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Door County, Wisconsin Travel Guide – When & What To Do

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There is something so adorable but small towns. Toss in water views, fall foliage, and lots of fun activities (or plenty of opportunities to rest if that’s your jam) and you’ve got a great getaway location! Visiting Door County in Wisconsin was something that we had wanted to do for a while. With it being so close, it’s a surprise it took this long for us to head out there, but it won’t be the last time we’ll visit!

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Where is Door County, Wisconsin?

It’s a peninsula on the Northeast corner of Wisconsin that is surrounded by Green Bay and Lake Michigan. It’s about a 4-hour drive from Chicago, Illinois, about 5 hours from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and about 6 hours from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. An easy road trip location! There is the main peninsula part, and then a large island at the top, Washington Island. There are 19 communities within Door County, along with 5 state parks and 19 county parks. 

Fall foliage in Door County

When should you visit this area in Wisconsin?

Summer is the obvious peak season. The warmer weather makes it a great time to visit the beach, attend a festival, or spend time hiking the many parks. The average high temperature is around the mid-70’s and the lows can average around the mid-50’s, so make sure you bring layers to enjoy those beautiful sunsets comfortably.

We visited Door County in the fall, and it was beautiful! The fall colors are painted across the land providing breathtaking views. The typical peak season for the fall foliage is the beginning of October. While we were there during the week, we had the run of things, but there was definitely an increase in visitors come the weekend! Also, towards the end of the fall, some businesses may shut down for winter. The average temperature can go from 71 in September to 46 in November, so be prepared for some weather changes.

Different view of one of the resorts

In the spring, life is breathed back into the land, and 3,000 acres of orchards; and farmer’s markets and festivals begin back up. There are fewer visitors during this time which could lead to some lower prices to stay in Door County. Those businesses that closed down for the winter, they’ll start opening back up too. If there’s something specific you want to visit, either in the fall or spring, I would double-check that they are open when you plan to visit!

Finally, the winter. This is obviously not when most people will think to visit this area in Wisconsin. However, that’s exactly why you may want to. The piece and quiet, snowy playtime, and nights by the fire are wonderful ways to help you recharge! As previously mentioned, not everywhere stays open during the winter, but there are some places that do! I can imagine that the holidays are adorable up there!

If you’re looking for another getaway option in Wisconsin, consider staying at Harbor Shores in Lake Geneva!

Where should you stay in Door County?

Obviously, I’m going to recommend you stay at the Egg Harbor Lodge. We greatly enjoyed our time there! From hotels to bed & breakfasts, and campgrounds to home rentals, there are plenty of options of where to stay. The first thing you’ll want to do is decide which area you want to stay in, or where are some of the things you most want to do/see? There are accommodations that have a water view, a private beach, allow pets, are adults-only, have pools, are wheelchair accessible, and so many other options! You can visit DoorCounty.com to help you narrow down your search!

A couple of other places to consider are Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor, Pine Grove Resort in Ephraim, Scandinavian Lodge in Sister Bay, Harbor Guest House in Fish Creek, and Rowley’s Bay Resort.

What to do in Door County, Wisconsin?

Now, here’s where the possibilities are endless! But, they’ll have to end for the sake of this post (and my fingers). I’m going to break things down into a couple of different categories for you: water activities,

Water Activities:

  • Lakeshore Adventures – This company has four different kayak tours, including a clear bottom kayak shipwreck tour, cave point kayak tour, bluff tour, and a Cana Island Lighthouse kayak tour! You can also do a fishing charter! You can find them in Baileys Harbor.
  • Parasail Door County – It’s pretty self-explanatory! What an awesome way to see some stellar views! You can find them in Sister Bay.
  • Sail Door County – These beautiful sailboats can show you a side to Wisconsin that you can only see from the water. See the lighthouses, caves, and bluffs! You can find them in Sister Bay.
One of the many beaches in Door County

Explore the Land:

