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Ferry lines run to and from Washington Island via the “top of the thumb.” Ferries have made the seven-mile crossing somewhat quotidian, but it wasn’t always so. Winter crossings used to be made by horse-drawn sleigh or—unimaginably—car, but weather conditions could change the ice or eliminate it altogether within a relatively short period. Today the ice freezes the crossing nearly solid for just more than 100 days each year, but modern ferries can take much of the ice thrown at them. When ice floes pile up during extreme cold, the ferries either “back up” and try to make an end run, or “back down” and run right at the ice. At those times, ferry service is preciously light and reservations are necessary to cross with an automobile.
You could theoretically paddle a sea kayak from Northport all the way to Washington Island—and it has been done. The lunatic fringe aspect of that notwithstanding, it would be the most breathtaking way to meet the Porte des Mortes head on. Obviously, you’d better be a damn good—and experienced—paddler.
If you’ve come over sans car, Dor Cros Inn (1922 Lobdell Point Rd., 920/847-2126) has bikes for rent; problem is, you’ll have to hoof about a mile-and-a-half north up the road to get there.
A few tours/shuttles depart from the ferry dock regularly, linking with the ferries from Northport and Gills Rock. Lots of folks rave about the Cherry Train (920/847-2039, www.cherrytraintours.com, $15), essentially a Chevy Suburban pulling carriages, which offers four tours daily.
Or rent your own moped for $90 per day at Annie’s (920/854-2972) at the Island Clipper Dock.
Head up Main Road from the ferry dock to Bread & Water Bakery & Café (1275 Main Rd., 920/847-2400, breadandH2O [at] gmail [dot] com) where they have great food, but more, where, as they say, “Kayak is spoken.” Yup, the island has great kayaking, and this is your place to find a guide, a rental, or both.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition