Lighthouses and Lakefront

8/1/2019 - Beth Dugan

Family-Friendly, Itineraries, Lake Michigan
Explore Kenosha's lighthouses and lakefront
Explore Kenosha's lighthouses and lakefront
Explore Kenosha's lighthouses and lakefront
Explore Kenosha's lighthouses and lakefront
Explore Kenosha's lighthouses and lakefront
Explore Kenosha's lighthouses and lakefront

Have you ever wanted to step back in time, to when the Great Lakes were major ports?  Or perhaps you are looking for a destination that allows you to spend time on the water?  Then, plan a weekend getaway to explore Kenosha’s lakefront and maritime history.

Friday Night
Check into The Stella Hotel or Wyndham Garden Hotel. At either property, you’ll be walking distance from the Kenosha Harbor and Lake Michigan.  It is hard to believe that when Kenosha was founded, most of the travel was on the lake because it was faster than wagons or trains.   

Start by eating a hearty breakfast at Frank’s Diner.  As you are eating, remember that this old, historical restaurant established in 1926 is 20 years younger than the North Pier Lighthouse (that’s the red one).  It puts the history of the town into perspective. 

After breakfast, go north to Simmons Island and visit the Southport Light Station Museum.  Start by climbing 72 steps to the top of the Southport Lighthouse and enjoy the magnificent view.  This 1866 lighthouse was part of a chain around the Great Lakes used for navigation. From the top you’ll see miles of Lake Michigan, Kenosha beaches, our downtown district and beyond. On a clear day you can even see the Chicago skyline.  It is easy to imagine the whole area loading and unloading cargo.

After you walk down the stairs, check out the museum in the old Lightkeeper's House.  The bottom floor has exhibits on the history of the port, including early settlers, first piers, and the different companies that made products in Kenosha and shipped out of the harbor here.  There is an excellent exhibit on the different lightkeepers that lived in the house, too.  The second floor has displays on the restoration of the house and tower and a recreated room from 1870.  

A stroll eastbound will bring you to the North Pier Lighthouse, the red lighthouse on the end of the pier.  This lighthouse was built in 1906 to replace the Southport Light Station.  Now, it is the Kenosha Lighthouse Studio with Artist in Residence workplace and galleries.  Don’t be deceived, while it is an art gallery and privately owned, it is still Kenosha’s fully operational beacon.  Complete your Simmons Island tour with a walk along the boardwalk and check out the Simmons Island Beach House which dates from the 1930s. The beach at this park is the most popular in Kenosha.

For lunch, hike back across the 50th Street bridge, to dine at the Boat House Pub & Eatery.  They specialize in fish and seafood options, but also offer a wide array of sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. Their Wisconsin Walleye can’t be beat!

After lunch, you can explore the Downtown area – with plenty of shops, bars, and public art to enjoy. You’ll want to be back to the harbor in time to catch the sunset sail aboard the Tall Ship Red Witch.  This recreation of an authentic wooden commercial sailing schooner is similar to ones that plied the Great Lakes in the 19th century. You will get to see the lighthouses from the water – which is an entirely different perspective. You’ll have a small taste of what the experience was like to be on the water when wooden ships were the freight trucks of their day.

After freshening up, enjoy drinks and dinner at Sazzy B. This restaurant is in a reclaimed warehouse where goods were stored before transport on a ship.  Other great options for a meal after your sailing excursion include Wine Knot, Slip 56, Villa D’Carlo, and Ashling on the Lough

Enjoy an evening walk back to your hotel – you might even want to stop for a sweet treat in the form of an ice cream cone at Scoops (which is conveniently located across from the hotel if you're at The Stella) or Sandy's Popper (which is just two blocks from the Wyndham Garden).

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and The Coffee Pot does not disappoint. A restaurant that dates back to the 1930s, this diner is so close to the pier that it surely would have been a favorite of sailors and dock workers.  Enjoy breakfast at the bar or in the “Garden of Eatin’” -  as the outdoor seating area is affectionately called. 

The Kenosha History Center is on the agenda. This museum focuses on Kenosha’s industrial past and feature exhibits on the different products made here.  Enjoy the large-scale map of the area showing the historical development of the port.  The museum collection mirrors the lighthouse, so visitors get to explore the industries in more detail.  You may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Kenosha Community Sailing Center staff teaching sailing lessons to youth and adults in the harbor as you are coming and going from the museum! There is always something happening at the lakefront. 

You’ll surely have enjoyed your weekend exploring Kenosha – leaving full of new knowledge and delicious local cuisine. Our lighthouses and lakefront offer endless fun on our Great Lake!

Community Blogger Beth Dugan

Beth Dugan

Community Blogger

Hospitality Educator and writer.  Married mom of three adults and Jack the Dog.  Bike trail explorer, reader, and needlepoint fanatic.