Your Guide to Buying Waterfront Property in Washburn, WI

Do you want to experience lakeside living in a country-style setting? You will feel right at home in the city of Washburn.

Tucked away in Wisconsin’s Bayfield County, along majestic Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, Washburn is best known for its hiking trails, campgrounds, parks, and perhaps some of the best freshwater fishing in the region. The city is also peppered with local restaurants, art spaces, and historic brownstone buildings which are colorful reminders of Washburn’s storied past.


Living in Washburn, WI



Washburn’s history can be traced back to 1883, when it was founded as a lake port for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railroad.

As a port city, Washburn was part of a historic trading route—one of the major factors which helped spur its development as a commercial and industrial center. In addition, Washburn was a major supplier of two prized construction materials: Brownstone, which was favored in the late 1880s, and premium lumber.


Washburn today

Currently home to about 2,000 residents, Washburn is an idyllic city with all the charms of a small and beloved American town.

Apart from its lakefront location, outdoor recreation, and rich history, Washburn has family-friendly amenities. This includes a top-performing school district. It operates three dedicated public schools, all of which are known for their competitive curricular and above-average in academic rankings.

Washburn’s residents also enjoy a relatively comfortable lifestyle given the city’s low cost of living but high quality of life.

About 75% of Washburn’s population own their places of residence. This is a significantly higher percentage than the national average of 64.1%. A major factor for this is the city’s median property value, which stood at $142,600 in 2019—a figure estimated to be 0.593 times lower than that year’s national average of $240,500.

Houses in the area mostly consist of two to four-bedroom single-family homes, although vacant lots on which people can build their dream homes are also available. Peaceful and secluded cabins can also be found in the city’s more forested areas.

waterfront home night view


Benefits of owning a waterfront property in Washburn and Lake Superior

One of the best ways to enjoy life in Washburn is to live by the lake. The local real estate has a fine collection of waterfront properties, all of which allow you to experience the high points of living in Washburn: outdoor recreation, peaceful scenery, and water access.

Besides the great quality of life, owning a waterfront home in Washburn and Lake Superior comes with the following benefits:

  1. A waterfront property on Lake Superior promises high returns on your investmentAlthough more expensive than properties further inland, waterfront homes on Lake Superior are valuable and highly sought after. Due to high demand, you can earn sizable profits should you decide to put your lakeside home back on the market.

    In addition, waterfront homes near Washburn can be easily converted into lucrative rental properties. If you’re thinking of investing in a vacation home, you can earn passive income when you are not using it by operating your own vacation rental or hiring a property management service like Windseeker Rentals.

  2. Living near Lake Superior allows you to enjoy nature
    Waterfront homes in communities like Washburn are prized by many because of the recreational opportunities they offer.With a lakefront home on Lake Superior, there’s no need for you to drive long distances to enjoy outdoor activities such as sport fishing, boating, kayaking, and swimming—Lake Superior is but a stone’s throw away from your property.

    In addition to water recreation, you will also be able to enjoy activities like hiking, birdwatching, and camping thanks to the number of trails, forests, nature preserves, parks, and green spaces that surround Washburn and Lake Superior.

  3. You will be able to experience peace and quietLiving in a waterfront home not only allows you to participate in numerous recreational activities. It also gives you space to meditate, unplug, and take your mind off of things such as work-related stress.

    This is especially true in lakeside communities like Washburn, which is known for fostering a laid-back pace of life, a relaxed atmosphere, and endless opportunities to unwind.


Things to consider when buying a waterfront home in Washburn and Lake Superior

Buying or building your own waterfront home, while undoubtedly a rewarding endeavor, can be a complicated process compared to traditional real estate. This is because waterfront properties have unique factors to consider that affect not just your real estate investment, but also your entire lakeside living experience.

Because of that, keep the following factors in mind when shopping for waterfront properties in Washburn and Lake Superior.

    1. Inspecting the frontage and shoreline is an important first step in buying a waterfront propertyMost homebuyers investing in waterfront properties tend to check what the view from the property is like first, but there are more important factors to consider: the shoreline. What is it like? Is it sandy, rocky, or mucky? Are there grasses or weeds?

      The quality of the shoreline can affect several things about the property, including restrictions on the structures that can be built on it, like docks, boathouses, and decks.

      Another thing to remember is to learn about the maintenance responsibilities for the property’s shoreline, breakwaters, s or barrier walls that offer protection or separate the property from the water.

