Rock Island - Fun but Challenging
It's our goal to visit all eleven lighthouses in Door County. Most are easily accessible, one requires you to trespass (which we did, Sherwood Point), while some of them can be difficult to get to. The Pottawatomie Lighthouse on Rock Island is one of those.
Visiting Rock Island takes some preparation, planning and pretty much a whole day. It starts out with a drive to the very northern tip of Door County, past Gills Rock. Your day begins by taking the Washington Island Ferry. Our suggestion is getting there early since their first run is at 7:30 am. People start to line up by 7:00 so we got there at 6:45.
When you guy your ferry tickets be sure to buy the Rock Island tickets as well.
On Washington Island we found a good little restaurant for breakfast, the Ship's Wheel.
When you first arrive you'll see the boat house (pictured). The island has no vehicles including bikes, no modes of transportation are allowed to the public. There is a beach to the right as you leave the ferry.
If you head north you'll find your way to the star of the show, the Pottawatomie Lighthouse. It is about 1.5 miles - uphill, one a lot of lose rocks and tree roots. For older people such as us it is a difficult hike. 70% of it is uphill. It starts out with a very long climb with a tiny bench at the top. Speaking of benches, for a state park it was disappointing in how difficult they make it for their ADA visitors. The small number of benches along the way was disappointing. For a trail that is this difficult you'd think they'd have more of them but they don't. They really should have another 10-15 benches. The number of older visitors to Door County, and thus Rock Island, is significant and not all of them are in shape for this kind of trail. Still they have a desire to visit this lighthouse and think the Wisconsin park system should be able to accommodate this simple request.
Once there, however, the lighthouse is beautiful, as is the view. The "Friends of..." group does a great tour of the facility. Once done you still have the return walk so be careful. Heading downhill on this trail is worse that going up given the lose rocks and tree roots. The ferry boat leaves 15 minutes after the hour all day long.