5 Ways to Recreate The Goonies on Washington Island

How to Recreate The Goonies on Washington Island, Door County
Goonies never say die! It’s that sense of adventure that you should bring with you on your Washington Island vacation. Around every corner of this Door County destination, you’ll find something that’ll bring out the kid in you again. Don’t worry, you won’t run into the Fratellies. But you may end up finding One-Eyed Willy’s treasure, or at least his ship.

The Goonies is an iconic 1980s movie written by Steven Spielberg and Home Alone director Chris Columbus. The first time I watched this flick was during a childhood vacation in the Northwoods. The Goonies captured my imagination, and hopefully yours, too. It made me want to set off on my Huffy and track down the fortune that Chester Copperpot couldn’t find.

Maybe it was the miles of forest in the Northwoods that prevented me from finding pirates gold, or I  could’ve been looking in the wrong spot. That was probably the fault of my Crayola created map. Perhaps I would’ve stood a better chance if my family chose to vacation on Washington Island.

Nelsen's Hall is a must stop on your Washington Island vacation.

Nelsen’s Hall is a must stop on your vacation.

The island has all of the ingredients for a Goonies-style adventure, but no matter how hard you look, you won’t find Sloth chained up beneath Nelsen’s Hall Bitter’s Pub & Restaurant.

So as you start planning your trip to Washington Island, here are are few ideas to keep in mind to help the fun unfold.

Tips for Finding One-Eyed Willy’s Hidden Fortune

Mikey: “Yo. Hi guys. How’s it going? This is Willie. . . One-Eyed Willie. Say hi, Willie. Those are my friends. . . the Goonies.”

1. Make Your Friends Do The Truffle Shuffle

One of the classic scenes from The Goonies is Chunk doing an outrageously silly dance called the Truffle Shuffle. In order to hang out with the gang, Chunk must jiggle away until Sean Astin’s character, Mikey, sets off a contraption that opens the gate to his parent’s house.

While you may not have the elaborate set-up that The Goonies do, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your friends or family work a little to enter your Door County vacation paradise. Especially if you are covering the bill for a cottage like the one found at WisconsinCottageRentals.org. Why not make your in-laws dance a little to enter your waterfront cottage? And if you do get them to do a little jig, you might as well hit record on your smartphone to preserve the silliness.

2. Go Biking with The Goonies

Once you are all settled into your Door County digs, your next step should be setting out on your Goonie-style adventure with a bike ride. Whatever you do, don’t be like Brand (Josh Brolin) and steal a little girl’s bike. Save yourself the embarrassment and find a place to rent one. Once you are ready to roll, you’ll find that Washington Island is very bike friendly. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to experience the five-mile wide haven.

Mikey: “What are you doing? It took him 376 lawn jobs to get that bike! That’s his most favorite thing in the world!”

Mouth: “Now it’s his most flattest thing in the world. Let’s go!”

Lookout Tower

Ahoy mates! It’s Lookout Tower.

This map from the Washington Island Chamber of Commerce shows the bike routes that will allow you and your clan to enjoy a safe cruise around the isle. One of the coolest places along the bike route is Mountain Park and Lookout Tower.

As you ascend the tower, you’ll be greeted with astonishing views of the northern and eastern shores of Washington Island. You’ll also be able to scope out both Rock and St. Martin Islands from the top of the tower. This is where you may want to pull out your telescope or sextant to see if you are on the right track in your search for finding One-Eyed Willy’s gold.

As you and your Goonies continue your biking adventure, make sure to travel along Jackson Harbor Road to the northeast corner of the island. There, you’ll find your final stop on the bike route, the Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum. Located in two former fishing sheds, the museum is home to artifacts, photographs, and videos chronicling Washington Island’s rich maritime history. That includes the area’s shipwrecks.

The Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum.

The Jackson Harbor Maritime Museum.

3. Host a Pirate-themed Party for All Ages

After a long day of biking, you’ll probably want to kick back and relax a little. Perhaps with a rum cocktail around the campfire. Here’s a simple recipe for a fruity cocktail called “One-Eyed Willy’s Pirate Punch.”

One-Eyed Willy’s Pirate Punch Recipe


  • 1 1/2 oz. Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Banana Liqueur
  • Juice of 2 Limes


Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass or golden chalice.

If fruity pirate drinks aren’t your thing, you may want to consider a cocktail or beer made with wheat harvested from Washington Island. If that sounds more like your speed, check out Death’s Door Spirits or Capital Brewery’s Island Wheat.

Dress like a pirate

And if you’re having a party, why not keep the Goonies-theme going. A couple of pirate hats, hooks, swords and eye patches will not only add to the fun of your vacation celebration, they’ll also make for some great snapshots of your friends and family.

Andy: “Watch this.”

[Data’s father takes a camera out of his jacket and proceeds to take a picture but the film falls out. Andy starts laughing]

Andy: “He’s just like his father.”

Data: “That’s okay daddy. You can’t hug a photograph.”

Mr. Wang: “You are my greatest invention.”

Play Capture the Flag

If the bike ride didn’t wear out the kids, I know what will. A good game of capture the flag.