  • Some of the hotels/lodges in the area had bicycles that you could use to ride around the town! Ours (Egg Harbor Lodge) had them, but we never took them out. They would be a fun way to explore though!
  • State Parks – There are 5 state parks in Door County that you can explore: Newport State Park, Peninsula State Park, Potawatomi State Park, Rock Island State Park & Whitefish Dunes State Park. Special note: Newport State Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park!
  • County Parks – There are 19 of these parks! All the way up and down, providing plenty of escapes for nature lovers!
  • BEACH – There are a whopping 53 public beaches throughout Door County! On Washington Island, you can visit the Schoolhouse Beach which is one of five limestone beaches in the WORLD!
  • Island Clipper – Head up to the top of the peninsula and hop on the Island Clipper. This boat will take you through the waters to Washington Island. The area this boat ride covers, and Washington Island are rich in their own history. Did you know that Icelandic pioneers settled on the island in the mid-1800’s? 
  • Kangaroo Lake – Yes, there is a large lake in the middle of Door County called Kangaroo Lake. If you are going camping, there are plenty of camping options around this lake area and beautiful views all around!
  • Highway 42 – At the north end of Door County the highway gets a little curvy! It’s one of the most famous stretches of highway in the Midwest, and makes for some beautiful photos!

If you’ve seen pictures of a beautiful curvy road in Wisconsin….it’s more than likely this one!!

  • Watch the sunrise at Cave Point County Park in Sturgeon Bay, Rowley’s Bay, Bailey’s Harbor, or Ship Canal Pierhead in Sturgeon Bay. Then, after a full day, head over to Waterfront Park in Sister Bay, Skyline Road Overlooks in Peninsula State Park, Sunset Park in Fish Creek or Anderson Dock in Ephraim to watch the sunset!
Beautiful sunset in Door County
  • There are plenty of lighthouses throughout Door County that you can explore as well! They are: Pottawatomie Lighthouse in Rock Island State Park, Island Range Lights in between the peninsula and Washington Island, Pilot Island Lighthouse, Chambers Island Lighthouse, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park, Cana Island Lighthouse in Baileys Harbor, Baileys Harbor Range Lights, Old Baileys Harbor Light, Sherwood Point Lighthouse along the west coast near Sturgeon Bay, Sturgeon Bay Canal Station Lighthouse, and the North Pierhead Lighthouse along the west coast near Sturgeon Bay.
  • Lakeshore Adventures – The same group from the water activities, they also have zip lines! You can also sail through the air with their 4 lines of ziplining. This course is in the Ridges Sanctuary with the most biologically diverse land in Wisconsin. You can find them in Baileys Harbor.
  • Off-Road Segway Tours – We’ve seen those Segway tours around the cities, but these are special! They have bigger and better tires to allow you to enjoy a ride in Door County’s backcountry! You can find them in Fish Creek and Sister Bay.

Enjoy the Towns:

  • Trolley Tours – You can choose from 15 “Old Time” Trolley rides around Door County. From a Narrated Scenic Tour, Uncorked Wine Tour, Wisconsin Supper Club Tour, and even a Winter Wine Tour & Sleigh Ride! There are options for the whole family and tours depart from Egg Harbor.
Trolley Rides
  • Foxy Pedaler – This pedal powered bar (don’t worry, there’s a motor to help) is a unique way to get out and have fun! You can find them in Sturgeon Bay.
  • Miniature Golf – Have some good family fun with miniature golfing at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf in Sister Bay.
  • Golfing – There are a handful of options including the Peninsula State Park 18 Hole Public Golf Course.
  • Visit Art Galleries – There are plenty of options, more than you might expect in Wisconsin! We found a couple things we liked at the Plum Bottom Gallery in Egg Harbor. However, a must see is the Francis Hardy Gallery, or graffiti barn! This barn is located in Ephraim, and is better known by visitors because it’s covered in graffiti. However, inside, they have various art shows!
Francis Hardy Gallery
  • Go to a Show – There are a handful of places where you could see a play or concert, both inside and out, like the Northern Sky Theater. The schedules change each year so make sure to check dates. These different locations even host free music throughout the summer: Peg Egan Performing Arts in Egg Harbor, Village Hall in Ephraim, Harborside Park Gazebo in Ephraim, Noble Square in Fish Creek, Martin Park in Sturgeon Bay, Waterfront Park Stage in Sister Bay, Harbor View Park in Egg Harbor, and Town Hall Pavilion in Baileys Harbor.
  • Take in a Farmer’s Market – Don’t miss this chance to find some awesome local treats! Baileys Harbor, Fish Creek, Egg Harbor, Sturgeon Bay, and Sister Bay all have different markets throughout Door County.

