DESTINATION: Manitowoc & Two Rivers - Come Coast For A While
Published: Monday, September 2, 2019
Take two charming towns connected by one stunning stretch of Lake Michigan and the combination just begs for you to “coast for a while.” We bring you Manitowoc and Two Rivers, where things to do are as plentiful as water. Located 60 minutes north of Milwaukee and 30 minutes south of Green Bay, centrally on the west coast of Lake Michigan, it is at the midpoint of Wisconsin.
The first settlers to Manitowoc were European fur traders, later French Canadian fishermen settled Manitowoc’s neighbor to the north, Two Rivers, where commercial fishing on Lake Michigan is still going strong. The connection to the water was key for early settlers and it is still one of the main reasons people live in and visit the community today.
For an appreciation of the history of the Great Lakes and a better appreciation of the nautical heritage, there are a couple of places you may want to check out. First is the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, the Midwest’s largest maritime museum, where kids and adults can tour of the nation’s most completely restored WWII submarine, the USS COBIA. Discover a gallery dedicated to Wisconsin-built recreational boats, or time-travel back to a 19th century shipbuilding town. Have fun with hands-on activities in the Children’s Waterways Room and Little Lakefarer’s Room, and you can operate a working triple-expansion marine steam engine. The museum is the region’s only Smithsonian affiliate and the largest Maritime Museum on the Great Lakes.
Also, be sure and visit the Roger Street Fishing Village & Museum nestled on the shore of the East Twin River in Two Rivers. This museum village and heritage park is devoted to the history of Great Lakes commercial and charter fishing. Celebrate 175+ years of fishing heritage since 1837 by exploring an 1886 lighthouse, shipwreck artifacts, and beautiful works of art. Stop and ponder at the French Canadian exhibit, read about the Lifesaving Service, and picture yourself with the commercial fisherman. The museum has recently added more artifacts from the famous Christmas Tree Ship (Rouse Simmons). Relive famous maritime disasters in the Coast Guard exhibit “Shipwrecks”!
Steeped with history and architecturally beautiful, lighthouses are some of the most popular attractions on Lake Michigan. This area is proud to be home to three historic lighthouses. Rawley Point Light, at Point Beach State Forest, is among the brightest signals on the Great Lakes rising 113 feet above the water. It was named after Peter Rawley, one of the first settlers in Manitowoc County, and is located five miles north of Two Rivers on County Road O. Tours are not available, however great views can be seen from a trail at Point Beach State Forest.
Constructed in 1839, the Manitowoc Breakwater Light was the first light to mark the harbor entrance. In 2010, the lighthouse as purchased with the new owner painting and restoring the exterior of the lighthouse in 2018. The light is located at the end of the breakwater on the north side of the harbor next to the Manitowoc Marina. The Breakwater Light makes for a nice stroll on a summer day, and is a favorite place to take photos.
Built in 1886, Two Rivers North Pierhead was relocated in 1975 from its original position (the end of the Two Rivers harbor breakwater). Displayed now at Rogers Street Fishing Village in Two Rivers, the light is the only example of a wood pierhead light surviving on the upper Great Lakes.
Visit Us Any Season
Manitowoc and Two Rivers are year-round destinations. Along the coast summers are refreshingly cool and excellent for being out on the water; the fall is beautiful and mild with wineries, apple farms, and an Ethnic Fest featuring foods from all over. Winter snow along the lake piles up in an artistic way. Enjoy live shows at our Capitol Civic Centre, one of the finest collections of art in a small town at the Rahr-West Art Museum, and ﬁne dining by a warm ﬁreplace. Manitowoc and Two Rivers both offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking in the winter.
Coastal Wisconsin Food Trail
Everyone needs to eat. But for those who love to eat, check out the Wisconsin Coastal Food Trail. The trail offers a chance to try foods from wine, cheese, beer, butter, smoked fish, ice cream, chocolate, maple syrup, olive oil, produce, bakery, and meats.
Unlike traditional beer and wine trails, our Wisconsin Coastal Food Trail has family-friendly stops like Beerntsen’s Chocolates, Cedar Crest Ice Cream, Pine River Dairy, and Henning’s Cheese. You can get ice cream at any of those stops, but also butter, cheese, or chocolate.
No matter what season you stop, the Wisconsin Coastal Food Trail has unique offerings at each stop. Summer brings lighter beers at PetSkull Brewing and produce like strawberries from Wilfert Farms, which are in season. Visit the same places in the fall for dark beers and pumpkins and gourds.
The food trail showcases a lot of diversity and takes advantage of Lake Michigan and the milder climate that comes with being so close to the lake. At Susie Q Fish Market, you can get fresh whitefish and smelt from Lake Michigan. Inthewoods SugarBush takes advantage of the mild transitions from season to season to harvest sap to turn into maple syrup.
Rounding out the Food Trail with a final few stops could send you home with ingredients for a five-star dining experience. Get a choice cut of meat at Newton Meats, season it with oils and spices from the Hearty Olive. Serve that with an artisanal loaf of bread from Bakery on State and wash it all down with beverages from Cold Country Wines and Vines, Courthouse Pub, or Sabbatical Brewery.
Put all your senses to use on a visit to the coast. Listen to the sound of the waves hitting the shore, take in the museums and scenic beauty with your sight, smell the sea breeze mixed with the scent of baking bread, taste foods from all the stops on the Food Trail, and touch the sand and the water as you explore the coast of Lake Michigan.
This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.