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20 Unique & Amazing Lighthouses of Wisconsin

20 Unique & Amazing Lighthouses of Wisconsin

A guide to the most amazing and unusual Wisconsin lighthouses on Lake Michigan, in Door County, the Apostle Islands and more!

When I was collecting information to plan my journey in the Badger State, I came across some stunning photographs portraying the lighthouses of Wisconsin.

They made me really curious because they are so diverse. Lighthouses in Wisconsin come in very different shapes, sizes, and colors, but all in amazingly scenographic settings.

Trying to visit all of the Wisconsin lighthouses proved a daunting, but rewarding task!

Do you know that there are more than fifty lighthouses in Wisconsin?

Beautiful lighthouses of Wisconsin, Cana Island Light Station shining at night
Cana Island Light Station

I have put together a list of lighthouses in Wisconsin that are absolutely worth visiting!

You’ll find an assortment of Door County lighthouses, Apostle Island lighthouses, and quite a few amazing Lake Michigan lighthouses.

Whether you are planning a Wisconsin lighthouse road trip, or just want to learn a bit of history, you will fall in love with the amazing lighthouses Wisconsin has to offer!

There are three main reasons why you will love the lighthouses of Wisconsin:

  1. They are great outdoor destinations, and most of them are located close to the most beautiful beaches in Wisconsin, or mountainbike trails in Wisconsin. Enjoy being surrounded by endless water horizons, sometimes in pristine nature, sometimes just a few hundred meters from lively urban centers.
  1. Lighthouses will teach you a lot about the history of Wisconsin, how its cities were born and its economy took off thanks to the navigation on the Great Lakes. From the 1830s on, prosperity depended on these life-saving lights that guided ships to the safety of harbors. 
  1. Take gorgeous pictures and leave your friends and followers gaping. Lighthouses in Wisconsin are never boring. Even those that can only be seen from the outside, have very simple structures or are completely abandoned, still attract and fascinate visitors.
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1. Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

Where: Superior (Lake Superior)

First Established: 1913

Best Lake Superior Lighthouses, Wisconsin Point Lighthouse
Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

This lighthouse made the news in the fall of 2019 when a tech sales executive spent a lofty $159,000 to buy it from the Coast Guard.

Unfortunately, you can no longer enter the oval, two-story keepers’ house or the round lantern tower, but it is worth a visit all the same, especially if you are looking for unique things to do in Northern Wisconsin.

The location is spectacular! Known as Superior Entry, the only gap in a natural, 10-mile (16km) long sand bar close to the southern shore of Lake Superior.

It sits right on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The two parts of the sand bar are called Wisconsin Point and Park Point (Minnesota).

They form a naturally protected inner lake where two harbors have developed: Duluth (Minnesota) and Superior (Wisconsin). 

Lake Superior can be very wild and dangerous in bad weather, so two breakwaters were built at the end of the two points, to offer ships sailing through Superior Entry additional protection.

Watching lake storms in the fall is one of the coolest things to do in Wisconsin in October… but only when you are safe on the shore!

Best lighthouses Wisconsin has to offer, Wisconsin Point Lighthouse at sunset
Wisconsin Point Lighthouse at sunset

To reach Wisconsin Point Lighthouse, you need to walk on the 2000-foot long breakwater. Before that, you need to drive along the 3-mile paved road that runs along the sand bar.

About half of the breakwater is made of huge boulders, so be prepared to do a bit of climbing and wear solid hiking footwear, no sandals or flip-flops!

In the summer, you can enjoy a day on the sandy beaches of Wisconsin Point, hunt for agates and other interesting stones there.

The area is also a bird-watching paradise: if you visit at the end of September, don’t miss Jaegerfest, a birdwatching weekend sponsored by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. 

Bring your own lunch pack, because there is only wild nature here. When you are ready to go back to urban hustle and bustle, Superior and Duluth are less than half an hour away.

Or drive a dozen miles more to visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Northern Wisconsin, the Big Manitou Falls.

Buy here your like a local guide to Wisconsin

2. Sturgeon Bay Lighthouse

Where: Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal (Lake Michigan entrance), Door County

First Established: 1882

Best Lighthouses in Door County Wisconsin, Sturgeon Bay Lighthouse
Sturgeon Bay Lighthouse

Among the lighthouses in Door County, Sturgeon Bay is a famous name.

There are two lighthouses at the mouth of the canal on Lake Michigan: the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Lighthouse and the North Pierhead Light.

One is onshore, a tall white steel tower, the other is out on the lake, a red house with a short tower.

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, 1.3-mile long, was dug in 1880 to provide a safer passage between Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

Before that, ships had to pass the dangerous straits known as “La porte des morts” (“The door of the dead”), about 100 miles to the north, between the tip of the Door Peninsula and the Pottawatomie Islands. 

Today there is an active Coast Guard Station at the mouth of the Sturgeon Canal, and the white onshore lighthouse is part of it.

