I had never heard of Door County before I started planning a trip to South Dakota. Unfortunately, it looked like Door County was too far out of our way, so we weren’t going to get there. Because of some quarantine issues, we had to stay in Wisconsin, and we got to spend a weekend in Door County. We are so glad things worked this way- because Door County is awesome!
Door County lies on the Door Peninsula in eastern Wisconsin between Green Bay (yep, of the Packers) and Lake Michigan. It has farms, forests, lighthouses, and rocky coastlines. The cheese, lavender, fish, and Door County tart cherries are incredible to eat. It is the perfect combination of Caribbean beauty, Martha’s Vineyard charm, and midwestern food and hospitality. It is my favorite spot in the midwest US and proof that the midwest is not just for flying over.
Even though the area is as close to heaven as I have seen in the midwest, its name is nefarious. Off of the end of the Door Peninsula is an island, Washington Island. The strait between the land was known as Death’s Door to natives and Europeans because of the number of shipwrecks that have happened here. There are many still there, which are opportunities for exploration.
My visit to Lake Michigan was my first chance to explore a great lake. It is astounding how big they are. They have tides and are highly affected by the wind. This can make planning tough because wind can cause your kayaking or boating plans to be canceled.
We spent a long weekend in Door County. There is so much to do here that we could have easily spent at least a week. Enjoy my 3-Day Door County itinerary.
Day One in Door County
We spent a busy first day eating the bounty that Door County has to offer, then working it off in a gorgeous setting.
Renard’s Cheese Tour
One of the things we most wanted to learn in Wisconsin was how cheese is made, as well as taste it. Because we were here during quarantine, we had to settle for a virtual tour rather than a live factory tour. If you are here in normal times, Renard’s offers tours by appointment during the week at 8 am.
For our tour, the guide talked us through the company’s history and showed us an educational video about how they make cheese, including curds. We walked away more informed, and she was happy to answer all our questions.
Because we couldn’t be in the factory, our tour was given in the Sturgeon Bay store. It is full of lots of cheeses, most of which you can sample, as well as lots of other fun things and a deli. The store also has delicious ice cream.
Kayaking Cave Point
The limestone around Wisconsin and Michigan makes for beautiful shorelines. They are among the most stunning I have seen in the US. Cave Point is the only county park located within a state park. This park is a popular place to kayak and hike, as well as hang around on its cliffs.
We enjoyed our kayaking tour with Raina and Eric through Lakeshore Adventures. The three-hour tour is a bit of a workout but is wonderful kayaking. After being shuttled to the drop-in point, we took a long paddle on Lake Michigan to reach the park’s rocky cliffs and caves. The caves, Door County views and the enormous expanse of the clear lake are glorious.
After our long paddle, we pulled over for a rest, which included time to chill in the lake. I am not a fan of ocean swimming with the often cold water, sand in my swimsuit and big waves. Lake Michigan was so pleasant to swim in, we jumped in whenever we got a chance.
Harbor Fish Market and Grill, Bailey’s Harbor
Day Two in Door County
We loved our kayak on our first day so much that we wanted to do their other tour on day two. This tour explores a shipwreck near the Door Bluffs at the tip of the peninsula. There are also lighthouses to view. But as I said above, the water on Lake Michigan is very wind dependent, and no kayaking could happen on that day. I definitely had lighthouses on my mind, so we decided to visit Cana Island.
Cana Island Lighthouse
The lighthouse was first lit in1870. It sits on a small wooded island just north of Bailey’s Harbor. The 9 square mile island is only separated from the mainland by a small causeway. This is one of the coolest spots!
How to Get to Cana Island
A few years back one could get onto Cana Island by walking across the causeway at low tide. This reminds me of Bar Island in Maine. But unlike at Bar Island, the water in Lake Michigan is now unusually high. So high that it is no longer safe to walk across. There has long been a unique and more fun way to get to the island– You can get to the island by a hay wagon pulled by a tractor!
Hours are limited, but the hayride is free and frequent.
What is on Cana Island?
The hayride will let you off at the visitor center. Here you need to stop and pay the island’s entrance fee. There is a small store here with trinkets, snacks, and drinks. From there take the short walk to the lighthouse and keeper’s house. Inside is a museum. Normally you can climb to the top of the lighthouse with a Fresnel lens. Hiking trails go all around the island through the woods and by the beach. Cana Island is a great half-day Door County activity.
Not only is the frozen custard the best ice cream-like dessert I had in Door County, but this shop in Fish Creek is also adorable. There are tables to sit at scattered around the wooded property, but also along the banks of Fish Creek in the back, which is full of ducks to feed.
Take a Dip in Fish Creek Harbor
Fish Creek is on the bayside of Door County, so has calmer water. The small bay of Fish Creek Harbor is the perfect place to take a nice calm dip in the warm waters. In this town, there are also cute shops to peruse.
Take Part in a Traditional Fish Boil
Be sure to make a reservation for the White Gull Inn’s fish boil, which is like dinner and a show. A fish boil is a decades-old meal meant to feed many people with locally caught whitefish quickly. The fish is dumped with showmanship into a huge pot of boiling water. The fish is served with potatoes and ends, of course, with Door County cherry pie.
Day Three in Door County
There are a few choices for your last day in Door County- hike, bike, take the shipwreck kayak, or visit Washington Island.
Take a Hike or Bike Ride at Peninsula State Park
Hike the Sentinal Trail to the waterfront Eagle Trail and climb its tower or bike the Sunset Bike Trails, stopping at the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. Check out this trail map.
Take the 5-mile ferry ride across Death’s Door to Washington Island. On Washington Island visit its stone beaches, quaint restaurants, and lavender farms.
Have Dinner at Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay
Door County Ice Cream Factory
End your night by having some Door County cherry ice cream in Sister Bay.
Where to Stay on Door County
We visited Door County as part of an RV trip, so stayed in a campground. This was my favorite campground of our trip. I love that the sites are large and treed. I felt like I had my own part of the forest. Quiet is why I am in the forest to begin with. It is also close enough to the town of Egg Harbor that we rode our bikes there.
We loved the town of Fish Creek so would love to stay here if we return. This inn is in an old house which is beautifully maintained. There are cottages and many rooms have whirlpools and fireplaces.
Have you been to Door County? What were your favorite things to do here? Please share in the comments.
Read on for the story about our whole road trip around Lake Michigan.