    2. Take the noise levels and traffic into account when looking at propertiesRoad and traffic noise can severely impact a property’s value as well as the quality of life of its residents.

      In order to save yourself (and guests, should you decide to turn the property into a vacation rental) from unnecessary headaches, inspect the property you are interested in at different times of the day.

      Although time-consuming, doing this will enable you to gauge how loud an area can get. It will also allow you to come up with solutions on how to reduce the noise’s impact so you can maximize the enjoyment of your home and outdoor space.

    3. Accessibility is key when it comes to waterfront propertiesWaterfront properties on Lake Superior have various levels of access to electricity and potable water, as well as markets and shopping centers, mechanics, schools, hospitals, and veterinarians.

      When comparing properties and costs, consider the level of work you will need to invest in running electric or digging a well for your property. f you are interested in getting a waterfront property in a more remote area further away from Washburn, learn more about local services and amenities since some of these areas can be quite challenging for service providers to access.

    4. Soil type plays a vital role in lakeside livingBefore you commit to a waterfront home, make it a point to learn about the soil type and quality in the lakeside property you are interested in. This is especially important since the soil type can determine how much weight the land can bear, as well as the potential for erosion.

      Budding gardeners will also have to take this into consideration as soil type can also greatly affect plant growth.

      According to this soil survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are eight types of soils present in the Lake Superior shoreline: superior clay, Miami sandy loam, muck, superior sandy loam, rough stony land, rock outcrop, Miami sand, and dunesand.

      To be sure, contact a professional to conduct a soil survey in the waterfront property you like and research to understand what the soil type may mean for ongoing maintenance or future building plans

    5. Minimum residential lot size requirements and other regulations are enforced in Washburn and Lake SuperiorOnce again, don’t forget to practice due diligence in researching the waterfront properties you’re interested in, especially since Bayfield County is strict when it comes to minimum lot size and zoning requirements.

      Aside from minimum lot size requirements, Washburn—and the rest of Wisconsin—also enforces regulations for lakeshore protection. This includes restrictions on construction for waterfront properties.

      For example, if the property you’re looking at has an existing pier or wharf, ask the seller if this was placed before April 17, 2012. If this is the case, the pier or wharf is grandfathered and does not require a state permit to be placed. Piers and wharves placed after that date, however, must meet pier planner requirements. Read more about this below (see #13.)

winsconsin natural landscape

    1. Wisconsin strictly observes conservation efforts Wisconsin takes conservation seriously and has taken efforts to introduce environmentally conscious options for residents who wish to develop their portions of the shoreline. These include using native vegetation in buffer areas, as well as embracing more natural landscaping methods.
    2. Maintenance, repair, and insurance costs can easily pile up for waterfront homesWaterfront properties, face a greater risk of being damaged during natural disasters and extreme weather, essentially making them more expensive to insure.

      Not only that, but given the properties’ constant exposure to the elements, repair and maintenance costs may also pile up—a factor that can put additional financial strain on homeowners.

      In order to address this, you may want to consider updating your waterfront home once the sales have been finalized. This will help protect the property from potentially expensive weather-related damages and similar problems.

Some of the protective measures that you can consider for your new waterfront property are the following:

      • Replacing outdoor metal materials with stainless steel or rust-proofed counterparts.
      • Building mudrooms and wash areas to prevent dirt from entering the house.
      • Improving roofing, gutters, or downspout systems to direct water away from your home’s foundation
      • Resealing siding and decking to prevent mold and rot.
      • Installing remote sensors and backup systems if you plan to use your property as a seasonal vacation home.


  1. Lakeside communities and waterfront living can provide unique job and business opportunitiesLiving in a lakeside community can help you explore unique business ventures.

    For instance, you can convert parts of the waterfront property into a studio space that you can rent out to artists or musicians.

    If you have a knack for cooking and love welcoming guests, you can try converting the property into a bed-and-breakfast and offer travelers a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

    These unique business ventures can help offset the initial expenses or pay for the cost of needed updates. Do make sure that your plans for your waterfront property meet local zoning and business permitting regulations.

  2. Property owners don’t have exclusive usage rights to the lakeUnder Wisconsin’s laws, navigable waters are free for public use. But any person who buys a waterfront property is granted riparian rights or the right to use the water next to their property. These include the use of the shoreline, reasonable use of the water, and a right to access the water.

