Are you looking for the perfect getaway destination, full of amazing attractions and delicious restaurants? Door County, Wisconsin is the place for you! With its stunning natural beauty and abundance of activities and restaurants. Door County is the ideal spot for couples and families alike. We travel here often and have done our best to create the ultimate Door County travel guide. Here, you will find our favorite things to do, lodging, and our top-recommended restaurants to visit during your stay.
Door County, Wisconsin is a peninsula of beauty and charm. It is sure to be a memorable destination if you’re looking to plan a week-long, weekend, or even a day trip. Door County never fails to provide us with a peaceful and serene escape from the hustle of daily life. We know it will become one of your favorite places too. In this blog post, we’ll share our favorite places to go and things to do for planning the best trip to Door County.
The Helgesons top-recommended things to do in Door County
Sailing in Sister Bay
Troy & I sailed on our first vacation together and since then we try to do a sunrise or sunset sail as often as possible. It’s a relaxing way to end or begin any day. Pack some pre-made mimosas and a blanket or two. Stop into a bakery and grab yourself some pastries or sandwiches, and sit back enjoy the scenery and unwind.
Danielle & Troy’s Picks: Door County Boat Charter: Sail Door County – Passage North
While in Sister Bay, stop by and see the goats grazing on the roof of Al Johnson’s. Local restaurant and Door County gem. While there, you must order Swedish Meatballs & Swedish Pancakes with lingonberries. Pair it with the lingonberry lemonade served in a chilled pewter mug. It’s proven to cool you down and delight you on even the summer’s hottest day. Our Door County Travel Guide Must See!
Fun for the Kids at PC Junction
Pedaling hard, racing through the tall pine trees. Taking sharp turns around the hog pin and stopping to challenge a family member to a life-size game of chess. This place is a little bizarre but also has a very Neverland vibe to it. PC Junction is the most requested spot by our family when visiting us from Missouri. This kid favorite has an array of playground items. Including a vintage truck with a slide, a sand pit, and a fire pit. A ping pong table, pool table, sand volleyball court, and basketball hoops. As well as a wooden train set to climb on, and a swing set, and so much more.
The only way to pry the kids away may be to lure them over to lunch at the Train Depot. Where you can grab a scoop of ice cream, and enjoy lunch that’s delivered to you on a miniature-scale train. It’s quite a magical place and transports even the gruffest of adults back into a child. It was a must-include in this Door County travel guide.
The Farm in Sturgeon Bay
Spend the day feeding cows and piglets. Milking goats, holding kittens, and watching baby chicks hatch at The Farm in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Walk the nature trail and learn about the history of farming. Learn about maple tapping in the Sugar Shack and enjoy a few hours on the farm. This is not a petting zoo by any means, this is a living farm museum and a truly wonderful experience.
Cave Point in Sturgeon Bay
Stroll along the breathtaking bluffs and watch crazy cliff jumpers plummet into the Devil’s Punchbowl. Enjoy wading out into the emerald waters in one of the cozy nooks. Kayak along the shoreline on a guided tour. Skip stones on the rock beach. Cave Point in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin is a must-see!! Every person who visits us, asks to come here; every single time they visit! Do make sure to watch out for exposed cedar roots, the trail is not wheelchair or stroller friendly. Make very sure to keep an extra close eye on kiddos. We recommend carrying small children, as there are many sinkholes along the trail. But do not miss this county park!
Lighthouses around the Door County Peninsula we think you shouldn’t miss
In Sturgeon Bay, there is a two-for-one at the Coast Guard Station. You can see the Sturgeon Bay Canal Light and the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Lighthouse. Although, my favorite view of both lights is from the opposite side of the canal at the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve.
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is within Peninsula State Park nearby Fish Creek and does require a park pass. It’s a beautiful lighthouse and has a small gift shop inside. You can listen to the stories of the ghosts that haunt the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse during the Ghost Tour on the Door County Trolley. Which is fun for a night out.
The Door County Trolley also has a Lighthouse Tour where you will see the Cana Island and Eagle Bluff Lighthouses, and the Baileys Harbor Range Lights. You also receive a boxed lunch. I love the idea of a historic day tour with lunch already made for me. Makes me feel like I’m not the Mom for once. lol.
On your way to Cana Island Lighthouse, make sure to stop by The Ridges Sanctuary to view the Baileys Harbor Range Lights. They are fascinating to learn about how an incoming ship would line up the lights to each other to find its way into the harbor. The boardwalk is also a great spot to take a photo. And my child particularly loves running up and down it.
Lighthouses to Visit During the Lighthouse Festival that are unavailable during the rest of the year
Cana Island is kind of a totally different experience for a lighthouse. You will take a wagon ride from the parking lot over the causeway to Cana Island. Where you then will take a small stroll to the lighthouse base. If you choose to climb the 97 stairs to the top deck to look around at Lake Michigan, the views are beautiful.
Sherwood Point Lighthouse can only be seen by boaters for the majority of the year. However, twice a year during the Door County Maritime Museum’s Annual Lighthouse Festival, you can visit this rarity as well as the Plum Island and Chamber’s Island Lighthouses which are only reachable by boat or ferry.
The Best Beaches in Door County
Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve is easily my favorite beach in Door County. Don’t go telling everyone about it though, because it’s pretty secluded and that’s part of its charm. Low traffic, views of Lake Michigan, the ship canal, and a huge beach. Plus you can see the Sturgeon Bay Canal Light and the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Lighthouse while enjoying your toes in the sand.
Portage Park and Beach are another favorite of ours as it’s pretty secluded and a fairly quiet beach. It’s just down the street from the Coast Guard, so you can stop and see the Sturgeon Bay lighthouses up close while on your way to this wonderful beach.
