25 Best Things to Do in Port Washington, WI

Port Washington, WI
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Lake Michigan has earned a reputation throughout the east-central region of the US as a romantic place to visit.

If you're coming from Chicago or Milwaukee and regularly go on a long drive around the Lake, you probably know how beautiful this place is.

You'll get instantly fascinated by its scenic marinas, beautiful sunsets, and laid-back surroundings.

To witness the untouched beauty of Lake Michigan, you can visit the small coastal city of Port Washington, Wisconsin, just outside Milwaukee.

This charming city is known for its postcard lighthouses and sunsets, making it an excellent retreat for those who long to shake off stress.

Port Washington is known for its history, particularly its lighthouses, museums, and laid-back life.

If you're looking for a travel destination in Lake Michigan that won't burn a hole into your pocket, you should visit Port Washington.

So, check out the best things to do in Port Washington, WI.

Take Photos of Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse

Daytime view of Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse
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Although the Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse is currently off-limits to the public, you should still visit this attraction.

Strolling through the breakwater and taking photos of this charming lighthouse is one of the best ways to start your Port Washington travel adventure.

This art deco lighthouse situated on the tip of the harbor's breakwater was completed in 1935.

Its romantic setting overlooking Lake Michigan is an irresistible opportunity to take gorgeous photos as your souvenir visiting Port Washington.

Aerial view of Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse during sunset
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The United States Coast Guard declared this famous breakwater lighthouse as excess to its need.

It means they are passing the ownership and maintenance to private entities.

The City of Port Washington decided to take over to preserve its beauty and historical value.

Today, it remains Port Washington's best tourist spot to visit.

View of Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse from the bluffs
Runner1928, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Breathe Fresh Air at Coal Dock Park

The Coal Dock Park is a charming community coastal park and the best spot to breathe fresh air.

This park, relatively new to Port Washington, is adjacent to the two famous spots in the city: its pedestrian bridge and the promenade.

Locals and visitors in Port Washington love to hang out at Coal Dock Park to relax or perhaps enjoy the beautiful scenery brought by the majestic Lake Michigan.

Spending your afternoon at this park and waiting for the beautiful sunset are some of the best cost-free and romantic activities you'll enjoy in Port Washington.

The park has its own gazebo, a viewing deck, and a walking path meandering the shores of Lake Michigan.

It's also where most of Port Washington's local events happen.

In addition, Coal Dock Park is one of the best access points to the South Beach and Dock Bird Sanctuary.

Bring Your Kids to the Possibility Playground

Port Washington is also home to a unique and vast open-air playground called Possibility Playground, situated in Upper Lake Park.

Unlike your typical playground, Possibility Playground caters to kids with special needs and those with disabilities.

This playground offers a more inclusive and safer place to let your kids have fun if you bring them with you during your visit to Port Washington.

Thanks to Mardy McGarry, the playground was conceptualized and was completed in 2008 through various donations.

Kids will inevitably grow bored while touring Port Washington's attractions, bringing them to Possibility Playground for afternoon fun.

Take a Dip at the Port Washington South Beach Park

Sunrise at Port Washington South Beach Park
Reneebrandt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After visiting Coal Dock Park, you can head to South Beach Park adjacent to the former along South Beach Road.

It's an excellent swimming spot in Port Washington for people looking to enjoy the waters of Lake Michigan.

Despite its small size, South Beach Park has beautiful scenery and the much-needed amenities of a top-notch beach park.

It has its own kayak launch and several shops and restaurants.

It's an excellent place in Port Washington to swim with your family or travel buddies, especially in summer.

Check Out the 1860 Light Station

Front view of 1860 Light Station
Tony Savino / Shutterstock.com

This famous lighthouse or light station in Port Washington is one of the oldest lighthouses in Ozaukee County.

Although you can't climb the lighthouse, it is still a marvelous sight, especially if you want to learn about its history.

Side facade of 1860 Light Station
Richard Stockman / Shutterstock.com

The 1849 Light Station was constructed at the top of Port Washington's northern bluff that overlooks the city's downtown area.

The lighthouse underwent reconstruction to upgrade it with a lantern room above the keeper's living quarters.

