Island Hopping In Northeast Wisconsin

by Dave Weiman

Pilots looking for a northern Wisconsin destination should consider flying to the Door County Peninsula. There’s the turquoise blue waters of Lake Michigan to the east of the peninsula, and Green Bay to the west; hilly topography with rock outcroppings; and beautiful, green deciduous and pine forests.

Activities include water sports, bicycling miles of trails, golfing, fine and casual dining, a drive-in theatre and live Broadway-quality theatres, boat cruises, ferry rides between the various islands, lighthouse tours and historical museums, caves, quality art and antique shops, and wonderful scenery.

There are two airports in the area – Washington Island Airport (2P2), and Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport (3D2), Ephraim-Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

Washington Island Airport (2P2) was established in 1935. There are two turf runways: Rwy 14/32, 2230 X 150 feet, and Rwy 04/22, 1300 X 125 feet. Walt Nehlsen is the airport manager. He can be reached at 920-847-2448, 920-847-2147, or 920-847-2522.

Walt wasn’t always from Washington Island, but vacationed there once, bought a home, and he and his wife, Evelyn, have lived there since. Walt is a member of the Washington Island Flying Club and flys a 1964 Cessna 172 when he is not managing the airport, milling timber, or fixing up one of his antique John Deere tractors.

The first aviator on Washington Island was Claude C. Cornell, son of veteran fisherman John W. Cornell of the fishing company J.W. Cornell & Sons. Cornell owned a cabin-class Stinson, powered by a 125 hp Kinner engine. Cornell received his flight training from Walter Arntzen of U.P. Air Associates of Escanaba, Michigan in 1933.

The French named the treacherous waters separating Washington Island from the Door County Peninsula, “Portes des Morts” or Door of Death. This is where Door County gets its name.

One day a group of 350 Pottawatomie Indians tried canoeing between the Door County Peninsula and Washington Island and drowned in the process. Today, you can fly to Washington Island, or cross Death’s Door in a ferry.

Upon your arrival to Washington Island, you can rent bikes or bring your own “folding bicycles.”

Montague USA is the name to remember in folding bikes. Check out their website for various models. The “Navigator” is best for longer distance biking on paved roads, and the “Paratrooper” is the mountain bike of choice. If you buy folding bikes, we highly recommend also buying “carrying cases” to use when transporting them in your aircraft. Two bikes will fit nicely with two people in most four-place aircraft (www.montaguebikes.com).

Bicycles can be rented at Island Rides Bicycles. Call Cory Anders at 920-847-2126 ahead of time with your ETA and he will deliver bikes to the airport. He will take the time to make sure the bikes are adjusted for your height and built. Then, when you are finished using the bikes, let Cory know and he will come back to the airport and pick them up. Now that’s service!

If biking is not to your liking, call ahead and board the Cherry Train for a narrated tour of the island at 920-847-2546 (www.cherrytraintours.com). A van, courtesy of the Washington Island Lions Club, is also available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

However you choose to get around the island, we suggest that you first request or download a map at http://washingtonisland-wi.com/island-map/

Washington Island is known for its annual “fish boil.” The 60th Annual Washington Island Fish Boil will be held Saturday, July 20, 2013 (rain date is the 21st). The Washington Island Lions Club sponsors the event. Static displays are featured. For more information call 920-847-2448.

Washington Island is Wisconsin’s largest island (36 square miles) and dubbed “The Crown Jewel” of Door County. The island is located north of the tension line (the line marking the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole). Founded in 1850, the island became home to immigrants who established the second oldest Icelandic settlement in the U.S.).

Sites on Washington Island include The Art & Nature Center, featuring a working beehive, bird calling station, exhibits, and artifacts in a circa 1904 school house building. The Farm Museum showcases life on a Washington Island farm in the 1880s, including original buildings moved to the museum site from island locations, and old-time agricultural implements. The Stavkirke is a church built by island craftsmen who incorporated shipbuilding techniques and ancient Norse tradition. The structure lives and breathes like a Viking ship.

Schoolhouse Beach has the distinction of being one of only five beaches in the world with all white limestone “polished” rocks, and is part of the Niagara Escarpment. Schoolhouse Beach is a protected harbor area and the island’s original shipping port. The swimming is excellent if you don’t mind cold water, and the beach is marked and features a diving raft.

Red Barn Park/Gislason Public Beach has a playground, picnic area, grills, trails, and benches. The Red Barn offers summer events: Thurs. 7:00 pm – Family Storytime; Fri. – Live Entertainment! Local and visiting artists perform original music and theatrical events. Sand Dunes Beach allows picnic lunches, but no campfires.

Trail riding with hypoallergenic Icelandic horses is available at Field Wood Farm, or walk with butterflies and moths in the gardens of the Butterfly House.

Websites to visit include http://washingtonisland-wi.com/ and www.VisitWashingtonIsland.com. There, you will find plenty of information on restaurants and accommodations.

Rock Island State Park is across the bay from Washington Island. To get there, you need to board a ferry at Jackson Harbor for a short 15-minute ride to Rock Island. From there you can take a walking tour of this primitive 912-acre pedestrian-only island featuring the Pottawatomie Lighthouse (Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse); and stone buildings built by a wealthy inventor who owned the island between 1910-45. You can hike 10 miles of trails, a one-mile interpretive trail, and 5,000 feet of beach (www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/rockisland/index.html).

Once you have experienced Washington Island and Rock Island State Park, fly over to the mainland to Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport (3D2) and top off your tanks at the self-service fuel system.

Ephraim-Gibraltar has two runways: Rwy 14/32, 2700 X 60 feet (paved), and Rwy 01/19, 2345 X 80 feet (turf). Tie-downs are $10.00 per night, restrooms are open 24/7, and bicycles are available for use free of charge. For additional information or assistance with ground transportation, call 920-854-9711 (www.friendsofephraimgibraltarairport.com).

Accommodations

There are lots of great places to stay in Ephraim, from hotels and lodges, to bed and breakfasts. One place we have stayed is the Lodgings At Pioneer Lane in Ephraim (www.lodgingsatpioneerlane.com). Owner Hugh Muliken is a pilot and aircraft owner. Hugh’s wife, Alicia, is his business partner.

Rooms are spacious, each uniquely decorated to capture the ambiance of a northwoods cabin, a cozy cottage, or an airy Swedish villa. All rooms feature a comfortable king-sized bed; a modern bath; and flat screen cable TV and WIFI. Special features in some rooms are kitchenettes, separate bedrooms, fireplaces, and balconies.

The Lodgings has two bicycles available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Accommodations begin at $90.00 per night, and it is open year-round. For rates and reservations call 800-588-3565 or 920-854-7656 (lodgingsatpioneerlane@gmail.com).

Another pilot and aircraft owner, Martin Franke, owns the Pine Grove Resort, also in Ephraim, one of few remaining resorts that still offer waterfront access and a private beach exclusively for guests. Each room at the Pine Grove Resort has a balcony overlooking Eagle Harbor, and there’s an indoor pool and exercise room. For rates and reservations call 800-292-9494 (www.pinegrovedoorcounty.com).

For additional information on Ephraim, Wisconsin, visit www.ephraim-wisconsin.com.

For additional information on the Door County Peninsula, visit www.doorcounty.com, or read more at the Midwest Flyer Magazine website: https://www.midwestflyer.com/?p=2616.

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