Rock Island Wisconsin

Rock Island Wisconsin

912-acre island that takes two ferry rides to Rock Island Wisconsin. The first ferry leaves Gills Rock and travels to Washington Island. The second leaves Washington Island and brings you to Rock Island.


General Info


General:State Park that can be used for the day or offers primitive camping. Enjoy hiking, a lighthouse tour, a white sand beach, and beautiful views. It takes 2 ferry rides from the mainland of Door County. From Northport Pier, you take the Washington Island Ferry and from Washington Island, you take the Rock Island Ferry to Rock Island.
Hours:6 a.m. to 11 p.m
State:Wisconsin
County:Door County
Google Map Location:Google Map Location
Cost:Two ferry rides. Camping. Docking Boat Over Night ($1.00 per foot first come first served)


Getting To Rock Island Wisconsin

You will need to load your vehicle onto the Ferry at Northport Pier on the Door County mainland because you will need to drive on Washington Island to Jackson Harbor to catch your second Ferry, called the Karfi.

Washington Island Ferry Schedule / Rock Island Ferry Schedule

Overnight parking is at the Karfi on Washington Island is free. The ferry ride from Washington Island to Rock Island is a 20 minutes ride and space is limited. There are no vehicles or bikes allowed on Rock Island.

If you are camping on the island, be sure to bring everything you need. There is no camp store on the island, but there is firewood. and water available. Reserve a Campsite.


Rock Island Wisconsin Boathouse

The first sight you see when approaching the island is the limestone monolith boathouse. It is a beautiful piece of architecture.

Most just call the boathouse the Rock Island boathouse, but it does have a name. The Chester Thordarson’s boathouse after the gentleman that built the structure.



Early 1900's boathouse on Rock Island, Wisconsin in Door County

Boathouse History

The boathouse started construction in 1910 by wealthy inventor Chester Thordarson. He purchased 775 acres of the island. 30 acres on the southwest side of the island were cleared in 1920 and Thordarson began construction of a summer estate.

All the limestone used to build the boathouse came from Rock Island.


Inside of The Boathouse

His large boathouse is open to the public. The interior features a 35-foot high beam ceiling and six feet wide chandelier made from oak that has buffalo horns.

All the wooden furniture on display was carved and features some form of Norse mythology.


Pottawatomie Lighthouse

Pottawatomie Lighthouse, is also known as the Rock Island Light it was lit in 1836 and is the oldest light station in Wisconsin and on Lake Michigan.

The lighthouse is located on the north side of the island. It is a one-and-a-half-mile walk to get to the lighthouse.

The 1-1/2 mile walk was a nicely shaded, wooded hike. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring bug spray, I was happy to have both.



Free Guided Tours

There are free guided tours are available on Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.



Stairway and Beach Below The Lighthouse

Off to the right of the lighthouse, there are steps made of limestone that we followed down toward the lake.  Once we reached the bluff, there was a steep, three-tier set of wooden steps that we used to get down to the rocky shoreline.

We were just in time to see the sun setting.  It was beautiful!  A number of charter boats were off the shoreline and the magenta and ambered ribs of color in the sky were magnificent.


Hiking

Two popular hiking trails are Thordarson Loop Trail, which is a six-mile loop around the island.

The second is the Havamal Trail Loop is a four-mile loop, both have a wonderful variety of wildflowers and views of Lake Michigan.

Download the Rock Island map here.



A Fire & Star Gazing

If there is one reason to camp on the island, it has to be the night sky. We stayed on our boat along the pier in front of the boathouse and had a fire in the pit on the beach. Let me tell you, I have NEVER seen a sky light up with so many stars in all my life. Absolutely amazing!

At around 11:00 the sky turns extremely dark.  On the outskirts of the city, where I live,  I thought I had seen plenty of stars.  I can tell you from experience, I hadn’t.  The Milky Way was clearly visible and millions of stars are prominently displayed in the night sky on Rock Island.  By far, the best place that I have found to stargaze.


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