Here’s a good example of a flag that would be perfect.

Blackbeard's flag on a sailboat in Door County.

Blackbeard’s flag on a sailboat in Door County.

If someone in your family is crafty, they could also stitch together something like this or a variation of the Jolly Roger flag (skull and crossbones).

Rules for Capture the Flag

If you don’t remember how to play capture the flag, or if your child spends way too much time plugged into the Xbox and doesn’t know the rules, here is a quick refresher. There are two teams divided equally, in this case The Goonies and Fratellies. Five or more players per team works best. Each team should also have a flag and jail area; both teams agreeing upon a dividing line for the two territories.

The goal is to capture the other team’s flag at their base and bring it back safely to your base. When you’re in enemy territory, you can be tagged and sent to jail. One of your teammates must tag you to free you from jail. There is no limit to the number of times you can be put in the slammer.

If you or one of your teammates capture the enemy’s flag and returns it to your base, your team wins.

Also, you don’t necessarily need a flag for the game. You could use stuffed animals or just two similar objects. And there are quite a few variations to this classic kids game. You can learn about those by clicking here.

4.  Spook Out Your Friends with The Story of the Phantom Ship Griffon

As the night winds down, round up your Goonies for a chilling ghost story around the campfire. If you know anything about the maritime history of Door County or Lake Michigan, it shouldn’t surprise you that there is a spooktastic tale about a sunken schooner.

This one takes place in the waters off of Washington Island, in the fog of Green Bay Harbor.  Now you’ll have to imagine it’s August 1679, and you’re aboard a hulking 60-foot-long ship with famed French explorer Robert La Salle.

Le Griffon

A woodcut of Le Griffon.

As the fog surrounds the 17th century ship, Le Griffon, La Salle and some of your fellow crew members are hastily preparing for a canoe trip. This adventure, as if your journey across the Atlantic and through the Great Lakes wasn’t enough, will take La Salle and members of your party down the St. Joseph River in search of a water link to the mighty Mississippi.

While you’re one of the lucky ones that gets to stay aboard The Griffon, you’ve just found out that a curse has been placed upon your vessel by an Iroquois prophet. Rested on the stern, this sends a chill down your spine as you see the fog devour The Griffon’s bowsprit. Could this be a sign of what’s to come? You take a deep gulp and you hope not.

And with that, La Salle and others shove off to search for the water passage. In the days following, the cool September air pushes in and The Griffon, under La Salle’s orders, sets sail for Niagara. As you depart Detroit Harbor, you have a feeling of uneasiness as you stare into a wall of fog. Could this curse be real?

We’ll never know. Because from there you and The Griffon will never be seen or heard of again.

But as legend has it, that’s not entirely true. From time to time as the fog engulfs Washington Island, the ghost ship Le Griffon can be spotted. So keep your eyes open for the phantom ship.

5. Explore a Porte des Morts (Death’s Door) Shipwreck

Now if you are anything like Mikey Walsh and his friends, you’ll probably be looking for some real adventure. And I can’t think of anything better than going for a dive and exploring a Porte des Morts shipwreck.

There are three schooners piled into a tangled heap of timbers in the infamous Death’s Door passage.  The Forest, A.P. Nichols, and J.E. Gilmore were sunk by storms in the early 1890s.

The J.E. Gilmore (left), the A.P. Nichols (right), and the remains of the Forest ashore on Pilot Island, October 1892.

The J.E. Gilmore (left), the A.P. Nichols (right), and the remains of the Forest ashore on Pilot Island, October 1892.

The Forest’s last voyage was in the fall of 1891. Traveling from Chicago with a load of lumber, the ship ran aground on the reef extending to the southwest of Pilot Island. This shipwreck is located near the cement dock on Pilot Island. If you have a techy friend like Data, the GPS coordinates to see this three-masted schooner and the other two are:

Lat: N 45º 17.120’
Long: W 86º 55.091’

The J.E. Gilmore wrecked on October 17, 1892 when the wind shifted and drove the light vessel upon the reef in same area as the Forest. The A.P. Nichols also ran into trouble in the fall of 1892, as gale force winds conspired to unite the Nichols with the Gilmore and Forest at Pilot Island. Click here to read more about how these three ships became mangled together.

The wreckage for the Forest, Gilmore, and Nichols is intertwined, so it’s a three for one dive. The sunken schooners are under about twenty to fifty feet of water. Those who’ve explored the wrecks say there are possibly other vessels down there as well. Finally, I just want to note that you should only attempt this if you are a certified diver or are with one.

For more information on Wisconsin’s Great Lakes shipwrecks, click here and here.

Goonies Never Say Die! But They May Need to Relax

Now that you need a vacation from your Washington Island Goonies-style adventure, you may want to find somewhere else in Door County to relax. WhooNEW’s Kasey Steinbrinck rounded up some great suggestions in his post on The Door County Experience – Cottage or Resort?

So how would you spend your Washington Island vacation? WhooNEW would love to know. Let us know in the comments below.


  1. That “custom” flag on somebody’s sailboat? Yeah, that’d be Blackbeard’s flag. Yikes!

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