Monday, May 30, 2011


Northport Pier, 215 State Hwy. 42, Tip of Door Peninsula -

A Visitor Center has opened within the terminal building at Northport, a space that had operated the previous 25 years as Northport Pier Restaurant.

The dining room tables and chairs have been replaced with display kiosks for photographs, information and literature related to Washington and Rock Islands and the islands of Death's Door.  This shift in direction may surprise some visitors, especially those who recall memorable meals served at the Northport Pier Restaurant over that time period, but according to Hoyt Purinton, Ferry Line President, the new direction in the face of ever-declining restaurant activity is meant to support island tourism as a whole.

"This building had been designed and zoned for use as a seasonal restaurant, and over the 25 year span of operation it had a base of loyal customers," Purinton said.  "But, because it was not economically successful, and because we believe we can do a better job marketing Washington Island, we've decided to be creative, and a visitor center, rather than some other venture, seems the best fit.   This has come after considerable discussion within our company, and with the Washington Island Chamber of Commerce, with whom we work very closely."

The Ferry Line began the transformation process last winter with new paint and new carpet, the addition of display pedestals, new signage, and footpaths for easier access.   The transformation became reality on opening day, Friday May 27.   Marge Frank, representing the Island Chamber, and Christy Davidson of the Ferry Line were hosts, and they answered questions from dozens of curious visitors, some who simply wound up at the northern end of Highway 42 looking about for more information, and those vacationers with weekend travel plans already in hand.  While dining is no longer available, coffee, tea and snack items are, and the atmosphere is intended to invite travelers to stay awhile, to absorb this northern Door County experience, to view the Death's Door Islands and ferry activities with guest binoculars, and to contemplate an island visit at a future date and time.

Island Chamber Hostess Marge Frank 
Several gallery-worthy displays will be featured.  Outstanding island landscape photography by Lucas and Heather Frykman will be the centerpiece.   A 4 x 6 oil painting by Eric Brodersen depicting an island nature scene will occupy the east wall.  And Sievers School of Fiber Arts, Friends of Rock Island, and Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands will each feature their unusual, out-of-the-way experiences.

The Visitor Center intent is to market the island experience in both a direct way such as passing on literature for motels, restaurants and attractions, but also to pique the interests of travelers who might be birders, photographers, or people who are simply curious about natural history found in these islands.  It has been the aim of the Island Chamber of Commerce and the Ferry Line to ensure all information hosts will have earned the Door County Visitor Bureau's Certified Tourism Ambassador qualification, and as such, informed assistance will be offered with any visitor's question, not only those related to Washington Island, but questions relating to our neighboring communities and Door County as a whole.  

Northport Visitor Center hours of operation will be daily until mid-October, 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.  A large, self-help display with literature will always be available after-hours in the ferry terminal lobby, open during daytime hours of ferry operation.  Short-term Visitor Center parking is available near the entrance, and there are more than two-hundred spaces available for general parking for both ferry riders and those who wish to walk out on the pier to observe ferry activity and the Death's Door scene close at hand.

   -  Dick Purinton


Anonymous said...

Very Sorry to hear the restaurant could not stay there, it was nice to sit & eat while watching the Carferries dock & leave. Good Luck to the Visitor Center. Will they be selling Washington Island articles??? clothes, hats, etc???
If so, Great, also if so, will they be available on line anytime soon????
Thanks. Bob Kalal

Richard Purinton said...

Yes, it was a pleasant view and I've had memorable meals there, too, including a great perch dinner last June. However, it was time to cut our losses and move on. There will be limited retail items, coffee. Perhaps more will be added as we go along but it should not over shadow the fact that it is primarily information, less the retail aspect. *** The Island Chamber has a great website ( *** As for WiFi at Northport, we are awaiting word from Frontier on a new high-speed service capability before we get it up and running. But, we hope that will happen in the next several weeks, and at the outside, prior to July 4th weekend. The signal should be good in the immediate vicinity of the building. Thanks for your comments, and for the well-wishes regarding the Visitor Center. - DP