Washington Island is the largest of Door County's islands.
In 1815, the island was named "Colonel John Miller Island" after the leader of the first white men to set foot on the island. Later settlers changed the name to honor George Washington.
Many of those later settlers were from Iceland, and today Washington Island is the oldest Icelandic community in the United States.
The island lies northeast of the peninsula just beyond the straits of Death's Door. This name was given to the six-mile-wide passage between Lake Michigan and Green Bay by Native Americans. The name was translated by French explorers as "Porte des Morts" because the treacherous currents and unpredictable wave action claimed war canoes and schooners alike. Today, divers can explore many of the shipwrecks.
Ferries from the mainland, with their views of spectacular bluffs and rocky shores, make the crossing of Death's Door a pleasure for today's passengers.
Once on the island, many visitors take in its leisurely pace and pastoral beauty while bicycling. Others prefer to take their cars, rent mopeds or take a guided tour.
Washington Island offers visitors museums, galleries, full-service marinas, shops, lodging and a golf course.
For more information, contact the Washington Island Chamber of Commerce at (920) 847-2179.
14 SIGHTS TO SEE ON WASHINGTON ISLAND
- Detroit Harbor (ferry dock) - When you arrive, there are several eating establishments, gift shops, a bike and moped rental and tour operators.
- Den Norsk Grenda (two buildings with grass roofs), they were shipped from Telemark Norway. One is a gift shop; the other is a bookshop.
- Business District on Main Road - Insurance Company, the pre-school, the American Legion and Mann's Store (grocery store for over 90 years). Also restaurants, a book store and the newspaper office (Washington Island Observer). Continuing a mile north is Briesemeister's Gallery & Farm (1895), featuring fine arts and sheep.
- Art & Nature Center - Housed in the Island's old school building (1904). Island artists and artisans display their creations; some offered for sale to the public. In addition to the art area, the Center has exhibits depicting the natural and cultural history of the Island. The Center is also used for art classes and sponsors a week-long music festival in the summer.
- Little Lake (at the end of Little Lake Road) Jens Jacobsen's home and the Jacobsen Museum. Maritime and other artifacts are displayed. Step through the gate and take the path to the lake. Jens Jacobsen's home has been restored to its original appearance; the Jacobsen Museum has many artifacts gathered to celebrate the Island's history.
- Schoolhouse Beach - A sheltered harbor with smooth stone beach. The beach got its name from the log schoolhouse built there in 1850. There is a stiff fine for anyone removing stones from the beach.
- Farm Museum - Farm buildings from various locations on the Island are assembled here along with old-time agricultural implements. Wednesdays in summer are family fun days with demonstrations of 19th century crafts along with other activities for children. Small animals and pictures of yesteryear are on display.
- Mountain Park - After the 184 climb step to the top of the tower, several benches are provided for your convenience. From the top of the tower on a clear day you can see beautiful Island vistas, Escanaba, MI, also Rock and St. Martin islands.
- Jackson Harbor - The town dock, a park and a maritime museum. The town dock is the scene of the remaining commercial fishing fleet and also provides dock space for private boats in the summer. The park has trails for enjoying the wildflowers as you hike through the "ridges" natural area. Maritime Museum has artifacts displayed inside and outside the two old fishing sheds.
- Rock Island State Park - A one-mile cruise aboard the "Karfi" from Jackson Harbor to Thordarson Boat House on Rock Island. The island has marked hiking trails, a sand swimming beach, camping and picnic areas. Also Potawatomie Light, the oldest lighthouse on Lake Michigan, built in 1837.
- Trinity Church - First church building was completed in 1930, destroyed by fire in 1947 and rebuilt at same location in 1950. A ship model hangs from the ceiling (a custom in some Scandinavian churches).
- East Side Park - the Island's only county park. It has a sand beach and a picnic area. A short distance offshore you can see Hog Island, a National Wildlife Refuge.
- Sand Dunes Public Beach - A pleasant place to picnic and swim.
- Red Barn - The site of weekly entertainment programs in the summer.
Map of Washington Island .