15 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
Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock.com

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

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.

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.

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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