Washington Island, WI: Lodging, Dining, Attractions & More

Washington Island is a popular destination in Door County, Wisconsin. This page will help you learn more about:

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Washington Island Lodging

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Collage with the Washington Island Stavkirke, a sunset over Lake Michigan, and a lavender field. Superimposed text says: "Washington Island, WI."

General Information About Washington Island

Washington Island is a beautiful, rural island located in Door County, Wisconsin, United States. It is situated at the northernmost tip of Door County and is the largest of the islands of Door County.


Washington Island has an elevation of 646 feet (197 meters) above sea level.

The latitude and longitude of Washington Island are 45.3784° N, 86.8908° W. Washington Island has a total area of 35.3 square miles (91.3 km²), with a population of 777 residents, making it a peaceful, serene place to live or visit.

Washington Island is a unique and beautiful place, with a wide variety of geographical features that make it a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. The island is located in Lake Michigan, which provides a stunning backdrop for the many beaches, sand dunes, and other natural attractions that the island has to offer.

One of the most notable geographical features of Washington Island is Lake Michigan, which provides stunning views and a wealth of recreational opportunities. The lake is home to a diverse array of fish and wildlife, and it is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities. The lake also provides a beautiful backdrop for the many beaches and sand dunes that are found on Washington Island.

The sand dunes on Washington Island are a particularly notable feature, and they provide a unique and beautiful landscape that is unlike anything else in the world. The dunes are formed by the wind and water of Lake Michigan, and they provide a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including rare and endangered species. The sand dunes are also a popular destination for hiking and exploring, and they offer stunning views of the lake and the surrounding landscape.

In addition to the sand dunes, Washington Island is also home to several beautiful beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and other outdoor activities. The beaches on Washington Island are known for their clean and clear water, as well as their soft, white sand, and they provide a perfect place for families to spend the day.



One of the most famous and unique landmarks on Washington Island is the Washington Island Stavkirke, also known as the “Little Norway” church. This beautiful wooden church was built in the traditional Norwegian Stavkirke style and was dedicated in 1999. The church is a popular tourist destination and is open for tours during the summer months.

Lavender Farm

Washington Island is also home to several farms, including the popular Washington Island Lavender Farm. The lavender farm is a peaceful, idyllic spot that covers over four acres and boasts stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can stroll through the fields of lavender, enjoy the fragrant aroma, and purchase lavender products from the on-site shop. The Washington Island Lavender Farm is open from June through August and offers tours and workshops, as well as a variety of events and activities throughout the season.

Schoolhouse Beach

Schoolhouse Beach is one of the most popular attractions on Washington Island, and it is known for its stunning beauty and unique geological features. The beach is a horseshoe-shaped cove. Instead of sand, Schoolhouse Beach is made up of smooth, rounded stones that were once part of the limestone cliffs, and the beach is famous for its crystal-clear water, which is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water-based activities. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun or a fun adventure, Schoolhouse Beach is the perfect destination.

Popular Activities

In addition to its beautiful landscapes and historic landmarks, Washington Island is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The island is surrounded by Lake Michigan and has several miles of pristine beaches, as well as several parks and nature preserves. Washington Island is a great place to go hiking, fishing, kayaking, and bird-watching.


Washington Island has a rich and diverse history from ancient times until now.

Native Inhabitants

Prior to European settlement, the Potawatomi Indians resided on Washington Island. The Potawatomi were a Native American people who originally inhabited the Great Lakes region of the United States, including present-day Wisconsin. They were known for their agriculture, hunting, and fishing, and were an important part of the cultural fabric of the region.

One of the most significant events in the history of Washington Island was the battle between the Potawatomi and the Winnebago (also known as Ho-Chunk) tribes. The battle was fought over control of the area and resulted in a large number of casualties, with many warriors from both sides losing their lives. This devastating battle led to the passage between the Door Peninsula and Washington Island being known as “Porte de Morts,” or “The Door of the Dead.” The name serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the native people and the impact that their struggles had on the region.

Despite the hardships and loss, the Potawotomi continued to call Washington Island home, and their legacy can still be seen today. The island is home to several historic sites that commemorate the native inhabitants, including burial mounds, petroglyphs, and other artifacts that tell the story of the Potawotomi and their connection to the land.

In recent years, efforts have been made to preserve and protect the native history of Washington Island. The island is home to several museums and cultural centers that showcase the history of the Potawotomi and other native peoples, and many residents and visitors take an interest in the rich cultural heritage of the island.

