Rock Island State Park in Wisconsin offers a unique camping experience that is truly hard to match anywhere in the US.
This state park is a 975-acre island located off the tip of Door Peninsula and is only accessible by two ferries, one from Door Peninsula to the bigger Washington Island and the second from the north end of Washington Island to Rock Island.
The long trek through Door Peninsula and multiple ferries make Rock Island one of the least visited state parks in Wisconsin, which means no crowds and lots of peace and quiet!
History of Rock Island State Park
Rock Island was originally settled by Native Americans and eventually, explorers started using it as a stop along the Grand Traverse route between Michigan and Wisconsin.
The island eventually became home to a small fishing village which eventually relocated to the larger neighboring Washington Island.
in 1910, Chestar Thordarson purchased the majority of the island to build his summer home on. Much of his estate can still be seen today and his amazing boathouse is open for public viewing.
In 1965 the Wisconsin DNR purchased the land from Mr. Thordarson’s estate and the island eventually become a state park.
For more great Wisconsin camping destinations check out: 30 of the Best Places To Go Camping in. Wisconsin.
What Makes Rock Island Unique
What really makes Rock Island State Park unique is the fact that it really is a remote island. You can hike around the entire island in roughly 1.5 hours on the 5-mile hiking trail or you can roam the miles of beautiful beaches.
Getting to Rock Island is unique all on its own. A drive through Door County is always fun, the five-mile trip across Washington Island has lots to do and see, and finally, the two ferry rides are a fun experience for anyone.
Camping at Rock Island State Park
If you plan on going camping at Rock Island you better be ready for some primitive camping.
There are 40 rustic campsites located on Rock Island. The sites are scattered and quite private.
There is no electricity, showers, store, or other amenities on Rock Island either. In fact, all you will find is a picnic bench, a fire ring, 1 pump well for water, and pit toilets.
Mosquitoes and ticks are not a problem on the island according to visitors, so that is a bonus. This is because there is actually very little standing water and low hot humid areas for these types of insects to thrive in.
With low insect problems, a small number of visitors, rustic campsites and the remoteness of the island, this makes Rock Island State Park a fun place to camp that should be on any serious camper’s bucket list.
Things To Do At Rock Island State Park
Rock Island State Park is small and simple. You won’t find 100 different activities on the island, but you will find peace, quiet, nature, water, and an unforgettable experience.
Hiking the island is a favorite of all visitors. There are over 5 miles of hiking trails around the island.
Visit Thordarson’s Boathouse
As mentioned above, Chestar Thordarson played a significant role on Rock Island. His boathouse is one of the most amazing and historically significant structures in the state of Wisconsin. Learning how the house was built and more about Mr. Thordarson is a must on the island.
There is a beautiful swimming beach on south side of the island.
Special Items You’ll Want To Bring
Since you won’t be able to leave, go shopping, or get supplies any other way, you’ll want to make sure that you’re properly prepared for your camping trip when staying on Rock Island.
A Quality Tent – Nights can get windy and chilly, and with no shelter to escape to, you want a tent that can hold up to the elements.
A Warm Sleeping Bag – The right sleeping bag is a must for any camping trip.
Sleeping Pad – A quality sleeping pad is an added luxury in these rustic campsites.
Dry Sack – Keep your gear dry in a dry sack in case of rain or poor weather.
Washington Island Stavkirke – A unique Norwegian church found in the middle of the forest on Washington Island.
Washington Island Farm Museum – Learn all about how farming is and was conducted on Washington Island.
Jacobson Museum – For a load of island history, you can visit Jacobsen Museum and learn about how island life throughout history from the Indians, explorers and the first settlers.
Booking Information For Rock Island State Park
You can make camping reservations at the Wisconsin State Park System website. https://wisconsin.goingtocamp.com/