Door County Lighthouses: 3 You Can’t Miss in Sturgeon Bay

What’s the best way to take in all the rich maritime history and seasonal beauty that Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula has to offer? How about a bird’s eye view from atop one of many historic Door County Lighthouses?

More than a few of these historic landmarks were built over 100 years ago, and – although fully automated – are still in operation by the United States Coast Guard today. This means that public tours aren’t possible on a regular basis. Once a year, however, you’re in luck!

25th Annual Door County Lighthouse Festival

On June 8-10, 2018, Door County Maritime Museum will celebrate their 25th year of embarking on adventurous varieties of land-based tours and boat excursions that spotlight Door County’s 11 historic lighthouses, including:

  • Pilot Island Lighthouse
  • Plum Island Lighthouse
  • Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
  • Old Baileys Harbor (Bird Cage)
  • Cana Island Lighthouse
  • Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light Tower
  • Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light
  • Baileys Harbor Range Lights
  • Chambers Island Lighthouse
  • Sherwood Point Lighthouse
  • Pottawatomie Lighthouse

The Door County Lighthouse Festival allows visitors access to each beacons’ storied past, incorporating supernatural events, naturalist narrations, and other intriguing aspects of unique, bygone eras.

Tickets for the Lighthouse Festival are on-sale now! Be sure to secure your chance to view Door County history in a whole, new way.

Door County Maritime Museum will also be holding a photo contest highlighting your favorite Lighthouse Festival scenes and moments through July 1, 2018. You can send up to 10 original photos to for your chance to become one of three lucky winners to receive historic prizes.

Although each beacon has its own interesting – and downright quirky at times – history, we’d like to focus on those we’re most familiar with in our own backyard. Sturgeon Bay is home to three fascinating Door County lighthouses that you won’t want to miss!

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light Tower

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light Tower

This brilliant white, steel lighthouse tower was first constructed in 1899, and stands 78 feet from the ground. The coastal beacon sits ashore the North Pier of the Sturgeon Bay/Lake Michigan ship canal entrance.

At the time of its construction, this tower was unique. Its cylindrical design of reinforced steel, including a cast iron lantern at the top, was a revolutionary concept.

The tower, however, endured years of structural damage due to vibration issues that began to occur shortly after the lighthouse became operational. The wind often shook the structure to the point of disrupting its light function.

Several remedies were attempted over the years, and it was finally cured of this ailment by the construction of steel framework that still exists today.

Its grounds aren’t typically open to the public, but annual tours are offered in summer – and sometimes fall – during the Lighthouse Festival.

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light

Want to check out two Door County lighthouses in one, convenient location? Don’t mind if we do!

Connected to the above mentioned light tower by way of steel walkway, this historic landmark was first constructed in 1881 and is one of the peninsula’s most iconic. It stands 35 feet above the water on the outer pier of the north entrance to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal.

A brick dwelling was built around the original structure to fit multiple light keepers, due to a workload increase around the turn-of-the-century. While this landmark is famous for its bright red paint job, the first renovation project was actually white and was repainted at a later date.

Today, the North Pierhead Light stands as a testament against time as a fully functional light station. It was completely automated in 1972 and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard to this day.

The structure, itself, is closed to the public, but the lower level break wall may be accessed year-round by those dying for a closer look.

Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Built in 1883 as a beacon for ships traveling from Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay, the 35-foot-tall lighthouse tower and brick, two-story keeper’s dwelling reside at Sherwood Point.

The lantern, here, once produced both a fixed white light and a flashing red light, but the bulb intended for the latter was quickly deemed defective. This caused the lighthouse to sporadically stop working, so the bulb was replaced with a Fresnel lens, and a fog signal was added in 1892.

This architectural gem has been in operation by the U.S. Coast Guard since 1941 and wasn’t fully automated until 1983, making Sherwood Point the last manned beacon on the Great Lakes.

Today, the tower and attached keeper’s dwelling are used as a rental facility for U.S. military members looking for a place to recharge their batteries. The grounds can only be accessed publicly during the Lighthouse Festival tour dates.

Tour a lighthouse, then turn the lights out!

We hope you’re able to come enjoy a fun-filled weekend exploring the peninsula’s storied past and marveling at the incredible Door County lighthouses with their scenic landscapes.

But after all of the excitement, why not come relax with us at Bay Shore Inn? We have rooms and amenities to serve your every need and provide a quiet, cozy spot to rest your head – just like the keepers of old.

Make a reservation today!