The station was built in 1899, renovated in 1903, and the light was automated in 1972. The pierhead navigation light was built earlier, in 1882.

Beautiful lighthouses in Door County Wisconsin, Sturgeon Bay Lighthouse at sunset
Sturgeon Bay Lighthouse at sunset

No access to the station and the lighthouses, alas!

But you can walk the lower part of the breakwater (not the steel catwalk above) to get close to the red lighthouse if you take a narrow path that starts close to the parking lot of the Coast Guard below the white lighthouse.

Keep to the left, because that is the “public” side.

Check out the dates of the Door County Lighthouse Festivals (usually one weekend in June and one in October), when you can get the chance to access the Sturgeon Bay lighthouse.

If going in the fall, this is one of the most unique things to do in Door County in October. The bookings must be made well in advance with the Door County Maritime Museum.

Find the Museum in town when you go back to the center of Sturgeon Bay for food, lodging, and entertainment (at the lighthouses there is only beautiful nature).

Don’t forget to admire the 1930 historic steel bridge that still opens when a boat or ship needs to pass. 

If you are traveling with a furry friend, Sturgeon Bay has some of my favorite Pet-Friendly Cabins in Wisconsin. And those on a romantic getaway can visit some of the best wineries in Door County!

Book here the best Door County tours

3. Milwaukee Pierhead Light

Where: Milwaukee harbor (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1872

lighthouses in Milwaukee, Milwaukee Lighthouse at sunset
Milwaukee Lighthouse

There are also two historical lighthouses in Milwaukee. And both of these Lake Michigan lighthouses are absolutely worth visiting.

What I had initially seen in photographs was an impressive Art Deco palace rising from the waters; a five-story, square white building at the end of a pier, assaulted by high stormy waves.

What I actually found was a much smaller, bright red round tower at the end of a lovely walk by the lakeside.

I started from the Milwaukee Art Museum, passed by Discovery World, crossed the Lakeshore State Park, walked by the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, and down the pier at the mouth of the Milwaukee River.

Here stands the red Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse, a 42-feet-tall steel tower built in 1907 to replace the first lighthouse, which was assembled with wood in 1872.

Today the pierhead light works on solar power (it was automated in 1966). It flashes every 4 seconds and can be seen 12 miles out on the lake.

You cannot enter or climb the tower, but the walk is nice and the views of Milwaukee from there are worth the effort.

where to stay in milwaukee downtown, wisconsin, where to stay near milwaukee airport
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, downtown city skyline on Lake Michigan at twilight.

I took some great photos, but what about the white palace on the waves? A local fisherman helped me solve the mystery, pointing at a spot far out into the lake. 

There, across the water, I could see it in the distance: the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse.

Too bad you cannot access it, as the kind fisherman told me. You can only get there by boat, but the Coast Guard will not allow you to disembark on the platform.

A non-profit organization got a free lease for the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse in 2013. Since then they have been trying to raise $2.5 million to restore the building and turn it into a museum and events center.

For the time being, alas, I had to be content to admire it from a distance.

I treated myself to seafood and a great view of the riverside at the Milwaukee Sail Loft, just a few minutes down Erie street from the pier.

There I was lucky to learn about the third Milwaukee lighthouse, only 4 miles away. Read the North Point Lighthouse entry in this guide (nr. 12) to find out more.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other unique things to do in Milwaukee while you’re here.

Book here a sightseeing tour of Milwaukee

4. Sheboygan Breakwater Lighthouse

Where: Sheybogan (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1915

best lighthouses of Wisconsin, Sheboygan Lighthouse
Sheboygan Lighthouse during a storm

The best thing about the Sheboygan Breakwater Light is the long walk to get there, surrounded by water on both sides.

The concrete pathway becomes narrower towards the end, and it can make you feel a bit anxious.

The breakwater is very long but rather low on the lake surface, so if it gets just a little wavy, you will get your feet wet (it happened to me!).

Avoid this little adventure if there are hints of storms approaching because it could be dangerous.

In fine weather, you can notice that the water has different colors on the two sides of the seawall, lighter on the outside, very clear, and full of fish.

things to do in sheboygan wisconsin, sheboygan harbor
Sheboygan

Sheboygan is a well-known fisherman’s paradise, both on Lake Michigan and along the Sheboygan River.

The 55-feet tall round metal tower is bright red but otherwise plain, and since it is still an active navigational aid, you cannot get inside.

The lantern room was removed in the 1950s and replaced by modern plastic optics. On the top, there is also an NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather station.

On your way back, pay a visit to the wreck of the Lottie Cooper, a three-masted schooner that foundered just off Sheboygan’s harbor piers on April 9, 1894.

Part of the hull was washed to shore and since 1992 it has been exposed in Deland Park, behind the Marina.

You can find nice restaurants a little further, on the river banks.

Take the Riverfront Boardwalk at the mouth of the Sheboygan River, after the Yacht Club, walk up the river until the bridge and cross to the South Pier, where there is another boardwalk.

