“One moment I gaz’d from the hill’s gentle slope,
All hush’d was the billows’ commotion,
And tho’t that the Light-house look’d lovely as Hope,
That star of life’s tremulous ocean.”
(Thomas Moore, The Light House)
Visiting Cana Island is a magical experience akin to wandering through the forest and inadvertently stumbling into the 1800s. Located near Bailey’s Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin, taking photos here with my digital camera felt anachronistic against the backdrop of these amazingly preserved buildings that were erected nearly a century and a half ago.
The rising waters of Lake Michigan covered the causeway leading from the mainland to the island, so a museum volunteer kindly drove us across in a tractor. Brave (or more appropriately-shod) visitors, could choose to wade through instead. Once across the shore, a winding path leads you to the island’s beacon– an 89 foot tower that remains one of the most popular lighthouses in Door County.
We climbed the 97 steps of the tower to enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, Moonlight Bay and the Door County peninsula from the watch deck. The third order Fresnel lens, hand-crafted in France, that sits atop the tower has been in continuous use since it was first lit in 1870. It is one of the few U.S. lighthouses whose original lens is still functioning as an active navigational aid.
For a truly awe-inspiring vista, walk down to the waterline and look up at the majestic tower from its base. It is a grounding perspective that reminds you how small a piece of the world you really are.
Cana Island is open from May through October, seven days a week, from 10 am – 5pm. The last tower climb starts at 4:30 p.m. each day. The $12 admission for adults includes entrance to the island, keeper’s quarters and light tower. Youth admission for ages 5-17 is $9 and children 4 and under are free. For $7 and $4 respectively, adult and youth visitors can see the Island and keeper’s quarters only (for those who do not want to make the climb).
Cana Island is home to one of Door County‘s many lighthouses, but if your time is limited– this is the one you must visit. If you are not yet convinced, I will let the pictures persuade you instead…