The Top 10 Things to Do in Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is an incredible place to visit. It has 300 miles of shoreline, 19 communities, 11 lighthouses, orchards, kayaking, hiking, and more to explore. Visitors can watch sunrises over Lake Michigan and sunsets over the bay of Green Bay without leaving the county. Here is a look at the top ten things to do in Door County, Wisconsin.
1. Visit Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay is the "Shipbuilding Capital" of the Great Lakes. It is also the largest city in Door County and is full of things to do. It is home to incredible bass fishing, cool shops, tasty restaurants, boating, and more. The first time my wife and I visited there, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown. It was great. Here is a look at two of the best things to do there.
Door County Maritime Museum
The Door County Maritime Museum offers a look at Sturgeon Bay's maritime history. It is on the waterfront between the two bridges. Exhibits include The Water Defines Us: DCMM@50, Baumgartner Gallery, Tug John Purves, Shipwrecks of Door County, and more. The museum also offers a cool class on how to build wooden boats. It is well worth a visit.
Ride the Fireboat
Take a ride on the "Fred A. Busse" fireboat. It was built in 1937 and served the Chicago Fire Department for many years. The cruises are family friendly and include games, prizes, and a chance to shoot a fire hose. The morning, afternoon, and sunset cruises all last an hour and a half. My wife and I took an afternoon cruise through the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal out to Lake Michigan. It was amazing.
2. Explore Peninsula State Park
Peninsula State Park is an incredible place. It is 3,776-acres of forests, meadows, rocky bluffs, and wetlands located between Fish Creek and Ephraim. The park has almost seven miles of shoreline and offers opportunities for hiking, swimming, boating, fishing, biking, golfing, and skiing. It is also the most popular camping destination in the State of Wisconsin.
My wife and I rented a paddle boat at Nicolet Beach and spent an hour or so enjoying the beautiful scenery. We also visited the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse which is in the park. I highly recommend visiting Peninsula State Park.
3. Visit Cave Point County Park
Cave Point County Park in Door County is a hidden gem. It is near Whitefish Dunes State Park in Whitefish Bay. It is known for its limestone cliffs that have been carved by waves and for its underwater caves. The cliffs are incredibly beautiful when the wind blows across Lake Michigan from the east causing the waves to crash against them. The park offers fishing, kayaking, plenty of opportunities to take pictures, and more. It is well worth a visit.
4. Take a Ferry Ride to Washington Island
Washington Island is a five-mile ferry ride across Death's Door where the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan meet. The island is full of things to do. Schoolhouse Beach is a beautiful stone beach and a must-see. Another must is to climb the Mountain Park tower for amazing views of the island and surrounding waters. Visitors can also hop on a ferry to Rock Island which has a sandy beach, hiking trails, camping, and it is home to the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin. Washington Island also has opportunities to tour lavender fields, shop, and eat.
Door County was known by Native Americans and early French explorers as "Death's Door" because of the dangerous strait between the Door Peninsula and Washington Island where many ships met their doom.
5. Visit the Cana Island Lighthouse
The Cana Island Lighthouse is the most visited and photographed lighthouse in Door County. It is celebrating its 150th year in 2019. It is on an island in Lake Michigan between Baileys Harbor and North Bay that is connected to the mainland by a football field length natural causeway that is sometimes covered by Lake Michigan. Visitors can ride the complimentary tractor and haywagon onto the island.
The Cana Island Lighthouse looks like a classic lighthouse with a beautiful white tower attached to a keeper's house. For an incredible view of Lake Michigan and the Door County Peninsula, climb the 97 stairs to the top and walk out to the outside deck. The Cana Island Lighthouse should be a priority to see when visiting Door County.
6. Explore Ellison Bay
Ellison Bay is an artsy town on the northern tip of Door County. It is home to unique art galleries and shops that show off the culture of everyone who calls Ellison Bay home. The Viking Grill is a great place to go for a fish boil and a piece of Door County Cherry Pie. Here is a look at two more great things to do there.
Newport State Park
Newport State Park is quiet, secluded, and a great place for camping. It offers miles of hiking, off-road biking, and cross-country skiing trails. In 2017, the park received International Dark Sky status making it a great place to go stargazing.
Ellison Bluff State Natural Area
Ellison Bluff State Natural Area offers amazing bluff top views. There is a wooden observation deck that allows visitors incredible views of the limestone cliffs and water. The park also has several nice wooded trails. It is a must-see when visiting Ellison Bay.
7. Dine in Sister Bay
Sister Bay is the place to dine in northern Door County. It has something for every budget and taste. Here is a closer look at the best places to eat in Sister Bay.
Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant
Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant is the most famous restaurant in Sister Bay because of the goats grazing on its sod roof. It has an authentic Swedish menu with pancakes with lingonberries, Swedish meatballs, sandwiches, and more. It is open year-round.
Wild Tomato Woodfired Pizza & Grille
Wild Tomato Woodfired Pizza & Grille is the only wood-fired pizza place in Door County. Pizza is their specialty, but they also offer sandwiches and salads. In the summer months, they have indoor and outdoor seating available. Open year-round.
Lure offers locally sourced fish, prime meats, and has something for everyone. It has indoor seating as well as outdoor seating in their garden patio. Open year-round.
Boathouse on the Bay
Boathouse on the Bay is at the marina and offers the best views in Sister Bay. It offers seafood as well as classic American food. It is a great place to eat and watch the sunset.
8. Explore Whitefish Dunes State Park
Whitefish Dunes State Park is on Lake Michigan and has 863-acres of dunes and forest. The dunes are the highest in Wisconsin. It offers swimming, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Whitefish Dunes State Park is a great place to visit on a hot day.
9. Visit Baileys Harbor
Baileys Harbor is a fun place to visit. It has a lot to offer for outdoor lovers with The Ridges Sanctuary, Toft Point, and Kangaroo Lake. It also has three lighthouses (old Bird Cage Lighthouse, Baileys Harbor Range Lights, and Cana Island Lighthouse), home to great fishing, tranquil beaches, unique shops, a brewery, good food, and more. I highly recommend this area.
10. Visit Egg Harbor
Egg Harbor is a cool place to visit. In fact, it has been ranked as one of the top small towns in the United States. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, walking trails, live concerts, unique shops, and restaurants. Harbor View Park offers beautiful views of the water and the marina. Egg Harbor is a great place to visit.
Don't Miss a Chance to Visit Door County
Door County is an incredible place. It has so much to do no matter the season. Everyone in the family can find something to enjoy. I know my wife and I have enjoyed all of the times that we have been there. We cannot wait to go back again.
© 2019 Eric Cramer