Book here the best Sheboygan vacation rentals

5. Racine Breakwater Lighthouse

Where: Racine harbor (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1901

unusual lighthouses to visit in Wisconsin, Racine Lighthouse at sunset
Racine Lighthouse

Racine is a great place to go for Wisconsin lighthouses! There are three different lighthouses in the area of Racine.

The one that pops up most often when you search for Racine is the lighthouse at Wind Point. Since it is out of town, some 4 miles to the north, I have written a separate description for it (nr. 9 of this list). 

The other famous lighthouse in Racine is “Big Red”, aka the Racine Breakwater Lighthouse, one of the most unique lighthouses on Lake Michigan.

Unmistakable in its shape, slightly pyramidal, the tower stands on long legs, i.e. the lower part of the metal skeleton is visible. 

Big Red’s long life started in 1901 at the end of the North Pier, which was demolished in 1930.

The light tower was then moved to the end of the northern breakwater. In 1987 Big Red risked demolition because the light was discontinued. 

Best Beaches in Wisconsin, Best view for Racine Wisconsin Beach
Racine Wisconsin Beach

But the citizens of Racine would have none of that, so one of the most beloved among the lighthouses of Wisconsin is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement as part of the Reef Point Marina Complex.

Take a walk on the breakwater that you can enter from the parking lot of the Yacht Club (you can also eat there), to pay your respects to Big Red.

You cannot enter or climb the tower, but you can take gorgeous photos of the lighthouse and the Racine lakefront. 

In the center of Racine, where the Root River empties into Lake Michigan, you can still see the original Racine Harbor Lighthouse, on the left bank, side by side with the Life Saving Station of the Coast Guard. 

The tower, rising from an elegant white house with a red roof, is still there, but without a lantern, because the lighthouse was officially decommissioned in 1901. Today it is privately owned and part of Pugh Marina.

While strolling in the harbor area, snatch some local beer in one of the numerous pubs nearby.

Alternatively, find a Danish bakery (Racine has the largest Danish community in the US!) and have some kringles. This originally Scandinavian delicacy officially became Wisconsin’s State Pastry on June 30th, 2013.

Book here the best cabins in Racine

6. Kenosha North Pier Light

Where: Simmons Island, Kenosha (Lake Michigan) 

First Established: 1906

lighthouses on Lake Michigan, Kenosha Lighthouse
Kenosha Lighthouse

Kenosha is blessed by two Wisconsin lighthouses in an excellent state; one of them is a museum and the other an art center!

They are both located on Simmons Island, at the mouth of Pike Creek, and are among the best things to do in Kenosha.

The Pierhead Lighthouse, a 50-feet tower of red metal, was lit for the first time in 1906 at the end of the north pier.

In 2011, Kenosha artist John Burhani and his wife Heather McGee purchased the tower and turned it into the Kenosha Lighthouse Studio. 

Sadly, John passed away in 2015, but Heather continues to manage the studio, and resident artists are welcome there. Exhibitions and concerts are often organized, and visitors are welcome.

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Kenosha pier at sunset

Walk back down the pier to the Southport Light Station Museum, hosted in the 1866 Southport lighthouse and Lighthouse Keeper’s residence.

The 55-feet conical tower is separate from the two-story house. They are both built with Milwaukee Cream City bricks, and from mid-May through October, Thursday to Sunday, you can visit them!

Both buildings were acquired by the City of Kenosha and restored in cooperation with the Kenosha County Historical Society. Today they are the fourth gallery space of the Kenosha History Center. 

Simmons Island has a fantastic beach if you are in for a swim. For food, though, you need to head downtown, where you have ample choice of restaurants and eateries.

While in Kenosha, be sure to do the Kenosha Sand Dunes Trail, one of the best places to hike in Southern Wisconsin.

Another cool thing to do nearby is to take a little trip westward to see a beautiful lake; less than an hour drive away you’ll find tons of great things to do in Lake Geneva.

Book here the best tours in Lake Geneva

7. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

Where: Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek, Door County (Green Bay, Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1868

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

The Door County Historical Society was the first to restore one of the historic lighthouses of Wisconsin, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, as early as 1960. The works took nearly four years.

Since the light had been automated in 1926, there was no longer a keeper and the property suffered from a lack of everyday care.

When the lighthouse was built, in 1868, it was a whole station: a tower and a two-story keeper’s house.

Eagle Bluff is a rather isolated spot, in the northern part of Door Country known today as the Peninsula Park Beech Forest State Natural Area. 

The mission of the lighthouse was to illuminate the islands in the middle of the Strawberry Channel. Perched high on the coast, the light station was known as “The Guardian of the Strawberry Channel”. 

Nowadays you can visit the Eagle Bluff Light Station 7 days a week, from 10:30 am – 3:30 pm, from May to October.

I recommend visiting in September or October if you can in order to enjoy the stunning fall colors in Wisconsin.

