Author: Kathie Sutin
June 16, 2021
Looking forward to finally enjoying a relaxing getaway but not yet ready to brave shoulder-to-shoulder crowds?
A trip to Port Washington, Wisconsin might be just what you need.
In Port Washington you will find Lake Michigan beaches, parks galore and a downtown full of shops and restaurants that ooze small-town charm. Throw in an iconic art deco lighthouse, fascinating museums and historic buildings, and you have the makings of a great weekend (or longer) getaway.
The town’s proximity to Wisconsin’s cities makes it an easy escape. Located a half-hour north of Milwaukee, Port Washington is 45 minutes from Racine, an hour from Kenosha and about 2 ½ hours from Janesville.
Park and walk
Visitors staying at the Harborview overlooking the picturesque downtown marina can pretty much park their cars and forget them until their visit’s over.
“The town itself is very walkable,” said Kathy Tank, executive director of the Port Washington Tourism Council. “We’ve got a number of restaurants and cute shops, boutiques and specialty food stores, even a winery and a brewpub — all within walking distance of the hotel,” Tank said.
The town, located in a bit of a valley, is right next to Lake Michigan. “Anywhere you go downtown, you’ve got beautiful views of the lake,” Tank said.
The town boasts a “very successful charter fishing fleet,” she said. “People who come here say Port Washington gives them the feel of a town on the Atlantic in New England.”
A haven for outdoor adventure
Outdoor activities — swimming, biking, boating, hiking, bird watching, and picnicking — abound here.
“We’ve got city parks, we’ve got a state park, we’ve got nature preserves, state natural areas, Nature Conservancy land, Land Trust land and all these trails and hiking,” Tank said.
Ozaukee Interurban Trail, a 30-mile paved bike trail runs the length of the county and through downtown Port Washington. Outfitters offer bicycle and kayak rentals. Possibility Playground in Upper Lake Park ranks as one of the top 10 accessible playgrounds in the Midwest.
Not to mention, history buffs will love Port Washington. The town itself is on the National Register of Historic Places with more pre-Civil War buildings than any other city in the state. Examples: the Visitors Center dates from 1848, the Historical Society Research Center from 1852 and a downtown restaurant from 1856.
Visitors can explore maritime history at Port Washington Light Station & Museum and at Port Exploreum with its family friendly interactive exhibits.
Port Washington 2
A home base for exploration
Port Washington is a great long weekend getaway, but some may want to stay longer, traveling around Ozaukee County exploring hiking trails or small historic towns similar to Port Washington, Tank said. “You could make Port Washington your home base and spend several days exploring the area,” she said.
“Our county is very small. You can drive from one end of it to the other in about 20 minutes. Driving the width takes probably 15 minutes.”
Many events, of course, have been canceled due to COVID, but the Outdoor Farmers Market is operational Saturdays through November 20. And, as things open up, Port Washington is adding events to its calendar weekly.
For additional information on all there is to see and do, you will find more details on the Port Washington Tourism website.
“I would always suggest that anyone planning a visit here check the website frequently to see what’s happening,” Tank said.
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