Sturgeon Bay wasn’t on Ocean Navigator’s itinerary, but we happily ended up there anyway. Following our stop in Green Bay, we were supposed to have a full day cruising on the Great Lakes. The captain had passed through Sturgeon Bay during the previous cruise, though, and he was intrigued. A cruise ship had never stopped in this Door County, Wisconsin town, and the captain thought it would be an appealing place to spend a day.
In very short order, the captain notified the company we would be stopping in Sturgeon Bay, the authorities were notified; and, Diane, the shore excursion manager, put together an included hop-on-hop-off tour for the passengers.
Bruce and I were excited to return to Sturgeon Bay, because we had enjoyed our visit there during our 2017 Wisconsin road trip. We had stayed at the very memorable Holiday Music Motel, and the entire Door County experience was fantastic!
As the ship arrived, Bruce and I watched from the deck. Boaters honked their horns, and people watched from the just-completed park where we docked. We were anxious to get an early start on our day, so we were the first ones off the ship as soon as we were cleared to disembark. Wow, what a fun experience! Locals came up and welcomed us; and, we were asked all about where we had been, where the ship was going next, and what it was like to cruise aboard the Ocean Navigator. What a blast!
In addition to being a friendly little city of less than 10,000, Sturgeon Bay, Door County, is a world-renowned shipbuilding hub where thousand-foot lakers (lake cargo ships) and small bass-fishing boats are built. It also has a vibrant music and arts scene, nice shops, and a variety of good restaurants.
We began our day by hopping on the bus for a ride out to Door Peninsula Winery. Neither of us were interested in getting off at the winery; we just wanted to enjoy seeing Door County again. It brought back great memories!
Door County Maritime Museum was where we hopped off—mainly so we could enjoy the views from the top deck. Located in the Jim Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower, we had seen several people at the top watching Ocean Navigator’s arrival, and I wanted to see our ship from that vantage point as well. What an awesome view! We even spotted the Holiday Music Motel.
On the way down from the viewing deck, we took the stairs rather than the elevator, so we could see the excellent exhibits located on several of the floors. It’s a work in progress, but they are doing a fantastic job repurposing the lighthouse tower.
Rather than ride the bus back to the ship, we opted to walk over the Michigan Street Bridge, aka Sturgeon Bay Bridge that dates back to 1931 and was dedicated as a Door County Veterans Memorial.
Thanks to musician Pat MacDonald, owner of the Holiday Music Motel, and other locals passionate about the iconic steel bridge, they formed the Citizens for Our Bridge preservation group to save the old bridge. (It was slated for demolition when it no longer met safety standards.) MacDonald created and hosted the Steel Bridge Songfest, which took place—and continues annually— at the hotel, to raise money for the bridge’s restoration. They were also able to get the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation, to save it from demolition.
Meanwhile a larger four-lane sister bridge was built one block away, on Oregon Street, to meet federal safety standards and accommodate the heavy traffic loads caused by the bridge’s 3,000 openings annually. In 2011, the newly restored Michigan Street Bridge reopened, and the two bridges operate as one system to relieve traffic congestion.
During our walk across the bridge, we were stopped so the bridge could open and allow boat traffic through. It was a cool experience crossing that bridge and knowing that when a group of passionate people want something bad enough, they can make it happen. And, it was fun remembering back to our stay at the Holiday Music Motel, that it was the hotel owners that were most instrumental in saving their iconic bridge.
Next up: Memorable Muskegon, Michigan