Wine Time:

  • Door Peninsula Winery – We had such a great time here! We did a couple different tastings (note to self, eat more!) and found ourselves unable to decide between all of the great options to take home with us! There was such a great variety of wines, and the facility was great.  You can find them in Carlsville.
  • Lautenbach’s Orchard Country – This place was adorable and filled with so much more than just wine! In fact, I highly recommend you get some of their Cherry BBQ Sauce! It is my favorite!!! They have salsas, dressings, pies, sauces, hard cider, and wine of course! You can take a tour of the orchards & vineyards, pick cherries or apples, and even challenge your friends at the Cherry Pit Spit! You can find them in Fish Creek.
  • Harbor Ridge Winery – “Solving the World’s Problems, One Sip at a Time”. Here you can enjoy tasting their wines in a beautiful log cabin winery. Plus you can check out their gift gallery and handmade soaps.  You can find them in Egg Harbor.

Food Time:

  • Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant – I know this may sound silly, but this is one of the things we were most looking forward to (other than beautiful fall colors). We’re not Swedish, but Danish. However, we grew up on Swedish Pancakes, so we were very much looking forward to trying theirs! I knew, from pictures, that they weren’t just like the ones we made, but they were so incredibly delicious! We both had the Swedish Pancakes, just with different toppings, and then tried some Swedish Meatballs as well. We enjoyed the pancakes so much that we got them another evening to-go so we could heat them up for breakfast the next day before we hit the road to head back home.  They have a great outdoor area, and since it was getting cold out, they had some tents set up with heaters in them as well. This place is also very well known for its goats on the roofs. The roofs of the buildings are covered in grass and, yes, there are typically goats up there. This restaurant can be found in Sister Bay.

The outdoor area at Al Johnson’s is also great for some drinks with a view of the water in Wisconsin!

  • Carrington Pub & Grill – This was the first restaurant I ate inside of in MONTHS due to the pandemic. We went right when they opened on a weekday and there were very few people in there yet. The food was great as well. The restaurant is a part of the Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor. There is outdoor seating with a great view. Since it was too windy when we were there, we had to sit inside, but we still had a nice view! There were plenty of great menu options, but fish and burgers were our picks.
Burger & Fries from Carrington Pub & Grill
  • Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream – On the outside, this place, right on the road across from the water in Ephraim doesn’t look like anything special. However, it’s been a part of Door County since 1906! It’s a landmark with its old-fashioned soda fountain, homebrewed root beer, burgers, and many other classics! Did you know that at the bottom of all of their waffle ice cream cones there is a jelly bean?

Have you ever found a jelly bean at the bottom of your ice cream cone??

  • Pelletier’s Restaurant & Fish Boil – A classic thing to do in Door County is go to a fish boil! If you’ve never experienced one, you should!  What is a fish boil? Well, they say the Scandinavians brought them to the area as a great way to feed large crowds. They put potatoes and fish into a boiling pot. As they cook, the oils from the fish begin to rise to the top of the pot. Then the cook tosses a little bit of kerosene on the fire and the oils spill out of the pot. Basically, the cooking ends with a big fire show! Fish boils are very popular throughout Door County, so no matter which restaurant you choose to go to for it, you should call ahead for a reservation! Pelletier’s can be found in Fish Creek.
  • Casey’s BBQ & Smokehouse – When we first drove into Egg Harbor, the large restaurant we saw was Shipwrecked. We asked the lady at our lodge about it and she suggested we skipped it because of it was really more of a tourist trap restaurant. That is not to say it’s not good, but we opted not to visit.  Instead, our first night in town we got our dinner from Casey’s BBQ in Egg Harbor. Here we both got a delicious order of ribs! We each did a half rack which came with a corn muffin & cinnamon butter (yummy), and two other sides of our choice. It was a great meal!!
Ribs from Casey's BBQ

We took this meal to go and had a nice dinner with the beautiful views from our lodge!

  • Door County Creamery – Located in Sister Bay, the shop has various goat milk products like gelato and cheese, sandwiches, party trays, goat milk soaps, and wine! We tried the gelato while we were here. It was good, but there was definitely a different taste to it than I was used to. Before you visit the store though you can schedule a tour at their farm. You’ll get a chance to hang out with the goats and see the farm and how it operates. You’ll also get to taste gelato and cheese, and get a coupon to use at the store afterwards!
Door County Creamery

Time to Plan a Trip to Door County, Wisconsin!

So, now that you’ve read a little more about this charming peninsula, are you ready to plan a trip???

Plan Your Visit to Door County, Wisconsin

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