Soaking in the sun and surf on the beach. Sportfishing in big water. If you live in the Midwest, you might think that you need to fly to California or Florida for these kinds of experiences. But, coastal destinations are closer than you might think. These ten Wisconsin coastal towns are portals to the inland freshwater seas of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
Wisconsin Coastal Towns on Lake Michigan
The most popular coastal towns in Wisconsin are on Lake Michigan. While Wisconsin has coastlines along two Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is closer to the large population centers of Chicago and Milwaukee.
Sturgeon Bay is the water, and the water is Sturgeon Bay. This is why we are listing Sturgeon Bay as the first Wisconsin coastal town you need to visit.
One reason Sturgeon Bay is a great Wisconsin coastal town to visit is because of its strong ties to the maritime industry. Sturgeon Bay is the shipbuilding capital of the Great Lakes. Huge ships pull into the shipyards here for maintenance every year.
A great way to explore Sturgeon Bay’s relationship with the water is through the Door County Maritime Museum. Check out our review of this tourist attraction.
Sturgeon bay is also a great Wisconsin coastal town because it is closest to some of the beaches that become the most comfortable for swimming early in the season. While you might not want to swim on lots of Lake Michigan beaches until July, you can comfortably swim at some of the beaches on the Green Bay side of Door County in June. Check out our comprehensive post on the beaches of Door County to learn more about the great beaches in the area.
Algoma is another great Wisconsin coastal town. In fact, Algoma is one of the most popular coastal towns in northeast Wisconsin.
One thing that sets Algoma apart is that it is the charter fishing capitol of Wisconsin. Throughout the summer months, numerous charter fishing boats head into the deep waters of Lake Michigan in order to catch salmon, steelhead trout, and brown trout.
Algoma is also well known in the area for its beach. When the temperatures in the region get hot, people flock out of the nearby city of Green Bay to line the shores of Algoma.
Algoma is a hidden gem of a town that is well worth a visit. Make sure to check out our post on the best things to do in Algoma to learn more!
As far as Wisconsin coastal towns go, Jacksonport deserves a mention.
One reason is that Jacksonport has a beach right in town. And, this beach is famous because people love to swim here in winter. You heard that right!
Every New Year’s Day, the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club hosts a swim as a fundraiser for local charities. Participate in the swim, and you become part of the club!
Jacksonport is also the gateway town to Door County’s famous Whitefish Dunes State Park. This park preserves fragile ecosystems right along the Wisconsin coast.
Another popular park right by Jacksonport is Cave Point County Park. This park is one of the most popular parks in Door County, and it’s completely free to visit!
Another Door County, Wisconsin coastal town, Baileys Harbor offers several ways to enjoy the Wisconsin coast.
First, Baileys Harbor is a busy charter fishing port in Door County. Like Algoma, charter fishing boats daily ply the waters from Baileys Harbor in pursuit of salmon, steelhead trout, and brown trout.
Second, Baileys Harbor has access to several beaches. Anclam Park in Baileys harbor has a beach. Another popular beach in the area is the Baileys Harbor Ridges County Park Beach. A nice place for a swim, it’s also legendary for another sport: kiteboarding. Kiteboarders love this beach, as it is a safe place to practice their sport, and it also had good wind and wave dynamics.
When you think of a Wisconsin beach town, it’s hard not to think of Sister Bay. Sister Bay is its waterfront, and the waterfront is Sister Bay. It’s hard to think of a more quintessential coastal town in Wisconin than Sister Bay.
The Sister Bay Marina is right in the heart of downtown. This makes Sister Bay a great place for powerboating and sailing.
Also, Sister Bay is a great place to hit the beach. Located on the bay of Green Bay, the waters here will warm up faster than they will on the main body of Lake Michigan. The Sister Bay Beach, located at Waterfront Park, is a popular beach right in the heart of Sister Bay, with lots of restaurants and activities around. Many people enjoy diving off of the pier. If you stay in Sister Bay, you will be able to walk to the beach, and when you need a break from the beach, walk to one of the many businesses in this popular Door County village.
The biggest Wisconsin coastal town, the Milwaukee area offers many opportunities to interact with the Lake Michigan shore.
One really cool opportunity is the Milwaukee art museum. Built right on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Art Museum is one of the most iconic buildings in the city, a modern marvel.
Also, Milwaukee has several good beaches along its Lake Michigan coastline. Bradford Beach is right downtown and has been named one of the top urban beaches in the United States. It has a bathhouse and volleyball nets, and is known for its nice sand.
Another popular beach in Milwaukee is South Shore Beach. A nearby pavilion offers services like restrooms, and it also has sand volleyball.
Known as “Cool City, USA,” Two Rivers is one of the best coastal towns in Wisconsin. One thing that makes Two Rivers such a great coastal town is that its main public beach at Neshotah Park has great facilities such as a beachhouse with showers, changing rooms, and bathrooms.
Two Rivers is also one of the best Wisconsin coastal towns due to its proximity to Point Beach State Park. This state park boasts a lovely beach and a huge, picturesque lighthouse.
Like many of the other Wisconsin Coastal Towns, Two Rivers has a thriving charter fishing industry.
Most Wisconsin coastal towns fly under the radar, but Sheboygan is different. Its position along the Wisconsin coast actually earned it a place in the movies!
The 2005 surfing documentary Into the Blue detailed Sheboygan’s status as the freshwater surfing capital of the world. Yes, you can surf on the Great Lakes. It’s not uncommon to see surfboards on top of cars in Sheboygan.
In addition to freshwater surfing, Sheboygan has multiple nearby beaches for sunbathers and swimmers. Kohler-Andrae State Park has a nice, large beach, as does two local parks: Deland Park (North Beach) and King Park (South Beach.)
Lake Superior Wisconsin Coastal Towns
Even though the most popular coastal towns in Wisconsin are on Lake Michigan, there are also some along the Lake Superior shore.
With stunning views of Lake Superior, Ashland is a hidden gem of a coastal town that is a great place to visit. Ashland has several beaches, many of them with services such as restrooms. The most popular beach in Ashland is Maslowski Beach.
Bayfield is the gateway town to the Apostles Islands National Lakeshore. This is a great place to visit to encounter the islands, the nearby sea caves, and the beaches. Meyers Beach is a popular spot for sunbathers, swimmers, and kayakers.
Most people think of going to the coast only when it is the summer. But, Bayfield is worth visiting in the coldest part of the winter, for two reasons. First, you can visit the beautiful ice caves. Second, you can travel the ice road out to Madeleine Island.
- Wisconsin coastal towns are a great opportunity for a coastal experience without leaving the Midwest.
- Wisconsin coastal towns on Lake Michigan include Sturgeon Bay, Algoma, Jacksonport, Baileys Harbor, Sister Bay, Milwaukee, Two Rivers, and Sturgeon Bay.
- Wisconsin coastal towns on Lake Superior include Ashland and Bayfield.