But don’t rule out a winter getaway in Wisconsin to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse just yet as winter tours are possible so long as you arrange it ahead of time.

Cool Things to do in Door County, WI, Best view of Peninsula State Park
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is located inside the Peninsula State Park

Do not miss it, you will get a full historical tour, not a simple climb!

The keeper’s dwelling has been meticulously furnished with period pieces to recreate the lifestyle of the families who lived there permanently and cared for the light.

This unusual museum is well worth a visit, and the fee you pay will help the Door County Historical Society continue to care for this special place.

In addition to visiting this amazing lighthouse in Wisconsin, be sure to explore the entire Peninsula State Park, one of the best State Parks in Wisconsin. Take advantage of several panoramic trails and equipped camping sites.

Pay a visit to nearby Ephraim, a picturesque small village founded by Scandinavians, and see its two Steeples, the Bethany Lutheran Church and the Moravian Church.

If you happen to be visiting Fish Creek in October, make time for Jack O’ Lantern Days, one of the best fall festivals in Wisconsin.

Book here the best tours of Door County

8. Devil’s Island Lighthouse

Where: Devil’s Island, Apostle Islands (Lake Superior) 

First Established: 1857

amazing lighthouses of Wisconsin, Devil’s Island Lighthouse
Devil’s Island Lighthouse

Devil’s Island lighthouse is the only one of the Apostle Islands lighthouses still displaying its original Fresnel lens, which had come from Paris in 1901.

Fresnel lenses are the special devices that allow the light to be concentrated in a powerful beam, visible up to twenty miles from the shore.

The lighthouse on Devil’s Island, built in 1989, had to wait three years for its Fresnel to be ready, but it was worth the wait as it’s now one of the best lighthouses Wisconsin has to offer!

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore park decided to put it back in 1992. Previously, the Coast Guard had removed the precious lens to protect it from vandalism.

When I visited Devil’s Island, I was lucky to find one of the Park’s volunteers who helped our group of tourists climb the 80-foot tall white metal tower.

In the summer you can get a guided Wisconsin lighthouse tour, usually 9.00-11.00 or 13.00-16.00.

The sea caves of Devils Island in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior
The sea caves of Devil’s Island in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, near Madeline Island

The two Queen Ann’s houses built a few meters from the lighthouse for the keeper, his assistant, and their families, are still there.

Devil’s Island was the last of the lighthouses of Wisconsin to be automated, in 1978. Until then the keepers lived there permanently.

Devil’s Island is famous for the spectacular caves on its northern coast, just under the lighthouse.

Halls and galleries tunnel in the red and orange sandstone. Kayaking through them is one of the coolest things to do in the Apostle Islands.

You have to find the right tour operator, though, because many of them only offer sightseeing from afar.

There is no proper landing at the lighthouse, only a dock on the southern coast, 1.2 miles away. You can find a tour starting from Bayfield, on the mainland, or from La Pointe, on Madeline Island.

The northern tip of Devil’s Island is the northernmost point of Wisconsin. Very remote, but definitely worth the effort, the trip is spectacular.

Don’t forget to bring your own food, because there is none to be found on the island, it’s completely wild.

Book here the best Apostle Island vacation rentals

9. Wind Point Lighthouse

Where: Wind Point village (4 miles to the north of Racine)

First Established: 1880

Beautiful Wisconsin Lighthouses, Wind Point Lighthouse
Wind Point Lighthouse

Wind Point is one of the rare historic lighthouses on Lake Michigan that are still operational.

The Coast Guard maintains it as an aid to navigation, although it transferred the ownership of the lighthouse and park grounds to the Village of Wind Point in 1997. 

The solemn white tower, built in 1880, is one of the tallest Wisconsin lighthouses, and when it looks down on you from its 108 feet you feel really small!

The keeper’s house is large and well-tended, as are the gardens on the property.

The dwelling was expanded in 1899 to make enough room for three families: those of the head keeper and his two assistants.

When the Village of Wind Point took over, they hired new keepers so there is now a couple living again on the premises! They can give you a tour upon reservation.

There are no other attractions nearby, apart from a lovely beach. However, it’s only 4 miles to Racine or 27 to Milwaukee.

Book here the best vacation rentals in Racine

10. Port Washington Lighthouse

Where: Port Washington Marina (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1849

Beautiful Lighthouses on Lake Michigan, Port Washington Lighthouse at dusk
Port Washington Lighthouse

My lighthouse tour in Port Washington was one of the best: I got two see two impressive historic lighthouses on Lake Michigan a few minutes walk one from the other.

The 1890 Light Station is onshore, while the Art Deco tower, built in 1935, stands at the end of the long northern breakwater (just cross the parking lot to get to the starting point).

The Light Station is managed by the Port Washington Historical Society and hosts its museum.

The lantern room on top is a donation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg from the year 2000 to honor the community of Luxembourg immigrants in town.

