Wisconsin may be famous for its amazing cheese selections, its Green Bay Packers, and its Wisconsin Dells Water Park. But the Badger State is also home to a peninsula of charming towns, dazzling cherry blossoms, and historic lighthouses.
Door County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, and it has certainly earned its reputation. From gorgeous parks to local wineries, tourists enjoy their stay on the peninsula year after year. Let’s learn more!
Where Is Door County?
The easternmost county in Wisconsin, Door County is home to over 30,000 residents on a 70-mile peninsula with Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. “Death’s Door” was given to the strait linking Lake Michigan and Green Bay between the northern tip of the Door Peninsula.
According to Native American traditions, the name is traced back to a battle between the Winnebago and Potawatomi tribes. In more contemporary history, this dangerous strait has caused numerous shipwrecks.
About Door County
Created in 1851, Door County, Wis., saw different groups of immigrants venture into the area to establish settlements. The region saw tremendous growth in the 1850s, welcoming Moravians, African-Americans, and Irish. In the mid-1880s, a Coast Guard Station started at Sturgeon Bay. The Ahnapee and Western Railway extended to Sturgeon Bay in 1894.
At the turn of the century, tourism began to flourish. By 1920, about 125,000 people visited each year. Additionally, by 1969, 1 million people visited each year. About 2 million people visit each year now to enjoy the apple and cherry orchards and endless outdoor recreation.
Door County is home to several small towns with charming main streets, eleven lighthouses, five state parks, more than 275 shipwrecks, islands, sea caves, and more.
Pro Tip: After exploring Door County, Wisconsin, make sure to go searching for these 7 Amazing Waterfalls in Wisconsin.
What’s So Special About Door County?
You can’t talk about Door County without talking about the water. With 300 miles of shoreline from Green Bay and Lake Michigan, plenty of recreational water activities are available. But there’s also space to relax and take in the beautiful scenery. The small coastal towns offer visitors local shopping, apple and cherry orchards, and wineries.
In addition to the water, Door County is also special because it’s home to the most state parks in the state. Peninsula State Park, White Fish Dunes, Rock Island, Newport State Park, and Potawatomi State Park are all located in Door County, Wis.
What Is the Prettiest Town in Door County?
Fish Creek is one of the best small towns in the country, not just Door County. It’s the gateway to Peninsula State Park, home to the Eagle Bluff lighthouse and the City Brick lighthouse. You can also ride the 10-mile sunset bike route. Fish Creek also offers a beautiful harbor from which you can see the islands and one of the best locations to view the sunset in Wisconsin at Sunset Park.
There are also numerous recreational opportunities like hiking, biking, and kayaking in Fish Creek.
What Is There to Do in Door County?
It’s impossible to go to Door County and be bored. Even if you want to relax, you’ll do so in stunning scenery. From wineries to lighthouses to state parks, Door County has something for everyone.
Cave Point County Park
Just up the beach from Whitefish Dunes State Park, Cave Point County Park showcases beautifully carved rock faces along Lake Michigan. Because the rock has been shaped for centuries by violent crashing waves, they continue to change. Divers enjoy exploring underwater caverns, and kayakers enjoy paddling through Cave Point.
Stone’s Throw Winery
Stone’s Throw Winery started 24 years ago when Russell Turco had the idea to visit California vineyards and have the grapes shipped to Wisconsin, where he could make his own wine.
Their tasting room is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Guests also enjoy strolling through the gardens, shopping in the marketplace, and dining in the on-site restaurants.
Peninsula State Park
One of Door County’s five State Parks, Peninsula State Park has over 460 campsites, a summer theater, an 18-hole golf course, a sand beach, bike trails, a lighthouse, and more. Enjoy a whimsical musical comedy at the Northern Sky Theater from mid-June to late August.
Or attend a nature craft or outdoor skills workshop at the White Cedar Nature Center. If you just want to enjoy the outdoors, go swimming, hiking, biking, boating, canoeing, and more at Peninsula State Park.
Seaquist Orchard’s Farm Market
In the early 1900s, the first cherry trees were planted at Seaquist Orchard. This multi-generation family farm grows, processes, and produces local items such as jams, jellies, and syrups. The farm market operates Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Pick up a freshly baked pie from the bakery or stand at the viewing area to watch the canning process. Book a tour from May 15 through October and explore acres of cherries, apples, apricots, and sweet cherries on this working farm.
Washington Island Stavkirke
A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church operates the Washington Island Stavkirke, and each year, about 8,000 to 10,000 people visit the Stavkirke.
The building has 12 18-foot masts, 9,6000 4-inch wide shingles, and a six-tier roof. Its construction was intended to be a nod to the island’s rich Scandinavian heritage as Stav Churches are highly concentrated in the Scandinavian lands. It’s free to visit the Stavkirke.
Cana Island Lighthouse
Built in 1869, the Cana Island Lighthouse is open to the public. Visitors can explore the 89-foot-tall tower, which was the original home of the lighthouse keeper and his family.
The spiral staircase is made of 97 steps and leads visitors to a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and the Door County peninsula. Cana Island is only open from May to October.
One of the most family-friendly outings in Door County is at The Farm, just north of Sturgeon Bay. Since 1965, The Farm has been entertaining visitors as a living museum of rural America. Visitors can watch chicks hatch or bottle feed a goat.
Historical buildings are also on-site that offer a better understanding of rural life in the 1800s. The Farm seeks to provide insight into old-fashioned farm life and the “Good Old Days.”
Pro Tip: While on your Wisconsin road trip, make sure to check out Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron Must-See Wisconsin Destination.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Door County?
Many shops, restaurants, and attractions are only open seasonally. The best time to visit Door County is May through October, so you can get the most out of your visit.
The summer season is the most crowded, so if you can plan a trip in May or September, you’ll avoid the tourists who haven’t yet arrived or have already left the area. The weather may be cool, but it will still be pleasant.
Is Door County Worth Visiting?
If you haven’t made plans to visit Door County, it’s time to start making reservations. It’s one of the most picturesque locations in the country, not just in Wisconsin. Almost completely surrounded by water, the scenery is breathtaking.
From the lighthouses to the state parks to the wineries, there’s so much to do in the 482 square miles of land. Relax with a glass of wine or hit the trails for some exercise.
What will you do during your visit to Door County? Tell us in the comments!
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