It remains firm, towering over Port Washington, an excellent background for a photoshoot.

Learn History with the Port Washington Historical Society

For a more comprehensive and enjoyable experience learning about Port Washington's history, join the Port Washington Historical Society.

Some Port Washington residents formed this group in 1991, dedicated to promoting and preserving Port Washington's unique history.

The Port Washington Historical Society remains a prominent group in the city in preserving lighthouses while conducting guided tours for visitors eager to learn the city's backstory.

They also manage the Port Exploreum museum.

If you're a lowkey history buff who wants to explore this city's history, you know who to look for in Port Washington.

Wander the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve

This 27-acre nature preserve in Port Washington is known for its limestone bedrock ledges along a creek.

This location in Port Washington is excellent for outdoor recreation through its trails that connect various creeks and marshlands leading to Lake Michigan.

In addition, the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve is a crucial wildlife corridor in the county, where you can see local wildlife passing through the area.

Some of the best activities in the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve are hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing.

Grab a Hearty Meal at the Full Circle Restaurant

Full Circle Restaurant treats Port Washington's locals and visitors with hearty homemade comfort food.

This local casual restaurant has operated since 1981, one of the longest-running restaurants in the city.

Its owner, Rich Plier, is famous in the city's local culinary scene because of his delicious menu, which centers on classic American food.

In addition, Full Circle Restaurant has a pub which is also a favorite watering hole for locals.

Historically, this restaurant was once the Nisleit Country Inn.

Also, it was home to Port Washington's Hundred Mile House, also a famous restaurant back in the day.

Whenever you're craving or hungry after a day touring through Port Washington, head to Full Circle Restaurant along Highland Drive.

Explore the Upper Lake Park

Aerial view of Upper Lake Park
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Port Washington is also home to a vast 62-acre park called Upper Lake Park, which boasts a magnificent, unobstructed view of Lake Michigan.

Upper Lake Park is a favorite hang-out place for locals who want to enjoy a picnic or perhaps play sports or outdoor recreation during weekends.

People from Milwaukee even drive to Port Washington and spend some time at the Upper Lake Park.

It's a magnificent place to spend your entire day during your visit to Port Washington.

In addition, Upper Lake Park is adjacent to North Beach, which is another attraction in Port Washington.

Hike along the Ozaukee Interurban Trail

When you visit Port Washington, don't forget to bring your hiking shoes and outdoor gear.

You'll find yourself hiking through scenic trails like the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.

This famous paved trail in Port Washington spans 30 miles across Ozaukee County.

The entire hike is pretty easy, making it a recommended activity for the whole family.

The trail traverses the neighboring towns of Mequon, Belgium, Grafton, Cedarburg, and Thiensville.

You'll pass through numerous scenic marshlands, rivers, sanctuaries, and nature preserve along Lake Michigan's shores during the hike.

Besides outdoor recreation, Ozaukee Interurban Trail also sees many pedestrians and cars because it's a popular commuter route.

Enjoy Birdwatching at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Nature had consumed what's left of an old golf course north of Port Washington, now called the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.

The entire migratory preserve spans 116 acres, combining forested areas, prairies, seasonal ponds, and marshes.

Interestingly, the land trust that manages and owns this migratory preserve has eliminated invasive plant species, paving the way for native flora to thrive.

From a visitor's perspective, visiting this migratory preserve means you'll get an excellent opportunity to have a fantastic wildlife viewing.

This migratory preserve is home to dozens of local bird species, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Migratory birds from further north usually stop at this natural area before heading to their destination.

Overall, the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve is a worthwhile place to visit near Port Washington before packing up and heading home from your travel adventure.

Step inside the Judge Eghart House

This historic house situated along W. Grand Avenue in Port Washington is a charming place to learn history.

Its original owners, Clara and Byron Teed, built the house in 1872.

However, Judge Leopold Eghart bought the house in 1881, where he raised his family.

The Eghart house has a historical value to the city of Port Washington since it witnessed the latter's growth over the years.

Today, the house is a historical location that conducts regular educational tours.