If you are interested in a tour, they can be reserved in advance with the museum.

old lighthouses in Wisconsin, Port Washington Station at sunset
Port Washington Station

The Art Deco breakwater tower cannot be entered or climbed, but it is worth the 2500-feet walk out on the water. Just do not attempt it in stormy weather: you do not want high waves to sweep you away! 

The white metal tower stands on a square hollow basement with four large arches instead of compact walls.

Visitors can thus stroll under the lighthouse, which rises 58 feet above the breakwater and 78 feet above the water’s surface.

On top, there is a still active red light that flashes once every 6 seconds.

My visit ended at an Inventors Brewpub, just a few minutes down N. Lake Street. I have a weak spot for local craft beer, and Washington Port is a good location for home brews.

The Port Washington Lighthouse is a great day trip from Milwaukee for anyone interested in the history of Wisconsin lighthouses.

Book here tickets for sporting events in Milwaukee

11. Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

Where: Kewaunee (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1931

unique lighthouses on Lake Michigan, Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse
Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

The Lighthouse in Kewaunee is one of the fortunate ones; there was a non-profit organization created just to take care of its restoration.

The Friends Of The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse, who have been fundraising and doing renewal work since 2015, occasionally organize a tour inside the building (keep an eye on their FaceBook page to find out when). 

I did not get lucky enough to be there on the right date, but I loved the 0.25-mile walk down the South pier to have a close look at one of the most original Lake Michigan lighthouses.

The two-story building splits into two tiny houses on the upper half, while the lower is encased in metal.

The tower with the lantern room was originally separated from the house, but it was destroyed in an accident in 1930. It was rebuilt as an extension of the roof.

In 2011 the City of Kewaunee took over the ownership of the lighthouse from the National Parks Service.

best lighthouses on Lake Michigan, Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse at sunset
Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse at sunset

The Kewaunee Lighthouse is a local icon, and the community is very fond of it. An L.E.D.light has recently replaced the original Fresnel lens: the beacon is still active as a navigational aid.

Walking back from the lighthouse, by the left bank of the Kewaunee River, I discovered one of the ships that participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy!

Well, not really a ship but a tugboat called the Tug Ludington (formerly Major Wilbur Fr. Browder), that you can visit by paying a 5-dollar ticket.

A few more steps and I found some food too, in a place called Port O’ Call, quite nice and with a great view of the harbor.

Kewaunee is a small, family-friendly place, so not a destination for fine dining, but I was satisfied.

Buy here the perfect Wisconsin itinerary

12. North Point Lighthouse

Where: Lake Park, Milwaukee (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1888

Best Lake Michigan Lighthouses, North Point Lighthouse
North Point Lighthouse

North Point Lighthouse is the second of two must-visit lighthouses in Milwaukee.

Climbing the 74-foot tall tower of the North Point Lighthouse is a great way to enjoy a spectacular 360° view of Lake Park, Lake Michigan, and downtown Milwaukee.

However, be warned: there are 84 steps and a further climb up a ladder to reach the lantern room at the top!

Since the restoration in the fall of 2007, this historic site is open to the public for tours and visits to the lighthouse and the keeper’s house, on Saturdays & Sundays, 13.00 -16.00. 

We can thank a group of volunteers, the North Point Lighthouse Friends, formed in 2002 if we can visit at least one of the lighthouses of Milwaukee in its original state.

A $ 1.5-million investment was necessary, and several years of work, before the historic site could reopen, after being decommissioned in 1994.

The metal tower was built in 1888. In 1911 it was lifted and placed on a new 35-foot base of steel plates because the trees around had grown taller than the light!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA - skyline at sunset
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA – skyline at sunset

The lighthouse now is 74 feet tall and really majestic. It’s one of the tallest Wisconsin lighthouses!

The keeper’s house had to be enlarged too. Originally it was planned for one family, but after several upgrades, it hosted three.

This elegant Queen Ann building, known as the Keeper’s Quarter, now serves as a museum gallery. Take the tour and learn about the life of keepers and the history of navigation on the Great Lakes. 

Lake Park, where the lighthouse is located, is a very well-tended green area.

I took a stroll, passed the golf course and the waterfall, and to my surprise, I discovered a spot that offers French fine dining, with an Italian name: Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro.

Milwaukee’s Upper East Side is just across the street, so the North Point Lighthouse can be an excellent starting point for a more comprehensive tour to discover Brew City.

Book here a tour of Milwaukee

13. Neenah Lighthouse

Where: Kimberly Point, Neenah (Lake Winnebago)

First Established: 1945

unique Wisconsin lighthouses, Neenah Lighthouse
Neenah Lighthouse

The same people who gave Kleenex to the world donated the land and the money to build the stunning Wisconsin lighthouse in Neenah.

The Kimberley family, cofounder of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation (Kleenex is their most iconic product), was crucial to the transformation of Neenah into the capital of the paper-making industry at the end of the 19th century.

If you find the name “Kimberly Point Lighthouse”, know that it is the same lighthouse.

Kimberly Point Park, where the tower stands, is the place where the water from Lake Winnebago flows into the Fox River.

