Milwaukee’s history is deeply rooted in commercial traffic on the Great Lakes. Back in their heyday, local lighthouses served a vital purpose, their beacons protecting and guiding ships on Lake Michigan. Today, most of them are historic places of interest. You only need to stand in their shadows to feel like you’ve been instantly transported back to another time.
Whether just down the road or a short day trip away from MKE, each of the following lighthouses has something to offer everyone in the family. Older kids will especially love climbing to the top of a tower to take in some spectacular views.
1. North Point Lighthouse Museum
Lake Park, 2650 N. Wahl Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211
Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m. (No advance reservations required.)
Admission: Adults $8, Seniors $5, Children & Students (with ID) $5, Children 3 & Under FREE, Active & Former Military FREE.
Built in 1855, the North Point Lighthouse can be found in Lake Park and is one of the oldest standing structures in Milwaukee. This historic site has been open to the public for tours and visits since being restored in 2007.
Climb the 74-foot tower for 360-degree views of Lake Park, Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee, or tour the Queen Anne-style, wheelchair-accessible museum to view maritime industry artifacts and exhibits. There are guided and self-guided tours, plus a Lunch & Tour option available for larger groups Monday-Thursday.
2. Wind Point Lighthouse – Racine
4725 Lighthouse Drive, Wind Point, WI
Admission: Adults (ages 12 & up) $15.00, Children (ages 6-11) $7.50, Groups $80.00 minimum. (Tower climbs are not available for children under the age of 6.)
Photo: Instagram, @kato.photo
Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest active beacons on the Great Lakes, standing 108 feet tall. It was first lit on November 15, 1880. The park grounds are open year-round from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and they include a beach area, gardens, picnic tables and a memorial brick garden.
The Village of Wind Point is currently assessing whether the tower can be opened to public climbs again in 2021. In the meantime, private group tours can be scheduled for members of the same household. The lighthouse hall and south lawn may be rented out for special events.
3. 1860 Light Station Museum – Port Washington
311 Johnson St., Port Washington, WI 53074
Hours: July 10 – Aug. 15, Saturdays & Sundays, Noon – 3 p.m.; June 18 – Aug. 13, Friday-only tours by appointment made at least one week in advance.
Admission: Adults $5, Children (5-17) $2, Children (4 & under) FREE, Port Washington Historical Society Members FREE.
Situated on the north bluff overlooking downtown Port Washington, this historic light station resembles an old school house in design. Built of Cream City brick in 1860, the building features an interior that has been recently gutted and rebuilt to 1860 floor plans.
During your visit, be sure to check out the restored keeper’s quarters and the local historical society museum on site. But the true highlight of your tour will be climbing up to the lantern room, an exact replica of the original tower that was torn down in 1934.
You can also check out the Art Deco Breakwater Lighthouse in the harbor, originally built in 1849, and improved in 1931.
Pair it with a trip to Possibility Playground in Upper Lake Part and a stroll through downtown Port Washington!
Photo: Instagram, @nicpaasch
4. Lakeside Park Lighthouse – Fond du Lac
Lighthouse Drive, Fond du Lac, WI 54935
Tours: Self-guided, May 1 – Oct. 15, 8 a.m. – dusk, weather permitting.
Photo: Instagram, @_katherine.93
Trust us when we say that the Lakeside Park Lighthouse is worth the drive. Built during the Great Depression in 1933, the 40-foot-tall working lighthouse was saved from disrepair in 1967 and restored again in 1993.
The lighthouse has a wooden staircase attached to the interior walls that winds up to the top of the tower. Visitors who climb it all the way to the observation deck are rewarded with incredible views of Lake Winnebago and Lakeside Park.
5. Sheboygan Breakwater Lighthouse
604 N. 8th St., Sheboygan, WI 53081
Photo: Instagram, @_.jairus_
Built in 1915, this skeletal steel pierhead lighthouse has a rich history. The original lantern room has been removed, but the top of the tower now serves as an NOAA weather station. Though you can’t go inside it, many people enjoy walking the breakwater that leads all the way out to the tower.
The best part? Also in nearby DeLand Park is the remains of the Lottie Cooper, a ship that sunk in 1894. The wreckage of the lumber schooner was discovered in 1990, and an 89-foot section of the ship was salvaged and put on display near the Harbor Centre Marina.
6. Rawley Point – Two Rivers
Point Beach State Forest, 9400 County Rd O, Two Rivers, WI 54241
Admission: $8 daily; $28 annually (vehicle with Wisconsin license plates)
Photo: Instagram, @nejdet_duzen
At 113 feet above lake level, the skeleton iron tower of the Rawley Point Lighthouse is the tallest land-based lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It’s visible to ships up to 19 miles away.
The lighthouse is currently used as a rental cottage for Coast Guard personnel, so it is not open to the public for tours. You can view and photograph it from Point Beach, but you’ll need to first purchase a vehicle admission sticker to gain entrance to Point Beach State Forest.