Running along trails in dense forest, building inuksuks on rocky beaches, watching the sun set on Clarity from what once was a party palace for a wealthy Chicago inventor, and cuddling up for campfires a stone’s throw from our bow.
Rock Island was a dream of a place that wasn’t even on our radar. Tied off in Sister Bay, we were planning to try for Washington Island, the island just north of the tip of mainland Door County. But Aaron happened to strike up a conversation with our friendly dock neighbors, who encouraged us to head for Rock instead. There was a tiny dock there, they said – big enough to hold three or four sailboats, and just enough depth for us. As we set course, we weren’t even sure we would be able to get in there.
As we approached the island in late afternoon and the boathouse started to come into view, I think Aaron and I already had a feeling that this was going to be an unforgettable adventure. We landed the boat without a problem, greeted by the hospitable ranger who got us settled. From that point on, we pinched ourselves regularly, reminding ourselves how lucky we were to have found this place.
The entirety of the island is a 912-acre state park. No cars are allowed. No bikes are allowed. The only way to access the island is by boat, either private or ferry, and the only thing they sell, other than a few trinkets, is a bundle of firewood for $8 (“must be artisinal wood,” as a fellow sailor joked one night around the campfire). Rustic campsites line the southern border of the island, and there’s no cell service.
The majestic Viking boathouse that greets all visitors is the only remaining building of wealthy Chicago investor Chester Thordarson’s party compound, built in the late 1920s. Claire and Aaron enjoyed a riveting game of chess in the grand ballroom.
And what more? I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves. We spent two days here, and it wasn’t nearly enough.
The Rock Island boathouse and small dock
Clarity’s Parking Spot for the weekend
A harmless water snake greeted us upon arrival at the dock – and he and five or six of his friends stuck around all day until the sun went down
Wealthy inventor Chester Thordarson’s breathtaking party palace
Just a quiet game of chess…
Contemplating her next move
The history talk was very informative. I’m sure the other programs were great, too, but we were too busy exploring!
Quite the venue for paddleboarding
Rock Island is appropriately named – but Claire’s as happy here as she is on any sandy beach!
I inuksuk, do you inuksuk?!
Occasionally we are in photos together 🙂
Building a hearty campfire!
Sunset from the boathouse
Clarity at dusk
Gorgeous early morning fog
Taking to the trails!
Exploring the rock cliffs
I ventured a bit further out along the rocky walls and found a little box tucked into one of the cliffs. It was a geocache! Claire played with the toys for a bit, I wrote our names down in the log book, and then put it back just as I had found it.
Can you see the rock carving?
The tiniest bouquet of wildflowers
Claire’s Harbor: She and Aaron built it together while I took a long hike to the lighthouse.
I didn’t even have to hunt for these! 🙂
Pottawatomie Light, the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin. It was recently restored to roughly 1910 splendor and the tour is well worth the hike to get there!
I found this rock cave off to the side of the path leading from the lighthouse to rickety wooden stairs down to the beach. There were dozens on the island (though this was a more navigable one).
Fall has descended on Sturgeon Bay! A week ago, we were gladly dipping our toes in the chilly Lake Michigan water, cooling off from the 90-degree days in blissfully oppressive sunshine. Today, for a trip to town, pants and fleece jackets were in order, and I found myself wishing I had a pair of gloves.
I was prepared for colder weather up north, but frankly, this is just ridiculous. Fifty-degree days and winds steady at 15-20 mph, for at least two days now. And with the wind from the west, the waves build as they head east to Door County and max out at five- to seven-footers. That’s pretty much a sailing death sentence for Claire, as she gets seasick in fours, and likely for me, too. So, we’ve had plenty of time getting to know the ins and outs of this port.
Luckily, Sturgeon Bay is a gem, with plenty to keep us busy: Toy stores and book stores that keep Claire entertained for hours, friendly neighborhood coffee shops and bakeries to satisfy my caffeine addiction (I’ll admit it – coffee shops are my security blanket). And Sturgeon Bay is a bustling maritime community: Aaron and I have both enjoyed window shopping at Palmer Johnson Yachts and ogling the barges and freighters lined up for fixes at Bay Shipbuilding.
We’ve also been fortunate to be spending the extra days at a marina that has a gorgeous clubhouse, where I can fix our dinners in a full kitchen and we can cuddle up on the couches and catch some cable before heading back to Clarity.
The weather is supposed to break a bit tomorrow, with the waves dissipating and the temperatures slowly creeping their way back up throughout the week. The plan is to finally cast lines tomorrow morning, after four (GASP!) nights here, and head to Egg Harbor. Fingers crossed that a fish boil is in our future!
Calm seas on our sail from Kewaunee to Sturgeon Bay
Aaron made a delicious breakfast with blood sausage from Port Washington.
We found some wind!
The captain checks our position
Stickers at sea
Coming up on the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, the path that connects Lake Michigan with Green Bay.
Cruising up the canal
Claire was enthralled as they raised the Bayview Bridge so Clarity could pass underneath on the way to the marina.
No, dad. Even though you safely got us to Sturgeon Bay, I will not share my sandwich with you…
Roughing it at CenterPointe Marina. That’s the clubhouse; beyond is the pool, hot tub and outdoor fireplace.
The lovely salesperson at Blue Ivy on 3rd Avenue let Claire try on all of the shoes in the store.
Dancing Bear Toys in downtown Sturgeon Bay. We spent at least a few hours in here, but Claire would have happily spent more.
Making friends with Jean-Louise, the kitty that lives at Dancing Bear.
Historic 3rd Avenue
Lola’s Bakery and Restaurant, just down the street from the marina. A great place for homemade elephant ears!
Towers at Lola’s
Madison Avenue, another cute historic shopping district across the river from downtown.
The tug John Purves, available for tours at the Door County Maritime Museum. Interestingly, Claire is not tall enough to tour it (at least 48 inches).
Fro-Yo cheers at Frozen Spoon
While the parents taste wine, the kiddo will play 🙂
My little sailor girl. She’s getting so old!
Sturgeon Bay Bridge