The land was donated by Helen Kimberly Stuart to the City of Neenah in 1929, and her brother James later financed the lighthouse project. However, it had to wait until after World War II.

wisconsin lighthouse road trip, aerial view of Neenah, Wisconsin
Aerial view of Neenah, Wisconsin

The elegant white tower is built of brick and Haydite blocks. It was originally forty feet tall, but it was raised to forty-nine feet in 1954. 

A pity you cannot get inside and to the top, but the view from Kimberly Point is breathtaking. Fox River and Winnebago Lake joining create such majestic scenery.

The historic mansions on the Point are a joy to see, so I strolled down North Park Avenue and discovered the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass.

Do not miss this unique collection of works of art, made of glass of all colors and shapes!

For restaurants, you need to go to downtown Neenah. This small city is worth spending a little time on.

You can easily walk or bike across the bridge on the river and visit also the sister city, Menasha, on the other bank, and Doty Island between the two.

Book here the best cabins on Lake Winnebago

14. Cana Island Light Station

Where: East Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, Door County (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1869

best island lighthouse in wisconsin, Cana Island Light Station
Cana Island Light Station

Have you ever tried riding in a hay wagon pulled by a tractor? I have, to visit the lighthouse on Cana Island, one of the most famous Door County lighthouses!

The causeway to the highland is getting flooded more often than usual, owing to high water levels on Lake Michigan.

So the Door County Maritime Museum offers complimentary rides to visitors!

The 89-foot-tall tower can be climbed, usually on weekends. It’s quite a hike to conquer the 97 steps of the spiral staircase and reach the gallery deck.

But the reward is a fantastic view of Lake Michigan and the upper eastern Door County peninsula from one of the best lighthouses of Wisconsin!

Door County, Wisconsin, the beauty of autumn
Door County, Wisconsin, the beauty of autumn

The Museum employs lots of friendly volunteers who show you around the light station, including the home of the lighthouse keeper and his family, and the oil house where fuel for the light was stored.

The life of the keepers meant hard work to keep the light burning every night, from 1870 when the tower was built (can you believe they used lard as fuel in the beginning?) until 1945 when it was automated.

There are three beautiful wetland reserves to visit, near Cana Island: Bailey’s Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area, Mud Lake State Wildlife Area, and the Ridges Sanctuary.

Exploring these amazing wetlands are some of the best things to do in Door County!

There isn’t much else on the island, so for nice restaurants and accommodation, you will have to go back a few miles to Baileys Harbor.

Luckily the cabins in Door County, Wisconsin, are easy to find, and they are very comfortable. There are also a lot of great resorts in Door County for every budget and occasion.

Book here the best vacation cabins in Door County

15. Rawley Point Lighthouse

Where: Two Rivers (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1894

Lighthouses to visit on Lake Michigan, Rawley Point Lighthouse
Rawley Point Lighthouse

If you’re doing a Wisconsin lighthouse road trip, this is a must! At 111 feet, the Rawley Point Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Wisconsin.

The present tower at Rawley Point came from Chicago in 1894. Previously it had been operational on the Chicago River from 1859 to 1893.  

However, there were two earlier lighthouses dating back to 1853.

The older round tower is still visible, with a pointed red roof, as part of the large keeper’s house that resembles a small castle.

The Coast Guard still manages the lighthouse and uses the keeper’s dwelling.

Unfortunately, this is one of the many lighthouses of Wisconsin you cannot visit. Instead, you’ll have to admire it from the nearby beach.

I wanted to see it anyway because it is the only one of this type – a “skeletal” tower with eight sides – and it saved many lives.

Where to visit for a Wisconsin lighthouse tour, Rawley Point Lighthouse
Rawley Point Lighthouse

Before it started operations, 26 ships foundered or stranded on the dangerous shales off this part of the coast. In 1887 the steamship “Vernon” sank with 36 crew members and passengers; none survived.

Remember that you have to buy a state parks admission sticker ($8) because the light station is located within the Point Beach State Forest.

The area is very popular with campers, thanks to miles of hiking and biking trails and sandy beaches, including a good portion of the scenic Ice Age Trail, one of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin.

The Ice Age Trail extends across the state, and it’s also one of the best things to do in Central Wisconsin for fellow adventurers.

Two Rivers, a small riverside town where you can see another interesting lighthouse (see item 20 on this list) at the other end of the Forest, less than 6 miles south.

I recommend biking to and from the lighthouses. It’s a great ride and will allow you to see both of these awesome Wisconsin lighthouses in one day.

Once you are back in town, there are several pubs and restaurants to choose from.

Buy here the best guide to Wisconsin from REI

16. Grassy Island Range Lights

Where: Green Bay harbor (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1872

best door county lighthouses, Grassy Island Range Lights in Green Bay
Grassy Island Range Lights, Green Bay

There are two nearly identical white towers standing side by side in the parking of the Yacht Club, on the right shore of the Fox River, shortly before it empties into Green Bay.

