More ships have wrecked in Door County than any place else in the world, Door County boasts more lighthouses than anywhere in the U.S (with one exception in Maine), and Sturgeon Bay is a shipbuilding town—so there's plenty to learn at the Door County Maritime Museum.
The museum spreads across three galleries on two floors and self-guided tours are easy to follow. The first floor details Sturgeon Bay's history beginning from 1800. The John Roen Asher Gallery offers an Engine Room; beyond that, visitors can peek into Jim's Boat Building Shop, where a small vessel is handcrafted each year. Upstairs, the permanent collection includes the 1907 Elba steamship, and the Baumgartner Gallery holds model ships, a working lighthouse and an interactive light-up lighthouse map.
Kids will likely beeline to this museum’s upstairs exhibit, Pirates: Ship to Shore, which opened in 2012. They can pull on a pirate’s shirt and hat, then roam an early 1700s village to learn about their dangerous lives at sea and on the shore.
Outside in the water, the tug John Purves (a 436-ton steel-hulled single screw steam tug in service from 1919 to 1922) is open for tours in the summer. Peek inside the engine room, poke around the crew quarters or fancy yourself a captain from the pilothouse up top. The tug adds a few bucks to the visit; the rest of the facility is open daily year-round. Adult admission is $8, youth $4, tug only is $6. There are other museum locations at Cana Island and Gills Rock; admission includes entry to all three.