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Planning a trip to beautiful Door County this summer? Then check out the best things to do in Door County, Wisconsin to best experience this enchanting place.
Toby and I visited Door County in Wisconsin as part of our Great Lakes Road Trip and the five days we spent there turned out to be the highlight of our whole trip.
Located on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan, Door County encapsulates the perfect blend of small-town charm, bucolic farmland and orchards, glorious beaches, and sophistication without pretension.
This welcoming county is the perfect place to escape the often unbearable Midwest heat and offers over 300 miles of shoreline to cool off, as well as more than 35 islands.
While you could easily just laze away the days and soak up the sun on a lovely Door County beach, I highly recommend you get out and explore this enchanting peninsula, because there are so many things to do in Door County, especially in summer. Find out what a special place this is firsthand – you won’t regret it.
Fun Things To Do in Door County This Summer
Check my interactive map for the best things to do in Door County here.
1) Take a Wagon Ride To Historic Cana Island Lighthouse
One of the first things I did in Door County was to take a wagon ride to Cana Island to visit its lighthouse. You can also choose to walk over to the island through shallow water but there was a lot of algae when I was there and I didn’t want to walk through smelly water.
The wagon is pulled by a tractor and was definitely a unique mode of transport – it was included in the ticket price for the lighthouse too.
Cana Island is tiny but there is a short trail through the woods you can take, otherwise the only thing to see is the historic lighthouse and keeper’s residence. The lighthouse was first lit in 1870, making it over 150 years old!
Make sure to climb the light tower and explore the creepy keeper’s residence with its peeling wallpaper and interesting information and artifacts to show what life was like on this inhospitable island.
2) Go To an Outdoor Performance By Door County Shakespeare
While our experience wasn’t what we expected (we didn’t realize it was a one-man showing of Hamlet until the play actually started) I would recommend going to one of the Door County Shakespeare productions. The stage is outdoors in the woods making it a very atmospheric venue and it is small scale and intimate.
They are doing The Tempest and The Three Musketeers this summer, and neither of them are solo performances so you will be doing better than us – seriously, one-man Hamlet was a weird experience and hard to follow.
3) Hike in Peninsula State Park
Beautiful Peninsula State Park was my favorite of the state parks we visited and I highly recommend spending at least a couple of hours here.
Hike the easy but scenic Sunset Trail, visit historic Eagle Bluff Lighthouse for a tour or just take some photos, pick wild raspberries along the hiking trails, and relax and swim at lovely Nicolet Beach.
4) Eat All the Cherry Products
Door County is famous for its cherries, and if you are visiting in July and August make sure to try them from one of the orchards across the county. There are lots of cherry products you should definitely try too.
My absolute favorite cherry product I tried during my time in Door County was the cherry pie from Sweetie Pies in Fish Creek – the pie here is divine.
Lautenbach’s Orchard is a one stop shop for anything cherry-related, as well as other delicious treats too. I tried the cherry pie, a cherry donut, and just straight cherries – all were great. Lautenbach’s also has cherry and other fruit wines – sample a few on the sunny patio out the back, and you can pick your own cherries here too.
5) Sample the Local Beer and Wine
I was very pleasantly surprised to see a number of breweries in Door County. We loved the brews at the Door County Brewing Co taproom in Baileys Harbor which has beer from Door County Brewing Co and their more experimental label, Hacienda Beer Co. Try their guava milkshake IPA.
One Barrel Brewing Company in Egg Harbor is another must-try and has a spacious beer garden with live music on summer weekends. I enjoyed their cherry lager.
If you are more of a wine connoisseur, you are in luck too – the Door County Wine Trail links eight wineries in Door County where you can do tastings for a small fee. We did a tasting at Lautenbach’s Orchard and it was great to try some of the interesting fruit wines produced in the county – including cherry wine, of course.
6) Visit Door County’s Beautiful Small Towns
One of the biggest delights of Door County and its beating heart is the picture-perfect towns that dot the coastline. Make sure to take time to explore the stores and restaurants in these pretty towns, if nothing else it will give you a better insight into the people who call Door County home.
Baileys Harbor, Sister Bay, Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, and Ephraim are all very worth exploring.
7) Swim and Hike at Whitefish Dunes State Park
Whitefish Dunes State Park is home to one of the prettiest beaches in Door County that is perfect for swimming – take a picnic and spend the day here.
You can also stretch your legs on the Red Trail which will take you over forested sand dunes to a viewing deck at the top of Old Baldy, the largest sand dune in the park.
8) Go For a Fish Boil at the White Gull Inn
My favorite dining experience and something that is unique to Door County is going to a fish boil. There are a couple of places that offer this theatrical and delicious dining experience and we chose the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek. I loved everything about it!
You start off with a drink on the patio where you can watch the fish boil being prepared, then once it has boiled over you are led into the charming restaurant to enjoy it. We were dubious about how good boiled fish and potatoes would actually taste, especially when they are only seasoned with salt, but it was absolutely incredible and more akin to the taste of lobster.
