One of my favorite places to visit for a week or long weekend in Northern Wisconsin is Door County. This place is pure joy and nostalgic. Typically, it is very quiet in the winter. However, during the summertime it is filled with visitors. Due to the high volume of tourists during the summer months, many workers come here seasonally. It is also a great location to work a summer gig, if you are looking for seasonal work. I did this for a summer in college and it was so much fun. If you prefer to come when it is less crowded, spring or late fall may be a better time to explore.
Try to plan as far in advance as possible with reserving a campsite, hotel, or Airbnb if coming to Door County from the summer to early fall. The great thing about Door County is that it’s a peninsula so it’s surrounded by water. After passing Sturgeon Bay, there are no chain stores past this point. There are many great shops throughout Door County with local artists which offers an eclectic feel.
Here are some places to visit and activities to try if you find yourself in Door County.
1) Shop at Founder’s Square: Founder’s square is in Downtown Fish Creek with a string of cute shops to find unique gifts, clothes, and household decorations.
Founder’s Square website: http://www.founderssquaredoorcounty.com
2) State Parks: For being a relatively small Peninsula, Door County has 5 state parks to offer. I’ve been able to visit 3 of them pretty regularly. A Wisconsin State park sticker is required when visiting these locations.
- Whitefish Dunes State Park: Over the years, the Dunes have changed quite a bit from when I first visited as the last time I was there rising water levels impacted the amount of sand on the beach. Whitefish Dunes State Park offers great hiking trails and is it close to Cave Point. There is also a Kayak Center here for kayak rentals. They offer a Cave and Dunes Kayak Tour as one of their options. It is right next to Cave Point County Park which has limestone ledges and underwater caves.
Whitefish Dunes State Park Website: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/whitefish
Kayak Tour website: https://www.dcadventurecenter.com/kayak/kayak-cave-dunes/
Cave Point County Park website: https://www.co.door.wi.gov/554/Cave-Point-County-Park
- Peninsula State Park: Peninsula Park is huge with over 3,700 acres of land. If you are a camper, this is your place to be with over 460 campsites. There are also many trails to hike and bike, a lighthouse to explore, a beach, and a golf course. As a child, I remember watching performances at the Peninsula Players Theatre. For more information click here:
Peninsula State Park website: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/peninsula
Peninsula Players website: https://www.peninsulaplayers.com/#
- Rock Island State Park: Take a ferry to get there and visit this park. There are no vehicles allowed in Rock Island. Visit the Pottawatomie Lighthouse.
Rock Island State Park website: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/rockisland
- Newport State Park: With over 2,300 acres of forest and 11 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan there is much to do here. There are over 30 miles of hiking. It also is considered a Dark Sky Park, which is one of 18 in the United States. Come and enjoy the stars.
Newport State Park website: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/newport
- Potawatomi State Park: Located in Sturgeon Bay, this park has 1,200 acres of land. The land is bordered by limestone cliffs.
Potawatomi State Park website: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/potawatomi
3) Camp: It’s time to explore the various campgrounds. Get that tent or RV and get ready for some fun.
- Bailey’s Grove Campground: When my friend and I were unable to get into Peninsula State Park to camp, we stayed at Bailey’s Grove. A great location and it did not disappoint.
- Peninsula State Park: Book early to camp at Peninsula State Park in the summer. It has everything from Lake Michigan to numerous hiking and bike trails.
4) Take the ferry to Washington Island: Drive to the tip of the Peninsula to take a ferry to Washington Island or Rock Island. The ferry allows those who would like to bring their cars to drive them on for Washington Island. It comes about every 45 minutes but it isn’t a bad idea to arrive early as there can be a wait time. Once on Washington Island, explore a lavender field, schoolhouse beach (features unique rocks), and local shops. Rent a bike or Moped to explore the island. Or even better eat a burger, fries, and shake at Albatross Drive-In. The wait can be long but there is a reason for it!
5) Get some sun on the beach: Take in the sun on the beach and enjoy pure Lake Michigan life.
6) Pick cherries: Door County is known for its cherries. If you are there during cherry season (mid-July to mid-August), you’d be missing out if you don’t pick some to bring home. They also are creative with cherry products from salsa to wine. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market has cherry picking available. Enjoy eating some cherries in between picking them. They also have apple picking available from mid-September to early October.
7) Visit Skyway Drive-In Theatre: Get your car packed up and take yourself and your kids to see a good old drive-in movie. Nothing says summer quite like this. They normally show two shows back to back. Pretty good deal.
8) Take in the sunsets: Door County has some of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. Especially during the summer nights where the air is balmy.
If you are in Fish Creek, there is a beautiful outlook close to the White Gull in that many individuals will come to for the sunsets.
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