    However, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court has also noted that the public’s rights under The Public Trust Doctrine have precedence over that of riparian rights. Therefore, make sure you are fine with sharing the water in front of your property with other people.

  3. Local wildlife may intrude on your waterfront propertyGiven Lake Superior’s status as an ecological preserve, it is unavoidable for residents to encounter wildlife in the area.

    Some of the most common animals that people can encounter around Lake Superior include foxes, black bears, deer, beavers, and porcupines. The area is also home to wolves lynx, and bobcats, as well as birds like herons and eagles.

    Because of the presence of these animals, take measures and be proactive when it comes to managing your waterfront property. Furthermore, make sure that the methods you use will not harm the local wildlife.

  4. Consider how the lake and property fits into your lifestyleOne of the first things you should do when looking at lakeside or waterfront properties is to check if the property and area actually complement your lifestyle.

    For instance, if you love hiking, walking, and bicycling, choose a property connected to hiking trails, biking paths, or quieter roads.

    If you are an avid angler or boating aficionado, make sure you have water access that accommodates your needs, whether you desire a dock on your property or a boat slip at a local marina.

    Fond of watersports such as jet skiing and wakeboarding? Look for lakeside areas where the water is good for swimming and other similar activities. Also check the local Lake Superior regulations to understand what kinds of watercrafts are allowed in your bay or area.

  5. Real estate purchases are subject to Wisconsin’s property taxesReal estate properties in Wisconsin—including waterfront homes—are subject to local property taxes. Consult with assessors and clerks from the state’s Department of Revenue in order to determine the proper amount that you should be paying for your new waterfront property.
  6. Private docks, piers, and wharfs may be subjected to local ordinancesIf boating is going to be a major part of your lakeside life, having a dock for your boats and other watercraft is essential. According to Wisconsin state laws, a pier, dock, or wharf may be constructed without needing any permits, provided that they meet the following requirements:
    • The structures are located in an exclusive riparian zone;
    • The structures will be constructed and maintained by the riparian/ waterfront property owner and;
    • The structures will not harm any local wildlife or their habitats.

    Moreover, only the size of piers, docks, and wharf structures are regulated by Wisconsin state laws. This is mainly because large piers and similar structures can negatively impact fish and other aquatic life, as well as interfere with activities like boating and swimming.

    If you wish to build bigger structures on your property, coordinate with local authorities and experts from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

    If you find a property you love that does not allow for the kind of dock you envision, you may also consider local marias where you can dock your boat with ease, reduce property maintenance costs, and take advantage of other marina amenities.

  7. You may need to install and regularly maintain septic tanksOne of the most important things to do when looking for a waterfront property is to check if it is connected to the municipal sewer lines or if it has its own septic tank.

    If it’s the latter, assess the system and materials used and if it follows local mandates regarding septic tanks. A good rule of thumb is that the tank should be 100 feet away from nearby bodies of water and public water supply lines.

    Another thing to take note of when it comes to septic tanks is their maintenance. Because these tanks are not connected to public sewer systems, it is important to check them regularly. Poorly maintained ones can pose problems in lakeside communities.

Once you have decided it’s time for you and your family to take the leap and move to Washburn, give our team at Windseeker Realty a call.

waterfront home with lake view


Learn more about investing in waterfront properties in Washburn and Lake Superior with Windseeker Realty

Windseeker Realty consists of a team of expert real estate professionals who know Washburn, WI waterfront real estate and more. Led by broker and owner Jenna Galegher, we pride ourselves on our ability to supply our clients with reliable information and all the resources they might need in order to fulfill their real estate needs.

Windseeker Realty is 100% committed to provide only the highest level of personalized real estate services to our clients, whether you are in the market to sell your lakeside real estate property or are looking to buy your first waterfront home.

Explore the entire Bayfield Peninsula with Windseeker Realty. Apart from showing you the ropes to navigate Washburn, WI real estate, we can guide you on your real estate journeys in other communities in the area, including Cornucopia, Herbster, Port Wing, Ashland, La Pointe, Iron River, Grand View, Mellen, Mason, and Drummond.

Get in touch with Windseeker Realty today by calling [ai_phone href=”+1.715.779.5000″]715.779.5000[/ai_phone] or by sending us an email at [mail_to email=””][/mail_to]. You can also talk to our team here.

Get in touch with Windseeker Realty, one of the top real estate companies in Northern Wisconsin, at 715.779.500 You can also send us an email at

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