Looking for things to do on Washington Island, Wisconsin, all year round?
The thumb of Wisconsin, also known as Door County, has thousands of attractions that appeal to every type of traveler. Hikers can adventure through the magnificent state parks. Beach vacationers can relax on the sandy coast of Lake Michigan. Shoppers can buy souvenirs in the cute tourist shops.
There is truly an activity for everyone.
Just past the tip of Door County, you can board a ferry to visit Washington Island. Regardless of the type of traveler you identify with, Washington Island will meet all of your expectations.
Here are ten of the best things to do on Washington Island, Wisconsin, all year round.
1. Washington Island Ferry Line
To reach Washington Island, you must take a brief — and beautiful — 30-minute ferry ride.
The Washington Island Ferry Line is located at the tip of Door County, right at the end of Highway 42. For a fee of $14.00 per adult, $7.50 per child (ages 6-11) and $27.00 per vehicle if you choose to bring your car, you can board the enjoyable float.
There are also options to board the ferry without a vehicle. You can rent bicycles and mopeds near the dock on the island, but I recommend bringing a car so you can quickly cover all of the things to do on Washington Island.
When you’re on the ferry, feel free to step out of your car (with caution) and walk upstairs to the viewing deck. You’re going to pass several small Alaska-like islands, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.
(If you get motion sickness, I suggest bringing medication or peppermint oil to rub behind your neck. I swear by this Migrastil Migraine Stick for helping nausea.)
As your anticipation builds to explore this island, you will be graced by light reflections bouncing off the crystal-clear water and peeking through the forestry upon arrival.
2. Washington Island Stavkirke
Once on the island, drive eight minutes inland to the Washington Island Stavkirke, a replica stave church that was built by local carpenters who wanted to depict the island’s vast Scandinavian heritage.
The church hides in the woods directly across from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.
After you cross the boardwalk that leads to the church, your eyes will be drawn immediately toward the details of the structure. Four wooden dragons extend over the ship-like staves. Detailed Norwegian carvings are on every wall and post to represent the ancient mix between paganism and Christianity. And a multitude of small wooden shingles endlessly scale the roof.
The church itself will make you feel as if you’ve landed in a medieval childhood fable or Norwegian monastery, surrounded by a quaint birch trees and evergreen forests, meditation benches, cross-country ski trails and prayer paths.
Either way, the Washington Island Stavkirke will quench your thirst for international travel, making it one of, if not the best of, things to do on Washington Island.
3. Stavkirke walking and prayer trail
As briefly mentioned, the stavkirke walking and prayer trails are surrounding by a multitude of evergreens, birch trees, meditation benches, Norse artistry and prayer stations.
These peaceful trails are intended for reflection and prayer by drawing you deeper into the quiet forest. Each winding path leads you to engraved plaques holding scriptures of encouragement and intention.
4. Schoolhouse Beach
Less than ten minutes away from the stavkirke, on the northern side of the island, lies Schoolhouse Beach — an iconic location. Cool off in the lake during the summer months and soak in the breathtaking view here — literally.
This rocky shoreline is a rarity. Unlike an ordinary beach, perfectly smooth white rocks line the crystal clear water instead of sand. Schoolhouse Beach is one of few of its kind on in the entire world.
Not only does this beach hold uniqueness in its white shore, but Schoolhouse also has several nearby diving sites that allow you to explore a shipwreck dating back to the early 1900s.
5. Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm and Shop (summer things to do on Washington Island)
Next, Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm will fulfill all of your girly, wanderlust, Instagram desires.
Stepping into a field filled with purple, white and green flowers and lavender fragrance might be the last thing you would expect to find in Northern Wisconsin, but, here, we can find this and more.
This lavender farm’s gift shop also offers pastries, refreshments and treats, as well as lavender lotions, perfumes, bath and shower products for purchase.
6. Historic Island Dairy Lavender Field (summer/winter things to do on Washington Island)
The Historic Island Dairy, which still holds its farmhouse charm, was once a thriving dairy business. Now, it’s an event venue and lavender field.
Here, they offer an island history exhibit, art gallery, lavender market and many great views of their lavender fields.
Outside the venue, countless rows of purple lavender lead your eyes toward a small wooden structure in the center of the field — yet another hint of the island’s Scandinavian culture.
This Norwegian-inspired architecture is still used today to dry the lavender during harvest.
Its elaborate craftsmanship (similar to the Washington Island Stavkirke) and pops of color are the center of attention among the aromatic lavender (or against white winter snow).
7. Washington Island Farm Museum
Next, travel back in time to the early 1900s by stopping at the Washington Island Farm Museum.
Take the free self-guided tour and explore a ghostly log cabin, cattle barn, weaving shed, machine shed, log shed, gallery barn and a blacksmith shop, along with many other historical artifacts.
8. Scandinavian restaurants and gift shops
One of the only ways to truly experience the Scandinavian heritage on the island is through shopping and eating at the local restaurants.
9. Percy Johnson County Park
Percy Johnson County Park offers a quaint, quiet, sandy swimming beach, dubbing it an obvious must-do on Washington Island.
Of course, swimming in cold Lake Michigan is only recommended in the summer months. However, you don’t want to skip Percy Johnson County Park if you happen to be on the island in winter.
The winter views of this Washington Island beach are colorful and calming due to the multicolor seaweed, teal waters and bright white snow offshore.
10. Mountain Park Lookout Tower (fall things to do on Washington Island)
Lookout towers are a great opportunity to see Earth from a bird’s eye view. Plus, they often provide the perfect backdrop to family photos.