Meanwhile, antique collectors love to visit this place and appreciate this Victorian house's original furniture and furnishings.

Guided tours are also available in this house, where the guides take you to its bedrooms, living room, dining area, parlor, kitchen, and elegant hall.

Take Your Sweet Tooth to The Chocolate Chisel

They said that everything tastes even better when chocolate is involved!

And that's what The Chocolate Chisel wants to tell its customers both old and new.

The shop offers hand-crafted artisan bars, truffles, nut clusters, barks, chocolate-dipped pretzels, sea salt, and many other delicious chocolates.

It also has gift boxes perfect for presents to your loved one on special occasions.

Also, The Chocolate Chisel serves delicious handmade ice cream—GMO-free, with no preservatives, and no artificial colors.

Cold drinks like shakes and floats are also served at the shop if you're in for sweet treats!

Learn How to Make Wines at Vines to Cellar

Not only that Vines to Cellar offers bottles of wines to its customers.

It also provides wine-making classes to those who are interested in wines and vines.

The winery crafts small batches of wines to ensure quality and freshness.

Above all that, it has everything for your wine-making needs.

Its wine-tasting is outstanding and you can choose according to your preference; from red, white, blush, fruit, and dessert wines.

Raise your glass of wine and take advantage of the warm atmosphere at Vines to Cellar located in historic downtown Port Washington.

Enjoy Fishing with Nicky Boy Charter Fishing

Port Washington also offers excellent fishing on Lake Michigan and Nicky Boy Charter Fishing can help you with that.

It provides you with experienced and licensed captains to guide and assist you in fishing to ensure to get to catch the good ones!

Using high-tech fishing equipment, you can enjoy fun-filled fishing while having good laugh and an amazing cruise on the lake.

Nicky Boy Charter Fishing has four large boats that can accommodate larger groups.

Catch some steelhead, trout, salmon, and more!

Pamper Yourself at Serenity Shores Massage and Wellness

Long day?

Get those aching muscles fixed at Serenity Shores Massage and Wellness, which offers therapeutic massage services in a warm and cozy environment.

Owner Megan Weis, a massage therapist specializing in therapeutic, relaxation, and oncology massage has been in the industry for almost a decade.

At the spa, you can ask for any massage to your liking that will get you pampered and relaxed.

For 30 to 90 minutes, you get to experience one of the best massage services in town.

You can find Serenity Shores Massage and Wellness at South Wisconsin Street.

Cool Down at Pirates’ Hollow Community Waterpark

On hot summer days, Port Washington can be humid too, which makes Pirates’ Hollow Community Waterpark a brilliant idea.

The waterpark features a long waterslide, plunge slides, a diving board, lap lanes, and a wading area for the little ones.

There's also a small snack hut with tables to have your meal.

Many lifeguards and spotters are on duty during the waterpark's operating hours, which makes you feel safe and secure, especially for the kids.

So when you're in town during the warmer months, the waterpark is a great place for a swim.

Pirates’ Hollow Community Waterpark opens in June every year and is located at North Webster Street.

Dive into the Tales of Supernatural at Caper Company Ghost Walks, Hunts, & Other Adventures

Craving a supernatural adventure while in Port Washington?

Caper Company Ghost Walks, Hunts, & Other Adventures has your back.

Debuted in 2022, this company started promoting the spookiest excursions within the city in 2010.

Back then, it only hosted annual and special events, such as the Galloway House Ghost Hunt.

Walk around cemeteries and historic buildings with scary backgrounds.

Hear from stories of residents about their encounters with paranormal entities and the like.

Ghost hunts, on the other hand, allow you to explore haunted grounds with paranormal investigators.

Caper Company Ghost Walks, Hunts, & Other Adventures takes you to another dimension full of scary tales and spine-chilling tours all over downtown Port Washington.

If you've got time for a bit of artistic excursion, Gallery 224 is the place for you.

This non-profit organization, founded by Jane C. Suddendorf, is an equal part studio and exhibition space.

It features a wide range of collections with varying themes and artists.

From framed paintings to quilt designs and other art installations, there's always a surprise waiting in store for you within the walls of this gallery.

