Monday, December 7, 2015

On the Waterfront: Port Washington, Wisconsin

It has been gorgeous here in Southeastern Wisconsin lately.  Like, insanely gorgeous!  Normally by December 1, we have at least half a foot of snow on the ground and everyone is either digging out their snowshoes and gassing up their snowmobiles or stocking up for a long hibernation (sometimes until May).  But last Friday it was sunny and 50 degrees outside, so I decided to head up to Port Washington, a charming city 30 minutes north of Milwaukee right on Lake Michigan.  It was my first time there, and it was even better than I expected.

Port Washington is the closest I've seen to a New England town that I've been able to find in Wisconsin.  I love the rocky shoreline and the long piers jetting into the water.  When I got there, I headed right to the lakeshore and had a quick lunch of a very tasty fish sandwich at Smith Bros. Coffee Shop, located in the Duluth Trading Co. building, which used to be Smith Bros. Fish Shanty (you can see their original sign above).

One of the reasons I've been wanting to visit Port Washington is because of its new Port Exploreum, a maritime museum.  For many decades, starting in the 1840's, the port was used to export wood, wheat & rye flour, bricks and fish, and was a well-known place for commercial fishing.  However, both shipping and commercial fishing have seen a rapid decline in recent years.  The museum's current exhibit highlights these industries and, subsequently, some of Lake Michigan's most notable shipwrecks.

The lower level of the museum has a lot of interactive games for families, and a video where you can experience what it looks like to take a boat ride on the lake.

The most famous landmark in Port Washington is the Pierhead Light (also known as the Breakwater Light), which gets photographed often, including earlier this fall when hurricane-like winds pounded Lake Michigan and caused waves as high as the lighthouse itself.  I spent most of my time down at the lakefront taking photos of the lighthouse from all different angles as well as the city itself from a long pier over the water.

The lake shore has a lot of interesting statues including this one that pays tribute to fishermen lost in one of the lake's shipwrecks.

The day was so beautiful, I saw a lot of people out walking, biking and, of course, fishing:

Port Washington is a city I would love to go back to again and again.  Not only does the city celebrate its shipping and fishing history, it also has a great shopping district of unique shops & restaurants, fun summer festivals (all revolving around fish) and the largest number of surviving Pre-Civil War buildings in Wisconsin.  I would go back just to see those.  And now that I know how easy it is to drive up there, it may become one of my go-to road trip destinations!


  1. What an enjoyable day. It looks like a lovely place to wile away the day

    1. Thanks, Mo. By the way, I love your blog! Makes me yearn to live in London.

  2. Lovely photos! I've been looking to take some short daytrips from Milwaukee, and this seems perfect.