Commonly called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” Door County, Wisconsin boasts scenic coastal towns, apple and cherry orchards, sweet local shops, charming wineries, and 5-star restaurants. There is so much to do and see here and something for everyone to enjoy Here is a list of things Door County is known for and why tourists return to this unique and special vacation spot year after year.
You can’t talk about Door County without starting with its main character: the water. With 300 miles of shoreline with the waters of Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other along with 4 inland lakes, the waterfront is the main player in what makes Door County special. Being on, in, or near water has a calming effect on us. It reduces stress, increases our creativity, and brings a sense of peace. You’re completely surrounded by it here, and I think, it’s one of the main contributors to what makes this place so special.
More State Parks than any Other County in the State
With 5 State Parks to choose from, you’ll have your pick for beautiful places to explore each offering unique things to do and see. From camping, hiking, observation towers, biking, boating, swimming, fishing, golfing, cross country skiing, snow skiing, sledding and even half marathon running – there is something for everything here!
Peninsula State Park: You’ll find bluffs, an observation tower, an 1860’s lighthouse, a golf course, a nature center where we love to feed the chickadees, the Door County Half Marathon is run through this park, and so much more.
White Fish Dunes: this park features Wisconsin’s highest sand dunes and my kids (and dogs!) love to swim in the waves on the beaches here. Hike up to Old Baldy and you’ll be able to see both Clark Lake and Lake Michigan!
Rock Island: Take the ferry to get to Rock island and you’ll find over 10 miles of hiking trails, Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse, a historic boathouse, and places to camp.
Newport State Park: You’ll find this park at the very tip of the Door County Peninsula in Ellison Bay with 11 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan and it’s been designated as a “dark-sky preserve” which makes it an exceptional spot to go star-gazing or watch for the northern lights.
Potawatomi State Park: Named in honor of the tribe that lived on the Green Bay shores before settlers arrived, this park has over 1,200 acres of rolling hills used for hiking, biking, and cross country skiing. Don’t miss the Old Ski Hill overlook for a picture-perfect spot looking out over the limestone cliffs.
Known for its Creative Community
Artists and people appreciative of the art seem to flock to Door County because it’s such an inspirational place. You’ll find sculptors, jewelry makers, painters, actors, musicians, and authors that are responsible for the creative climate you find in Door County.
If you’re visiting for the arts, here are some ideas to experience the creative landscape in Door County:
Enjoy a show at Peninsula Players Theatre or the Northern Sky Theatre Amphitheater. Visit one of the many art galleries of the amazing artists that call Door County home. Make your own art at the Hands on Art Studio. Check out one of the shops and support local small businesses in one of the towns (our favorite: Sister Golden in Fish Creek!).
Festivals for Every Season
Door County is known for it’s festivals throughout the year that bring people out to celebrate. Our favorites include:
Door County Beer Festival / Bailey’s Harbor / June
4th of July Celebrations /Bailey’s Harbor + Egg Harbor
Festival of Fine Arts / Sister Bay / August
Pumpkin Patch / Egg Harbor / October
Fallfest / Sister Bay / October
New Years Eve Cherry Drop / Sister Bay / December
Foodies Will be Happy Here
Even though you’re getting away from it all when you plan a vacation to Door County, you don’t have to sacrifice quality when it comes to restaurants. Door County has some of the best dining options around, no matter where you’re from. It’s impossible to pick just one favorite—so check out our full list of the very best restaurants in Door County to enjoy during your visit. Some favorites include: Wickman House, Chop, Al Johnson’s, Wild Tomato, Trixie’s, Donny’s at Glidden Lodge, and more.
Your Furry Friends are Welcome
We never leave our pups at home on a trip to Door County, it’s their favorite place too. All of our lodging options allow dogs and you’ll find many local spots also love when you bring your pets with you. Every State Park here allows you to bring your dog along on a leash, many restaurants allow them on patios and outdoor events like festivals, concerts, outdoor theatre, and events are dog-friendly as well.
Lighthouses and Shipwrecks
Door County has a total of 11 lighthouses, why so many? It’s because the waters along the peninsula have proven to be treacherous and the cause of many shipwrecks since the 1800s (an estimated 275 in total)! Whether you love architecture or are looking for a photo opp and some history, it’s a fun outing to add to your vacation itinerary to visit one of the lighthouses or Shipwrecks. You can check out the shipwrecks a few different ways including shipwreck diving, clear-bottom kayaking, boat rides, or one of the maritime museums.
So you see, there is truly something for everybody in this very special place. Take our quiz for a curated list of to-do’s tailored to your specific vacation style and goals!