Well, $15 is quite expensive for a cup of coffee, unless it includes a beautiful ferry ride to Washington Island (with commentary I might add), a gorgeous hike, where afterward, that strong, flavorful cup of coffee will be waiting for you once you arrive at your destination.
I kid. But truly, if you are looking to get on the water and don’t have the budget for a sunset sail, this is the itinerary for you! In reality, Door County doesn’t have to be expensive. There are dozens of activities that will keep your budget in the green and your fun-factor in the red — such as this Morning Boat Ride for $13 ($7 for kids).
Island Clipper to Washington Island
Start your morning in Gill’s Rock boarding the Island Clipper ferry to Washington Island. Also known as the “passenger ferry,” the Island Clipper brings passengers to Washington Island.
If you want to bike the island, the ferry allows you to bring your bikes on board. It’s true Washington Island is not a walking island, so many do bike around, and if that’s your jam, then check out an upcoming itinerary, Biking Washington Island. Today’s itinerary focuses on walking and you’ll only see a portion of the island. The point is to get on the water, experience something interesting and not break the bank.
Upon Arrival Walk to Town
You should have been handed a map of the island, but if not, you can find one here. Lobdell Point Road takes you “downtown” and is approximately one mile — this is your destination for this excursion. There isn’t a sidewalk; you’ll have to walk alongside the road. Never fear, drivers on the island seem to be quite aware of walking families. The island is pretty laid-back and quiet — a far cry from the busier towns you see on the mainland. (Remind me to tell you about the woman who was crossing the landing strip at the Washington Island Airport when someone shouted,“Hey lady, get out of the way! A plane is about to land!”) It’s very pedestrian and bike friendly.
The Heritage Hiking Trail
Along the walk, there is a short hike in the woods called The Heritage Hiking Trail. It’s stroller friendly, and it runs alongside the road. There are pamphlets on either entrance to the path which provide a great learning experience for adults and kids alike. We use this trail whenever we walk as it’s a great way to get off the road and into nature. In the middle of the path is a small meadow. If you’re lucky enough to come at the right time of the year you’ll see a sea of yellow flowers. It’s absolutely stunning. This is a short hike, probably 1/4 to 1/2 mile, pretty easy and kids will love it. If you look at the map, you’ll see the hike pretty much runs parallel to the road. I highly recommend it.
It’s easy to miss the trailhead. Please be on the lookout for it.
The Danish Mill
As you continue on your walk to town, you may see the remains of the Danish Mill. We have fond memories of this quaint little deli. It was a great place to stop and pick up a few deli snacks for picnicking later on. Unfortunately, it was devastated by fire in August 2017. We were extremely saddened to hear about this and hope someday it will be rebuilt and up and running again.
We met Bob Hale here last summer when we ducked inside to get out of the rain. He was quite enamored with Oliver who showed an interest in music and movie history with Mr. Hale.
The Petrol Station
Need a potty break or a little shopping? Here’s your chance!
Now that you’ve come to the intersection of Lobdell Point Road and Main Street, you are officially downtown. You should see the old Post Office (still in operation) and the Red Cup Coffee Shop. I recommend heading to the coffee shop for a nice strong cup of coffee or iced tea. The pastries are yummy and they even have a bit of food. Here’s your chance to relax!
Next door is one of my very favorite bookshops, Fair Isle Books. The owner is super helpful in picking out books for you or your kids. She knows exactly what he or she might like and will spend personal time with them to find just the right book. You can find a lot of wonderful local authors here as well, and the owner features Fair Trade gifts from around the globe.
Across the way is The Albatross Drive-In, featuring burgers, hot dogs, and soft serve ice cream with outdoor seating only.
Relax and enjoy your time here. Even if this is all you do on the island, you will have a great time. I will have other posts written eventually focused on spending a full day on the island. Not far from Downtown are two lavender farms, Island Lavender and Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm. There is also School House Beach featuring limestone rocks, only 1 of three beaches like this in the world. There is a lookout tower. A Bird Sanctuary. Fiddler’s Green Cafe (with live music in the evenings), the Stavkirke (Church of Staves), a Butterfly House, a horse farm, Sand Dunes Beach, People’s Park (a great place to watch the sunset), a farm museum with animals to pet and feed, and of course another ferry trip to Rock Island. You could even charter a boat to Plum Island. Or go paddling! Biking the island would be one of the best ways to see all these things (plan for a full day). Or you can drive (less fun, but less work!). There’s the Cherry Train tour, which is great on warm days. I’m not a fan of it however because you have to stay on a schedule and keep moving.
Leaving Washington Island
One thing to note, pay close attention to when the ferries leave the island. Your captain on the Clipper will worry about you if you don’t show up for the return trip home! He will contact the Washington Island Ferry (the auto ferry) if you miss the last ferry, but even so, the even the Washington Island Ferry doesn’t run late. Miss your ferry and you’ll have to spend the night on the island…and hope there is room at the inn!
Even if all you do is grab a coffee and buy a few books, it’s worth the $13 per adult price tag. Where else can you get a boat ride and a coffee for under $15?
It may be a beautiful day, but it’s always cooler on the lake, especially on your return trip home from Washington Island. Normally you won’t get wet from the water, but check the weather for rain. There a not a lot of places on the island to shop for clothing (the hardware store is probably your best bet for souvenir t-shirts and sweatshirts) and since you’re walking you might want to consider packing a few layers. Luckily the Island Clipper has an interior area protected from wind and rain.
If the wind is too high, the Island Clipper won’t run. If you’re worried, call ahead.
Although locals and visitors are used to pedestrians, try to wear something bright colored.
Did You Try This?
If you do go to the island based on my suggestions, please let me know how it went! I’d love to hear from you!