The Door County Maritime Museum reaches well beyond the walls where its treasures are kept. The Museum also includes a tug boat, lighthouse and an additional museum located elsewhere within lovely Door County, Wisconsin.
First stop: you’ll want to climb about the John Purves, permanently docked behind the museum. The John Purves was the strongest tug in the Roen fleet and was built in 1919 (initially named Butterfield). This tug was well used and was at times: a floating radio station in the Caribbean, served the U.S. Army during WWII and worked in the Great Lakes long and hard as a tug. Donated to the Museum in 2003 and lovingly restored by a team of volunteers who gave hundreds of hours to restore her to her glory, now visitors can imagine themselves living and working on the tug. Volunteers will lead you on a engaging tour of the vessel and among the areas you’ll see are the amazing engine room, the captain’s quarters, the galley and the pilothouse.
Inside the Museum, you‘ll continue to be impressed. Gallery after gallery of local and world maritime history are on display here. The history of shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, from the Native Americans to modern marvels, is explained using a combination of historical artifacts, models and videos. Permanent and rotating exhibits are included in the 20,000 square foot Museum and take your time exploring all five galleries with highlights including an exhibition of the raising of the George M. Humphrey and a chronological history of shipbuilding going back to the 1800s. Films, special events and interactive displays add to the fun. A highlight for many is the working periscope. Take a peek and you’ll get a sub-eye’s view of Sturgeon Bay!
Did you just spy a pirate? You did if you strolled through “Pirates-Ship to Shore”. Explore the lives of buccaneers and scalawags during the golden age of piracy. Children can visit the costume room and explore the old port village of Nassau, walk the decks of a pirate ship, and check out some actual sunken treasure. Be sure to step into the jail for a stormy surprise!
During warm weather months (closing October 21), you can also visit the Door County Maritime Museum at Gills Rock, which is in the northern part of the peninsula. The fishing tug, Hope, is here. She was built by the Sturgeon Bay Boat Works in 1930 and worked until 1992. Other exhibits include: shipwrecks and lifesaving, marine engines and “Dan Seavey, A Great Lakes Pirate”. There were countless privateers, thieves, and rum-runners who might fit the definition of “pirate”, but Captain Dan Seavey holds the distinction of being the only man known to have been formally charged with piracy on the Great Lakes.
For another unforgettable adventure, visit the Cana Island Lighthouse (open until October 31) north of Bailey’s Harbor. This historic lighthouse offers lovely views and a great history lesson. Built in 1869, the lighthouse remains an active navigational aid today. The buildings and grounds have been maintained by the Museum for 30 years while the United States Coast Guard continues to oversee the tower with its stunning third order Fresnel lens and light. Wear comfy shoes and walk across the rock causeway from the Door County mainland to the nearly 9 acre island on the Lake Michigan side. Visit the Keeper’s House, the Oil House and climb the Cana Island Tower (all 97 steps) for amazing views of Lake Michigan.
Whether you visit one or all three locations, you won’t be disappointed!
Sturgeon Bay is located in Door County, Wisconsin on the scenic peninsula that is surrounded by Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Sturgeon Bay is approximately a 9-1/2 hour drive from Cincinnati and is easily accessible from the Austin Straubel Green Bay airport (GRB).
Door County Maritime Museum, 120 North Madison Avenue, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235, 920-743-5958 or visit www.dcmm.org. Admission is charged. Free parking. Gift shop.