It’s that time of year again, when travelers from around Wisconsin (and the country) venture to Door County on weekend excursions. Many of them will head to Washington Island on the ferry, which started operation in 1940 with two wooden-hulled boats and is celebrating 75 years.
“About 65 percent of our ferry business — and, by implication, probably 65 to 70 percent of all island economic activity — occurs during the key four summer months, June through September,” says Richard Purinton, former ferry line captain.
So it’s important for the company to have all four ferry vessels (which have since upgraded to steel) making the trek to Washington Island from the Door Peninsula, ferry crews and shore staffing ready to go when the busy season starts. The Washington Island ferry sells about 200,000 one-way tickets each year, and operates year-round with one ice-breaker, the Arni J. Richter.
Primarily, summer ferry riders come from Wisconsin — the Fox Valley, Madison and Milwaukee — as well as the Twin Cities, Chicago and other Midwestern states, Purinton says. “During the summer we will see license plates from just about every state.”
The passenger-only ferry Karfi travels to Rock Island, often taking campers to the landmark Thordarson Boat House before they go on to their campgrounds.
A combination ticket including the Karfi is available at the Northport Pier departure point, where travelers also can purchase tickets to the cherry train, a narrated two-hour tour. For schedules and rates, visit wisferry.com or wisferry.com/75th-anniversary.