European Settlement

Washington Island has a rich and diverse history that reflects the influence of many different cultures, including the Europeans who first settled the island. The first European settlers arrived on Washington Island in the mid-19th century, and they came from a variety of countries, including Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Ireland.

Washington Island is particularly famous for being one of the largest settlements of people of Icelandic origin outside of Iceland. The Icelandic settlers brought their traditions, customs, and language, and they quickly established a thriving community on the island. Today, the Icelandic heritage of Washington Island is celebrated through a variety of cultural events and festivals, including the annual Icelandic Festival, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

In addition to the Icelandic settlers, Washington Island was also home to many Norwegians, Danes, and Irish. These settlers brought with them their own unique cultural heritage and traditions, and they made important contributions to the development of the island and its community.

One of the most notable examples of the Norwegian influence on Washington Island is the Washington Island Stavkirke, a beautiful wooden church built in the traditional Norwegian Stavkirke style. The church is a popular tourist destination and a symbol of the proud Norwegian heritage of the island.

The Irish settlers on Washington Island also left a lasting impact, particularly through their contributions to the island’s economy and infrastructure. The Irish immigrants brought with them a strong work ethic and a passion for entrepreneurship, and they helped to build the island into the thriving community that it is today.

Gateway to Rock Island

Picture of the boathouse at Rock Island State Park Door County Wisconsin
The Boathouse at Rock Island State Park, Door County, Wisconsin. Via Hello Door County.

Rock Island is a beautiful and unique destination located just off the coast of Washington Island. The island is home to several stunning natural attractions, including pristine beaches, dense forests, and towering cliffs. Visitors to Rock Island can take a ferry from Washington Island and enjoy a scenic trip to the island, where they can hike, camp, and explore the many natural wonders that it has to offer.

The entire island is a state park. Several miles of trails that lead through the forest and along the shoreline, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The park is also home to a historic lighthouse and a number of picnic areas, making it the perfect place for families to spend the day. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an outdoor adventure, Rock Island is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Washington Island.

Picture depicting the Pottawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island in Door County, Wisconsin
Pottawatomie Lighthouse by Charles Hartman via Wikimedia Commons. Used by permission (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Washington Island Industries

Washington Island is home to several thriving industries, including agriculture, tourism, and fishing. Agriculture is a key component of the island’s economy, with many farmers growing a variety of crops, including cherries, apples, and potatoes. The island is also known for its thriving tourism industry, with visitors coming from all over to explore the island’s stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Fishing is another important industry on Washington Island, with several commercial fishing operations located on the island. In addition to these traditional industries, Washington Island is also home to a number of unique and innovative businesses, including a lavender farm. The lavender farm is a popular destination for visitors, and it offers a variety of products made from this fragrant and soothing herb, including soaps, candles, and essential oils.

Getting to Washington Island

Washington Island is located off the tip of the Door Peninsula and is accessible by ferry from the mainland. The ferry ride from the Peninsula to Washington Island is a scenic and enjoyable experience, taking about 45 minutes one way. Several ferry services operate between the mainland and Washington Island. Travelers can take their cars on the ferry, or they can park their cars on the mainland and take the ferry to the island. Ferry riders are allowed to bring their bikes, and exploring the island by bike is a popular choice. Vehicle rental services are available on the island. Whether you’re coming by car, bike, or foot, getting to Washington Island is an enjoyable experience and will be a highlight of your trip.

Why People Love Visiting Washington Island

Washington Island is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world, and there are many reasons why people love to visit this beautiful and unique location. The island is known for its stunning natural beauty, including pristine beaches, and dense forests, and visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and water sports. Washington Island is also rich in cultural heritage, with a strong tradition of fishing, and agriculture. The island is home to several unique and charming businesses, including a lavender farm and a number of art galleries and shops, making it a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape, an outdoor adventure, or a chance to immerse yourself in local culture and history, Washington Island is the perfect destination for anyone looking for a truly memorable experience.

Frequent Asked Questions

How do I get to Washington Island?

The easiest way to get to Washington Island is by taking the ferry from the mainland. There are several ferry services that operate between the mainland and Washington Island, providing convenient and reliable transportation.

What is there to do on Washington Island?

Washington Island is known for its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, and there is no shortage of activities for visitors to enjoy. Some popular activities include hiking, camping, fishing, and visiting the lavender farm and other unique local businesses.

Is Washington Island a good destination for families?

Yes, Washington Island is a great destination for families. The island is home to several family-friendly activities and attractions, including hiking trails, beaches, and a number of picnic areas. The ferry ride to the island is also a fun and educational experience for children.