The meal is capped off with local cherry pie, a wonderful end to a traditional dining event in Door County.
9) Take the Ferry to Washington Island For the Day or Overnight
While there are more than enough things to do in Door County on the mainland to keep you busy, I highly recommend spending at least a day on peaceful Washington Island.
While you’re there make sure to visit pretty Schoolhouse Beach and Sand Dunes Park, frolic in the lavender at Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, grab a burger from iconic Albatross Drive-In, marvel at the beautiful Stavkirke Norwegian church, and have a shot of bitters at Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Pub.
10) Visit Remote Rock Island and the Pottawatomie Lighthouse
Rock Island is not easy to get to – you have to first catch a ferry to Washington Island, drive to the north of the island, then take a passenger-only ferry from there – but it is worth visiting for a day if you have the time.
This remote island is home to the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse where you can do a tour, hiking trails, and one of the most beautiful beaches in Door County with some of the clearest water.
Don’t miss visiting the grand boathouse of Icelandic-American Inventor Chester Thordarson. He owned the island until his death in 1945 and then his heirs sold it to the state in 1965.
11) Hang Out at the Beach
As Door County is a peninsula, there are a lot of beaches – another reason it is an excellent summer vacation destination. My favorites on the mainland were the white sand beaches at Egg Harbor and White Dunes State Park, as well as pebbled Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island and the beach on Rock Island.
Definitely make sure you carve out some time to spend on the beach when it’s sunny – it’s one of the best things to do in Door County to relax.
12) Check Out the Art Galleries
Door County is home to many artists and as such there are a lot of art galleries scattered around the peninsula. You could easily spend a day gallery hopping, and this article will help you decide which ones to visit and where to find them.
13) Look For the Goats on the Roof at Al Johnson’s
One of the famous attractions in Door County is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay – because there are goats that live on the grass-covered roof! Unfortunately, we didn’t catch a glimpse of the goats when we visited but they are usually up there during the day during the tourist season.
Even if the goats aren’t around, you should still have a delicious Swedish meal at Al’s or a beer in the sunny Stabbur Beer Garden.
14) Walk the Rugged Coastline at Cave Point County Park
Small but striking Cave Point County Park is home to carved limestone cliffs that plunge into azure water, and it is popular with kayakers, swimmers, and divers. There are also short trails that follow the top of the cliffs through the forest, and one long trail that connects to nearby Whitefish Dunes State Park.
15) Visit the Door County Maritime Museum
I didn’t make it there myself because I simply ran out of time, but if you are into museums, the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay is meant to be a great one.
The museum includes a lighthouse tower, interactive exhibits, and tours of a restored tug boat.
16) Pick Up Some Famous Wisconsin Cheese Curds
You can’t visit Wisconsin without trying some curds, and Door County has a number of places you can pick some up. Renards Cheese in Sturgeon Bay is probably the most famous and has a range of different kinds and flavors to choose from.
You can also find them at Door County Creamery in Sister Bay, Door Artisan Cheese Company in Egg Harbor, and the fried curds at Husby’s Food and Spirits in Sister Bay are meant to be excellent.
17) Get Out on Lake Michigan
We didn’t get a chance to do this ourselves, other than our ferry trips to Washington and Rock Islands, but next time I am in Door County I would love to go on a kayaking trip or scenic boat cruise to see the beauty of the peninsula from the water.
Plan Your Trip To Door County
How To Get to Door County
You really need a car to get around in Door County as there is no public transport. If you are traveling from out of state you can fly into Green Bay (45 min drive to Sturgeon Bay) or Milwaukee (2.5 hour drive to Sturgeon Bay) and rent a car. It is also only a 3.5 hour drive from Chicago.
Where To Stay in Door County
If you are traveling to Door County on a budget, your best bet for budget accommodation is camping. Here’s a list of the different campgrounds in Door County.
For affordable hotel options, look at staying at the Ephraim Motel in Ephraim, Main Street Motel in Fish Creek, or Open Hearth Lodge in Sister Bay. Mid-range options include the Eagle Harbor Inn in Ephraim, the Beachfront Inn in Baileys Harbor, and Sister Bay Inn and Sister Bay. More high-end and luxury options include Country House Resort in Sister Bay, and Gordon Lodge in Baileys Harbor.
If you are traveling as a family or as a group, these top-rated vacation rentals are a great choice:
- Cozy Two Bedroom Log Cabin in the Woods in Baileys Harbor
- Retro Two Bedroom Cottage in the Woods in Fish Creek
- Remodeled Vintage Two Bedroom Log Cabin in Sister Bay
- Fish Creek Three Bedroom Gingerbread Cottage in the Woods
- Two Bedroom Sturgeon Bay Log Cabin in the Woods
- Peaceful Three Bedroom Chalet Near Baileys Harbor
The Best Time To Visit Door County
The best time to visit Door County is in summer and fall. Visit in July and August if you want to experience the cherry season in Door County.
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