sand at the beach, I would recommend going down to Sand Dunes Park for swimming instead.
Sand Dunes Park
Sand Dunes park is a beautiful park on the southern end of the island. It’s a great location for swimming in their clean blue waters. Watch the waves roll in on the beautiful white sandy beaches.
The park does have a small walk to get there through the deep sandy dunes Be prepared with appropriate footwear. The park has a small parking lot. Park Permit Required.
Den Norske Grenda
This little Norwegian Village includes two log buildings, build, hand-carved, and brought here from Telemark Norway. They are absolutely stunning.
Inside the buildings is an art shop, with oil paintings and handcrafted wood items, and collectibles. If you love all things Nordic and Norse Mythology, you’ll love this.
Sharing a parking lot with the village is Mann’s Mercantile. They have a little ib to everything inside. This is where you find the largest collection of giftware and souvenirs.
Sweets and fudge can be purchased as well as everyday supplies, like hardware and other things. We were able to pick up a tool to repair our camper inside.
Cherry Train Tour
Getting around the island, you need to check out the Cherry Train Tour. This is perfect for those that want to explore but came over on a passenger ferry.
The tour goes along some of the best highlights of the inland, including the Strvkirke Church, Schoolhouse Beach, and the Farm Museum.
Island Aventure Company
Looking to get around the island in an alternative way? Look no further than Island Aventure Company. They have OTVs , Electric Bikes, Stand-up Paddleboards, and Kayaks.
If you are uncomfortable going in Green Bay Waters without a guy, you can also do a guided Kayak Tour. They also offer boat tours.
Island Rides Bicycle Rentals
Washington Island in Door County has 100 miles of paved roadway. The island’s life speed makes it perfect for bicyclists to get around on the roadway.
Starting at the ferry, follow the bicycle route, on the Main Road, over to Jackson Harbor Road, and back along Town Line Road to complete the loop.
This recommended bike path takes you to some of the top sights on the island. While the island is fairly flat, there are some inclines. Jackson Harbor Soup and Sandwiches
Looking for a great meal with generous portions, all with an amazing view? Jackson Harbor Soup and Sandwiches is absolutely amazing.
When going to any new destination I always ask the locals where to eat. This was their recommendation, and it was by far some of the best food we’ve had. They claim finding the place is half the adventure. Quick tip, it’s off a dirt road just before you get to the Jackson Harbor Ferry.
Jackson Harbor Soup and Sandwiches
Looking for a great meal with generous portions, all with an amazing view? Jackson Harbor Soup and Sandwiches is absolutely amazing.
When going to any new destination I always ask the locals where to eat. This was their recommendation and it was by far soem of the best food we’ve had. They claim finding the place is half the adventure. Quick tip, it’s off a dirt road just before you get to the Jackson Harbor Ferry.
KK Fiske Restaurant & The Grainery
Staying this close to the water, you need to enjoy a little bit of freshly caught fish. KK Fiske Restaurant is amazing with its daily catch.
While one half of the building is a restaurant with family-friendly offerings, the other half is a grainery. They come alive at night with live entertainment.
Looking for a quick bite? Or maybe even a good Burger? You gotta check out the Albatros Drive-In. Serving up Chicago Style hotdogs, brats, fries, and beer-battered onion rings.
They have delicious combinations like Mushroom Swiss and Coboy Burgers and even have MorningStar veggie paddies. They’ve been serving burgers since 1977 and know how to do it right.
While burgers may be their specialty, their ice cream is an amazing treat. Cones, Sundays, splits, and floats. but what really shines is the 60 different flavors of custom-made shakes and malts. Their tropical shake was like a trip to the MN State Fairs Dairy booth.
Island Popcorn Barn
Want a quick treat on the go? Right next to eh Albatros Drive-In is the Island Popcorn Barn. This cutie little bar is popping up fresh corn all day long. with specialty flavors like Churro, Oreo, Movie theatre Butter and so much more.
What I loved about the popcorn was that they were all labeled with allergies. Finally a dairy-free popcorn! They have cheese varieties too, but when you have a little one with allergies, popcorn is always hit or miss.
WIS-CO Washington Island Coffee
Looking for a coffee shop on the island? There are a couple of coffee shops on the island but WIS-CO Washington Island coffee was my favorite. You’ve found it at the WIS-CO Washington Island Cofee shop.
Great coffee with specialties like house special. It’s like heaven in a cup! Freshly made Door County Cherry Chocolate Scones are to die for. The staff is amazing, the store is super cute.
Inside you’ll also see Italian Gelato, Bulk Candy, and Fresh Fudge. outside is a giant chair and some seating too.
Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Pub
Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Pub on Washington Island is a historic tavern famous for its quirky collection of over 10,000 signed dollar bills decorating the walls.
Enjoy drinks, pub food, and soak in the unique atmosphere of this island treasure.
Washington Island WI Campground
Needing an inexpensive stay on the Island? You gotta go to the Washington Island Campground. This is actually the only campground on the island.
With a sand Bottom Pool, Playground, Mini Golf, and Game Room, the kids will be in heaven. They also have horses! The campsites are all nestled into the wooded side of the campground.
Camping on the Island with a Travel Trailer? The first question is yes, an RV can go on the Ferry. They have a variety of different site options, attracting visitors of all camping setups, even equestrian.
Home Rental on Washington Island
Looking to stay somewhere homey? Rent property on the island. There are some great ones sitting along the shoreline perfect for families.
Book your rental today. These are high-demand rentals over the summer. Click here to book.
Other things to know about Washington Island
Visiting a Washington Island Park?
Washington Island requires all visitors to their city parks to have a Park Pass. The fee is used to help support maintaining the parks.
The cost is $5 per person. The park covers admission to the following parks: Gislason Beach, Heritage Trail, Jill J.J. Jorgenson Memorial Park, Jackson Harbor Ridges, and Carlin’s Point entrance of the Ridges, Little Lake, Mountain Tower, People’s Park, Sand Dunes Park, and School House Beach.
Where to get Gas
The Island has one official Gas Station marked on the map, just behind the Merchantile. But there is a second gas station located near the ferry dock as well.
Wifi is spotty on the island. That’s because it’s positioned between two towers competing for your signal. While it’s great to disconnect if you plan on using your phone to navigate, you might get stuck driving a little bit to get a connection.
When you buy your ferry tickets, you should receive a Washington Island Guide, complete with a map. Dont lose it! It didn’t take us long to figure out the Island but it comes in handy when you’re in a dead spot.
Actually, there is non, besides the stars. The island get’s dark at night with limited street lights. Take is slow. Just because you are on an island, doesn’t mean there isn’t wildlife.
Would I go back?
Yes, the tip of the Door County peninsula restored my faith in Island Hospitality. It was a place I even decide dot see what property was for sale there. We all had a great time and is the perfect family getaway.