Boating in Fish Creek, Wisconsin

Fish Creek, WI

Fish Creek, WI

The Nautical North

At the confluence of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, Wisconsin’s Door County serves up an abundance of natural amenities augmented with historical attractions that earned the 75-mile-long peninsula a place on Money Magazine’s list of  “Top 10 Vacation Destinations in North America.”

Perhaps best of all, much of this bounty benefits boaters: 250 miles of shoreline, 40 near-shore islands, 10 historic lighthouses, and five state parks — most with boat ramps. Nestled in the heart of it all is the placid burg of Fish Creek, a wonderful base camp from which visiting boaters can explore all the region has to offer.

First settled in 1853, Fish Creek blossomed after entrepreneur Asa Thorp built the first dock — the only refueling point for ships passing between Fort Howard (today known as Green Bay) and Rock Island — in 1855. In less than 50 years the hamlet had become a significant summer tourist destination.

The village is home to 3700-acre Peninsula State Park and therein the 130-year-old Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. Built in 1868, this restored lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. The park includes beaches, hiking trails, camping and other outdoor activities.

Fish Creek’s oldest unchanged residence is the Noble House, built in 1874 and accepted on the National register of Historic Places in 1996. The town is also home to the Peninsula Players, the country’s oldest professional summer theater. And no visit to Fish Creek could be complete without a gracious meal at the 100-year-old White Gull Inn. While Fish Creek offers plenty to fill your visit, perhaps its most valuable asset to boaters is its central bayside location and easy access to the county’s full roster of amenities, each an easily navigated day trip for any captain.

The longest of the journeys is to the northern tip of the peninsula where you’ll find Washington Island and Rock Island State Park. Washington, the largest of Door County’s islands, is home to the oldest Icelandic community in the United Sates. The island offers two full-service marinas, Kruger’s Kap’s marina and Shipyard Island marina. It’s just a ten-minute ride to Rock Island State Park and the Potawatomi Lighthouse, the oldest in Wisconsin.

Closer to Fish Creek is Sister Bay, which offers quaint shopping and excellent dining. The Inn at Kristofers is waterside, adjacent to the Sister Bay marina, which was renovated in 2004. It offers 35 transient slips and full facilities, except fuel.

Just around the northeastern side of Peninsula State Park is Eagle Harbor and the village of Ephraim. In July the harbor hosts a windsurfing regatta. Ashore, simple, white-painted Moravian architecture discloses the town’s roots. The 1890s-era Anderson Dock is now the must-see Hardy Gallery.

To the south of Fish Creek is the “bustling metropolis” Sturgeon Bay with its charming downtown. The town is home to yachtbuilder Palmer Johnson and the Door County Maritime Museum. Potowatomi State Park faces the bay, which is filled with walleye, northern pike, lake trout and salmon.