It also offers Studio 224 and ARTservancy, both arts residency programs.

Gallery 224 is on North Franklin Street.

Explore More of Port Washington’s Scenery while Riding a Segway at Glide N.E.W. LLC

While touring the city, why not try riding a segway?

Established in 2005, Glide N.E.W. LLC is your trusted segway tour operator in all of Wisconsin.

It serves the communities of Baileys Harbor, Washington Island, Thornberry Creek, and more!

In Port Washington, traverse the natural scenery and landscape and stop by city landmarks and sites, like Historic Light Station Museum and North Beach Park.

There's time for you to practice if you're only starting out, so there's no need to worry!

Glide N.E.W. LLC's Port Washington tour starts on South Wisconsin Street Port and lasts for about 2 hours.

Exploring Port Washington has never been this exciting before!

Experience World-Class Dinner Entertainment at Memories

When you're in Port Washington, the fun never stops even when you're sitting for dinner.

Memories is your ultimate destination for dinner theater and performances.

Since the 30s, this entertainment hall has served countless patrons in a variety of performance acts and events.

Back then, the 2,500 square foot facility served as a dance hall and opened its doors to the likes of Romy Gosz & his Recording Orchestra.

Some of its most-awaited events include matinee nights, comedy shows, and murder mystery dinners.

Memories' banquet hall is on Lake Drive, ready to blow your night away.

Watch the Parade at Port Fish Day

Port Fish Day is one of Port Washington's most celebrated festivals.

Done annually every 3rd Saturday of July, this festival aims to help local businesses gain footing.

It features an arts and crafts fair and a car show showcasing vintage and modern car models.

Be at the center of the festivities when you watch its parade of dancing troupes, live music, and eye-catching floats.

This parade runs from Wisconsin Street and ends at North Milwaukee Street.

Port Washington Harbor hosts Port Fish Day.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Scenic Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve

View of lake michigan from Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve
Lodahln, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Besides lighthouses and historic buildings, Port Washington is also known for its natural beauty, which you'll find at the Lion's Den Gorge.

This nature preserve is one of the natural areas under the Ozaukee County Natural Area.

This natural attraction features plenty of outdoor recreational activities from a visitor's perspective.

If you're searching in Port Washington for an excellent place to hike, this nature preserve has a 3-mile hiking trail.

Nature trail at Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve
KSKONKA / Shutterstock.com

In addition, it has numerous boardwalks that take you to various wetlands.

It also has a long and winding staircase that descends to a lush cedar forest with a stream teeming with salmons.

The Lion's Den is a deep and lush ravine that features a stunning view of Lake Michigan.

If you're longing to see beautiful views of Wisconsin or perhaps want to set on an outdoor adventure, then Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve is the best place.

Flora at Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve
Robb Shaffer / Shutterstock.com

Browse the Crossroads Museum

Crossroads Museum is in Saukville's first fire station, completed in 1912.

The main attraction of this Saukville Museum is its exhibits containing geological artifacts and memorabilia of Ozaukee County's prominent people and early settlers.

In addition, the bridge that spanned through Milwaukee River is also on the museum's permanent display.

If you're searching for Port Washington and Ozaukee County's history, the Crossroads Museum will satisfy your curiosity.

Enjoy a Lovely Picnic at Tendick Nature Park

This charming park in Ozaukee County, situated in Saukville, is the newest park built by the Ozaukee County Park System.

It features amenities that make it an excellent community park spanning 122 acres of well-maintained landscape.

The Tendick Nature Park won't disappoint you if you're looking for an excellent spot to picnic with your family or travel buddies.

Like most top-notch parks, this one has a canoe launch at Milwaukee River, a pavilion, picnic area, disc golf, archery range, and restrooms.

Final Thoughts

Port Washington is a terrific laid-back suburban city that's within reach of a bustling metropolis.

This small coastal city is an excellent destination for a quick weekend getaway, especially with the family.

It has charming and peaceful parks, vast natural areas, scenic lighthouses, and the majestic Lake Michigan that create fond travel memories.

Start planning your Port Washington trip today!

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