Lakeside Park in Jacksonport includes a playground, a boardwalk through the seagrass, and a lovely beach. Head across the street to Island Fever Rum Bar & Grill for their Door County Whitefish Roll and a lemonade afterward.
Anclam Park in Bailey’s Harbor is a small beach with a paved pathway that strolls out into the bay.
Egg Harbor Beach is a lovely beach with a little more popularity on the bay side of the peninsula.
Our Favorite Farm Markets Across the Door County Peninsula
Schartner’s Farm Market has hands down the best caramel apples in the fall. We make a special trip to Door County in the fall to pick up a few Schartner Pumpkins and their caramel apples. In the summer we shop for plums and cherries. Often times they have free apple cider pops in the back freezer for kiddos.
Koepsel’s Farm Market is another favorite stop of ours in Door County. They have our favorite mild cherry salsa and trust me, we have tried them all. We stock up with several jars on every trip. Additionally, we enjoy shopping for their jalapeno jam, local honey, sauerkraut, pickled beets, and have fun choosing one of their many silly soda flavors.
If you venture north to Washington Island, you will be delighted by Fragrant Isle. A lovely lavender farm that also boasts a cafe. Their lavender lemonade is delicious. The middle-end of July and the beginning of August is the best time to visit while the lavender is in full bloom.
Mini Golf & Go-Karts
Pirate’s Cove and The Red Putter are the best mini golf courses in Door County. We do really love the Go-Karts at The Fun Park, they are definitely the best ones in Door County. Fun Park also has a mini golf course, arcade, water balloons, and more to enjoy. Most Mini-Golf Courses on the Peninsula are open from Memorial Day til the second weekend in October. A few are open before then as well.
Cherry Orchards & Blossoms
You can find cherry blossoms typically on the second and third weekends in May. All of the cherry blossoms are beautiful, however, we find Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market a great stop. They have wine & cider tasting and a market with various local goods. Kids can have fun here too with the cherry spitting pit. Free cherries can be found inside the market for spitting.
Wineries and Distilleries
Island Orchard Cider to us is worth the drive up to Ellison Bay. It’s always a treat to get a bottle of their Pear Cider which can also be found in stores around the Island if you trust me on this kind of thing. lol
Stop into Door County Distillery for a tasting or a tour. Maple Finished Bourbon Whiskey, Barrel Finished Apple Brandy, and Bourbon Whiskey are a few we’ve sampled and really enjoyed.
We had to add a few shops to our Door Country Travel Guide for those who may love shopping or are not able to do some of the activities we’ve compiled. Personally, I’m not much of a shopper but these stores listed have even me wanting to go to Door County for the shopping alone.
The Door County Confectionary & Fudge House in Ephraim has a wonderful selection of candies that will transport you back to your childhood. My son absolutely loves this place, but we all come out with a snack or ten. lol. You can find the Confectionary in several towns around the Peninsula. All are a treat to visit.
Island Lavender Farm Market is a favorite among Lavender lovers where you will find all sorts of lavender goodies for the body, bath products, and home goods. Plus there’s a little stretch of lavender in front of the shop that smells amazing and is a good photo opt.
Door County Botanicals is off the beaten path but worth the stop off the main road. It features a market cart filled with lavender products fresh from the farm. The lavender from this farm is the most fragrant I’ve ever purchased and still has its fragrance a year later at this point.
On Deck is the store I drag my family to when visiting Sister Bay but they don’t go in excitedly. Although, they do have a location in Sturgeon Bay and Fish Creek as well. It has a wonderful variety of clothing and shoes for the whole family. Particularly if you are a lover of lake attire and preppy clothing like myself.
If you love Holiday Traditions, add this one to your list. We always stop at Tannenbaum Holiday Shop when we are in Sister Bay. First off, they sell collectibles for almost all holidays throughout the year. Our favorite things to shop for are Christmas-related. They have Holiday Nutcrackers, Advent, and decor galore. It’s an absolute wonderland. You must purchase one or six of the Thymes Fraiser Fir candles. These candles are the best-smelling candles in the world. I have one out in my dining room and it perks me up every time I walk past. Guests are always asking what smells so amazing. So obviously I take credit and say it’s me. lol.
In Egg Harbor lies the Mistletoe Holiday House, a sweet cottage filled with holiday delights and collectibles. I particularly love the hand-painted Door County ornaments, perfect as a souvenir from your travels.
The Best Hiking Trails on the Door County Peninsula
Peninsula State Park has an intriguing trail that runs along the shoreline with rough terrain, lots of rocks, and small caves. The trail climbs a decent elevation heading toward the Eagle Tower. Although described as a difficult trail. I believe that’s due to its rocky terrain in the section along the Lakeshore.
Newport State Park is the most rustic of State Parks in Door County with a beach, a nationally recognized dark sky, and a few nice trails along Lake Michigan. We have hiked the Fern and Lynd Point Loop for an easy stroll through the woods with small children. It’s a great opportunity for nature study with small shell beaches along the shoreline, we found lots of things to sketch and learn about.
Heins Creek Nature Preserve has a .75 mile loop that walks along Heins Creek. A short but nice trail and a beautiful spot. We particularly love going here in the early spring and summer to see the trout and salmon spawn.
White Fish Dunes has a beautiful trail that starts off going through a forest of red pines on the Red Pine Loop Trail. Take that further to the Yellow Loop to wander through the sand dunes. Then make a stop at Old Baldy which is a platform overlook. Continue further onto the Red Trail to the 3rd Access to reach the Beach.
Do you have any Door County Travel Guide Recommendations?
Are there places, things to do, and restaurants on the peninsula that you recommend we add to our Door County Travel Guide? We’d love to hear them in the comment section below.