The towers have been moved several times after they were built, in 1872.

Grassy Island, a low sandy strip a mile and a half from the river’s mouth, was their original location – and an obstacle to navigation.

These two sisters are actually range lights, meaning that captains had to steer until they saw them shine one above the other (this is why one is lower) to align with the entrance to the harbor.

In 1966 works to enlarge the channel was going to destroy the tip of Grassy Island and the two range lights.

Luckily members of the Green Bay Yacht Club rescued them and moved them to the yacht club grounds. They were refurbished and placed to their current waterfront location in 1992.

A winter view of the downtown of Green Bay Wisconsin with the court house, catholic church and other buildings in the center of the city.
Downtown Green Bay Wisconsin

Problems were far from over because the ground was slowly sinking beneath the two towers.

They had to be moved, and $3.6 million were raised ($ 2.6 in a single donation by the “David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund”) to stabilize the site. Works began in 2018 and lasted for two years.

Today the towers are back in place in what has become a lovely little “lights park”, with an additional small house and benches.

Apparently, there is no definite program yet to allow access to the buildings, but a walk there is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Green Bay.

Just two miles down the lakeshore, you can visit Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, equipped with a Nature Centre packed full of interesting information on this wetland area.

Green Bay is a larger town with lots of things to see. The Range Lights are in town, so you can easily insert them in your Green Bay itinerary.

The city is worth staying for at least a weekend, and luckily there are plenty of great hotels and resorts in Green Bay to choose from!

Book here the best tours of Green Bay

17. La Pointe Lighthouse

Where: Long Island, Apostle Islands (Lake Superior) 

First Established: 1896

Best Apostle Islands lighthouses, top of La Pointe Lighthouse
La Pointe Lighthouse

La Pointe is classified as one of the Apostle Islands lighthouses, although Long Island, where the light station is located, is not really an island.

The technical term for it is a “spit”, i.e. a long sandbar, in this case, an extension of Chequamegon Point. 

The only way to get there is by boat as there are no access roads. If you want to disembark and walk up to the skeletal metal tower and the large keeper’s house, it gets tricky.

There is no longer a proper landing there because the station has been abandoned for a long while, and the waters around the island are shallow.

The easier solution, the one I used, is a boat sightseeing tour of the area, to get as close as possible. There is no entrance to the buildings anyway.

Things to do in Apostle Islands, WI, Side view of one Island
View of Lake Superior from Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin.

However, at 65.5 feet, this is definitely one of the most impressive lighthouses in Wisconsin if you are able to get a glimpse.

The village called La Pointe is on the island on the other side of the South Channel, Madeline Island. Originally the settlement was a French outpost, later taken over by the American Fur Company.

La Pointe was the first harbor on Lake Superior and needed a lighthouse to help ships navigate the tricky passage between the islands.

The easiest way to book a sightseeing boat tour is to go to Bayfield, where the headquarters of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore and Apostle Island Cruises are located.

Bayfield’s population is less than 500, but there are charming old houses to see downtown.

From Bayfield, you can also do a tour of the waterfalls in Northern Wisconsin as there are dozens of them within just a few miles.

Book here the best Apostle Island accommodation

18. Pottawatomie Lighthouse

Where: Rock Island (northeast of Washington Island, Lake Michigan) 

First Established: 1836

Lake Michigan Lighthouses to visit, Pottawatomie Lighthouse with USA flag
“Pottawatomie Lighthouse” by Sajith T S is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Accommodation Options: Washington Island doesn’t have many options for where to stay, which is good because it keeps the foot traffic down! But if you rather stay on the island than head back to mainland Door County, I highly recommend Steffen’s Cedar Lodge, which offers privates villas and apartments with balconies overlooking the beach.

This trip will make you sweat  – a long journey to get there! – but it is worth the effort if you want to visit the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin!

The first Pottawatomie Light Station was built in 1836, then replaced by the present one in 1858. With a resident housekeeper, its service lasted until 1946 when the kerosene lamp was replaced with electric light. 

The Friends of Rock Island took over the light station, restored it, and transformed it into a museum based on a 1910 historical setting.

The site reopened in 2004 and now offers free tours (donations appreciated!), every day 10.00-16.00, from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

The Wisconsin lighthouse tour guides are volunteer docents who rotate, and they get to stay on the station for a week in exchange for their work!

The place is spotlessly clean, and the house is completely furnished, with plenty of period accessories.

unique places to visit in Wisconsin, rocky coastline of Rock Island Wisconsin
Rocky coastline of Rock Island, Wisconsin

The keeper’s dwelling is a two-story compact building, with a short light tower emerging from the roof.

The lantern room had been removed in 1998. The one we can visit today is the replica built as part of the restoration works.

When I visited this veteran among the lighthouses in Door County, I had to travel along the whole Peninsula, take the ferry to Washington Island and cross it to the end, then reach Rock Island with a second ferry.

