Destination Sturgeon Bay News


Happy Winter Fleet season! We’re quickly approaching the arrival of roughly 17 vessels into the Shipbuilding Capital of the Great Lakes – aka, STURGEON BAY!

Every year ships ranging in length from 500’ to 1000’ travel to Sturgeon Bay for winter layup at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. During the two to three months that the ships are resting, the team at FBS works round the clock repairing, painting, and refreshing the ships so they’re ready for the upcoming season.

Fleet season is one of the best times to view the working waterfront in Sturgeon Bay. The massive ships are one-of-a-kind and regardless of weather, gather quite a crowd. To admire the freighters for yourself, we’ve listed our top Sturgeon Bay spots to get that perfect shot of the ships coming into port!

1.North Pierhead Lighthouse

Lately, many ships have been entering Sturgeon Bay via Bayside. But if you’re lucky enough to catch one coming through via Lake Michigan, North Pierhead Lighthouse is the first spot to stop to watch the freighter ‘thread the needle’ through the canal. At times the canal can seem so thin that you could just reach out and touch the freighter as it’s passing by. Amazing!!  

Luke Collins photo of ship at North Pierhead Lighthouse

2.Bullhead Point

Bullhead Point is one of the best-kept local secrets in Sturgeon Bay! The small peninsula of land juts out directly across from FBS and is the perfect viewing area to watch Sarter Marine Towing Tugs do their work. Once freighters come into port, they must turn around and back into their designated spot (and we thought parallel parking was hard.) The tugs help the ships turn and they slowly push them to where they need to go.

Ships in Sturgeon Bay

3.Graham Park 

If a ship is entering Sturgeon Bay on the lakeside, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to watch their trip from two different locations. After the freighter makes their way through the tight squeeze of the canal, they have to wait a few minutes for the Bayview Bridge to stop traffic and open. That gives you plenty of time to drive back into Downtown Sturgeon Bay and watch from Graham Park. This view spot has an amazing view of the pass-through both the Oregon Street Bridge and the Michigan Street Bridge. This viewing spot gets bonus points for the multiple benches where you can rest while the ship slowly makes its way down the channel!

If you’re watching a ship come through that’s between 700’-1000’, there’s a good chance that the front end will be through the Michigan Street Bridge before the tail end will pass through the Oregon Street Bridge.

Winter Fleet in Sturgeon Bay

4.Online Webcams

We know that not everyone can be in Sturgeon Bay to watch the Winter Fleet pass through, but that’s why our online webcams are a great second option so you can view from home. Our three webcam locations allow you to view the ships from the Lakeside, Bayside, and right Downtown from the Door County Maritime Museum.

Every year, FBS provides us with a list of ships and their expected arrival dates into Sturgeon Bay. This year we received an abbreviated list with names of the ships, but no arrival times. This is the ultimate Sturgeon Bay scavenger hunt and we’ve been tracking the ships every day via Boat Nerd and Marine Traffic! Please watch our social media pages closely for more information on arrival dates and times.