Hard-working boats remain a staple of life in Sturgeon Bay more than in most other Door County towns, where pleasure craft rule the waves. So it makes sense to get your water tour fix on a blue-collar boat from the big-shouldered city. The fireboat Fred A. Busse once trolled the Chicago River, pointing its massive jets at fires there. Today, the boat—nicely refurbished with deck chairs, wind-blocking awnings and a snack bar—cruises the ship canal linking Sturgeon Bay with Lake Michigan proper. On the daily cruises, visitors pass under the town’s signature drawbridges and enter the lake, where they find excellent chances to shoot pictures of a couple of lighthouses still staffed by the U.S. Coast Guard. Tours also provide an up-close look at the local shipyards, where massive freighters are frequently docked and ultra-high-end yachts are built for their rich and famous owners. The boat docks at the Door County Maritime Museum, making it easy to round out your lessons in the history of local navigation.
During the 90-minute cruise ($20), a taped narration covers the sights you're passing. If you stroll the compact vessel, you'll find a tiny gift shop and fireboat-related memorabilia display. Passengers can purchase snacks and beverages, including cocktails. If you've got the kids along, they'll be able to take turns spraying the fire hose, which is a real treat. Cruises may be cancelled due to inclement weather or if a minimum passenger load isn't met.