Door County’s 300 miles of shoreline, much of it rocky, gave need for lighthouses so that 19th and early 20th century sailors could safely navigate the lake and bay waters around the Door Peninsula and surrounding islands. Today, these lighthouses are majestic landmarks offering compelling, heroic and sometimes tragic stories for anyone willing to listen.
There are 11 lighthouses in Door County. The most accessible lighthouses are: Cana Island Lighthouse, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse (offers daily guided tours), Canal Station Lighthouse and Baileys Harbor Range Lights. These lighthouses are accessible by car and visitors are welcome. Additional tours are available by Naturalist, Trolley, and Scenic Boat Tours.
For greatest access to the lighthouses, attend the Door County Maritime Museum Lighthouse Festival, held the second weekend in June. www.dcmm.org/lhw.html
Baileys Harbor Range Lights
Built in 1869, automated in 1972. For 100 years, these lights were used to gain safe entry into Bailey’s Harbor. When the upper and lower lights were lined up, sailors knew they were in safe waters.
Cana Island Lighthouse
Built in 1869, automated in 1944, Cana Island Lighthouse remains an active navigational aid. It’s also one of Door County’s most recognizable lighthouses and landmarks thanks to painters and photographers. Located on a small island just offshore, the grounds can be reached by walking across a gravel causeway. The keepers’ house, oil house and tower are available open for tours May through October.
Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light
The original pier head light was first lit in 1882, in 1903, the current structure was built combining the light tower and fog signal into one building. An active mavigational aid, this lighthouse may be seen from Sturgeon Bay Canal Park, immediately to the south of the canal.
Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light
Built in 1899, automated in 1972. This Coast Guard operated station is located at the mouth of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. Grounds are opened to the public during the Lighthouse Festival in June.
Chambers Island Lighthouse
Built in 1858, automated in 1961. The lighthouse is open for self-guided tours on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day when a caretaker is in residence. Public boat service is not available, so the only way to reach the island is by private vessel or boat charter. The lighthouse is also reachable by special boat tours during the Lighthouse Festival in June.
Built in 1868, automated in 1926. The Door County Historical Society has restored this structure in Peninsula State Park and turned it into a living museum. Tours are operated through the third weekend in October. A state park sticker is required.
Old Baileys Harbor (Bird Cage) Lighthouse
Built in 1852 and closed in 1869 following the construction of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights.
Pilot Island Lighthouse
Built in 1858, automated in 1962. A narrated boat tour passes the lighthouse as part of the Lighthouse Festival in June.
Plum Island Lighthouse
Built in 1895, automated in 1969. A common sight for those taking the Washington Island Ferry or Island Clipper. A narrated boat tour passes the lighthouse as part of the Lighthouse Festival in June.
Built in 1836, automated in 1956. The grandfather of Door County lighthouses, it sits on what now is a state park. Rock Island and its lighthouse are reachable by ferry from Jackson Harbor on Washington Island.
Sherwood Point Lighthouse
Built in 1883, automated in 1983. This Sturgeon Bay lighthouse was the last manned lighthouse on the Great Lakes. The facility is now used as a private retreat house for Coast Guard personnel. Grounds are opened to the public during the Lighthouse Festival in June.