Port Washington, Wisconsin: Part One

Port Washington, Wisconsin: Part One

We moved from Oregon to Port Washington, Wisconsin in 1986. We loaded up the back of a big yellow Ryder truck with all of our worldly possessions. Lindsay, our Golden Retriever, kept Jim company up front. I followed in our Datsun station wagon with our 2-year old and 4-month old daughters and my big black cat Ben. It was a very eventful trip to be sure – and certainly a blog for another day.

We lived in Port Washington for 16 years before heading up north (just a tad) to hopefully enjoy the steady growth of the housing market. We built a bigger house in hopes that the urban sprawl would follow us and we could eventually downsize and pad our nest egg. Well, we all know which direction the housing market went, don’t we! We signed our papers to build on September 12, 2001, still reeling from the events of the previous day. We had no idea that our hopes of the urban sprawl may be delayed – or even sidelined forever.

Since our current little town doesn’t offer much in the way of amenities, we have continued to feel at home in Port. Only about 6 miles away, it’s not too far to enjoy the restaurants, shopping and beauty of the marina and historical features of the city. But before we get into those photos, I have to share a few of the things that I’ve come to love about the part of the drive between the two cities.

Our grandchildren love the drive because of the wildlife we see along the way. I use that term loosely, but the horses, sheep and cows (and last year baby cows) have become a source of conversation as we pass by when the grandkids are in the car. Don’t tell anyone, but I usually check when I’m alone as well. On almost every trip, we take notice of which animals “are out” and if there is a long period of time where they’re not out, we wonder what’s going on. Of course farm life can sometimes seem cruel to the kiddos, so we usually talk about haircuts for the sheep or “they’re probably just in the barn”.

The last couple of years, one of the folks who live along this route has been adding fun features that also brighten our day. The addition of the two Minions was a wonderful surprise. Made of bales of hay, they joined the party right after the first movie came out.

Dusty Crophopper (from Planes) and (Tow) Mater (from Cars) just crack me up and the Weeping Willow tree with the tire swing just feels like home.

Without further ado let’s get to the star of this blog. Port Washington is a beautiful little city, right on Lake Michigan with a couple of great lighthouses and lots of places along the shore to experience the beauty and sometimes thunderous waves of that massive body of water.

Cooler by the lake is a term that we know all too well around here. In the summer it can be a welcome relief, keeping temps a little cooler. In the winter – believe it or not – it’s also a blessing, since the not-usually-frozen water is usually warmer than the air temperature. But even on a hot day in the middle of the summer – if the wind shifts – you’ll be running for a sweatshirt. The only time I’d rather be inland is during springtime, when you are craving the warm sun on your face after a long winter. Instead you get a strong stiff wind that will chill you to the bone, similar to the day that these pictures were taken.

I started my visit today at Coal Dock Park, a recent addition to the city when the coal-burning power plant was replaced by natural gas in 2004. Since there was no need for a big pile of coal at the ready, the city developed an absolutely beautiful green space where you can cop a squat and enjoy the views. I am particularly enamored by this red-roofed gazebo with the spiral staircase. The red really pops in today’s somewhat gloomy photos and at every angle, Port Washington’s iconic structures can be viewed through its fabulous columns. Check out an article in the Journal Sentinel when Coal Dock Park was about to open.

I just love the iron bridge that takes you on a walking path through a bird sanctuary and over to South Beach. South Beach is very close to a parking lot for quick access and offers a kayak launch and a great place to view the Fish Day fireworks. But we’ll talk more about the beaches on a much warmer day!

The Honor Flight Memorial is very cool, with names of fallen veterans engraved in the stones beneath it.

“Just in time for Veterans Day, a new memorial is unveiled along the lakefront that’s meant to honor veterans from all wars. Some of the bravest men and women from southeastern Wisconsin gathered to dedicate the new memorial that’s an exact replica of the Wisconsin pillar from the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.” – READ MORE about the Honor Flight Memorial

Coal Dock Park offers stunning views of the city, a bird’s eye view of the lighthouse, the fabulous red-roofed gazebo and a great iron bridge for access to South Beach. If you haven’t been here yet, it should definitely be on your list.

If you haven’t been to Port Washington in a number of years, the improvements that have been made to the marina are really quite fabulous. With great shopping, wonderful restaurants, beautiful lake views and lots of history, it’s definitely worth another visit. Visit Port’s website for more information.

Next up: An historic lighthouse and more Atop St. Mary’s Hill

Happy trails,

Barbara Olson

Barbara Olson


  • Laurie

    Port certainly has changed for the better over the years. It was a pretty little town before but it really looks beautiful now!

    May 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm
    • Barbara Olson
      Barbara Olson

      I think it’s all coming together for Port now after the long haul of improving the marina and getting good shopping in its downtown area. Now there are wonderful shops, fabulous restaurants and the marina is gorgeous. There are plenty of activities to unite the townspeople and draw in visitors. It has a lot going for it and I’m excited that I’m close enough to enjoy it all!

      May 10, 2016 at 10:38 pm

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