After all that adventure, I still had to walk about a mile, because the landing is on the south coast and the lighthouse on the northern tip. Rock Island is a state park, and it allows no cars or even bicycles.

The island was the property of an inventor and businessman of Icelandic origin, who built some impressive stone structures there, like the large boathouse by the ferry dock and a famous water tower.

They go by the name of Thordarson Estate Historic District.

Unless you want to camp, you will have to go back to Washington Island or the mainland to find food and lodging.

I found a couple of great classical Wisconsin cabins with hot tubs on my way back and picked one to wash off the weariness of the long day. Next thing to Paradise!

Book here the best cabins on Washington Island

19. Bray’s Point Lighthouse

Where: Oshkosh (Lake Winnebago) 

First Established: 1910

unique lighthouses in Wisconsin, Bray's Point Lighthouse
Bray’s Point Lighthouse

This small and elegant lighthouse is private and on private property. So use caution and try to ask the owners if you want to visit.

I did not get the chance so I admired it from the shore. In my mind, I renamed it “the senator’s lighthouse” after learning that it was built by former Wisconsin State Senator William Bray in 1910. 

Bray did not succeed in convincing the government that the shallow dangerous reefs just off the shore made a lighthouse necessary.

So he used his own money to buy the land, build the tower and pay for its maintenance. Bray even took the role of keeper upon himself, lighting the lamp each night. 

Later the government recognized that Bray was right because shipping traffic on Lake Winnebago had increased, so they agreed to cover the operational costs of the lighthouse.

Raley’s Point dominates the area where the Fox River flows into the lake.

Today the light shines again, after a period of neglect when it was decommissioned in the 1950s. The owners restored and re-lit the tower in 1986. 

This Wisconsin lighthouse is in the outskirts of Oshkosh, a city well worth a visit since it has as many as 33 listings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oshkosh spreads on both banks of the Fox River and is the seat of the third university of Wisconsin, which probably accounts for the ample choice of places downtown where you can have a good time out.

Book here the best Lake Winnebago vacation rentals

20. Two Rivers Northern Pier Lighthouse

Where: Two Rivers (Lake Michigan)

First Established: 1886

Unusual Lake Michigan Lighthouses, Two Rivers Northern Pier Lighthouse
Two Rivers Northern Pier Lighthouse

Initially, when I walked down the Northern Pier in Two Rivers, I found none of the Wisconsin lighthouses I was promised.

But after a little questioning in the neighborhood, I discovered that I had to go to Rogers Street Fishing Village, half a mile down the river.

I was happy I did because in addition to the lighthouse I found a whole reconstructed historical fishermen’s village – a fascinating local museum with lots of artifacts.

The Coast Guard donated the upper part of the historic wooden lighthouse to the Fishing Village when it removed it from the pier in 1969. The lower part of the structure, first built in 1886, was an open framework.

Now you can comfortably access the lighthouse from a wide new wooden platform and visit it from May to October, 10.00 – 16.00.

The French Side Fishing Village Historic District consists of several buildings: riverfront docking and boat servicing areas, fishing sheds and warehouses, a few retail stores, and homes.

A great way to learn about 175 years of commercial fishing and navigation in Two Rivers and Lake Michigan.

This little town is built where the East and the West Twin Rivers meet and flow into Lake Michigan.

You can decide if you want to have dinner and spend the night here, or move on to larger centers like Manitowoc (7 miles) or Green Bay (35 Miles).

Buy here the perfect Wisconsin road trip itinerary


wisconsin lighthouse road trip, Wisconsin lighthouse lit up at sunset
Beautiful lighthouse in Wisconsin

Researching and visiting the lighthouses of Wisconsin brought me closer to the lives of the local communities that have grown along the shores of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and Lake Winnebago.

I felt less like a tourist and more like an explorer.

The lighthouses of Wisconsin left me with an admiration for the ingenuity and hard work of the people who built kept them shining every night.

All the groups and organizations that work hard to preserve the Wisconsin lighthouses clearly feel the same.

Today more powerful technologies are available, and many of the historic light towers are no longer necessary, but people love them and want them to stay.

Add a few lighthouses from this article to your bucket list of Getaways & Places to Vacation in Wisconsin and you will not be disappointed!


Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip 


Short FAQ About the Best Lighthouses of Wisconsin

How many lighthouses are in Wisconsin?

There are 55 Wisconsin lighthouses! However, most of them are not currently operational.

What are the best Door County lighthouses?

There are a lot of amazing lighthouses in Door County, but my favorites are Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Cana Island Light Station, and Sturgeon Bay Lighthouse.

What are the most unique Wisconsin lighthouses on Lake Michigan?

Many of the lighthouses in Wisconsin can be found along the Lake Michigan coast. But if you want to visit some that are truly unique, I recommend: Two Rivers Northern Pier Lighthouse, Racine Breakwater Lighthouse, Port Washington Lighthouse, Grassy Island Range Lights, and Pottawatomie Lighthouse,



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