If you’ve ever visited Door County then you know there are so many directions your vacation can take you. The area is so versatile with so many different options for activities! While this is certainly a good thing, it can be paralyzing to decide what exactly you want to prioritize on your trip. For that reason, we have put together a list of the top ten must-do activities on your Door County vacation.
1. Take the Ferry to Washington Island
If you haven’t been to Washington Island yet, we highly recommend you make the ferry ride over on your next visit. It’s a pretty quick boat ride and once you get there, the island provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the peninsula, especially during the busy summer season. Feel free to bring your car onto the ferry, or if you’re just going for the day, try bringing your bike over and touring the island by bike!
Some of our favorite sites on Washington Island include the lavender farms, Schoolhouse Beach and Stavkirke Church.
2. Climb Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park
Peninsula State Park is a gem in and of itself, but the newly erected Eagle Tower on the North side of the park is a sight to see. With a ramp that winds all the way to the top, the tower is handicap and stroller friendly. Once you get to the top the view is spectacular. If you’re up for a hike, we recommend the Sentinel trail, which you can access from the Eagle Tower parking area. It’s a relatively flat 2+ mile loop with easy footing - perfect for a family hike through the woods!
3. Enjoy a Beer Flight at Door County Brewing
I don’t know about you, but a trip to Door County doesn’t quite seem complete without a taste of that Door County Brewing flavor. If the weather is nice, order your pint or flight and enjoy your brew on their extensive outdoor patio, while playing bean bag toss in the front yard, or cozy up to a fire table. If the weather is not so nice, grab a table inside and get wrapped up in one of the many board games they provide. Either way, it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Pro tip: Book your stay at the Harbor House for easy access to the Brewery ;)
4. Take a Kayak Tour
If you have a more adventurous spirit and circumstances allow (i.e. you aren’t traveling with babies or small children), we highly recommend getting out in some kayaks. If you don’t have your own vessels or are slightly intimidated by Lake Michigan, Door County Kayak Tours makes kayaking accessible for just about anyone. I personally enjoy the piece of mind of knowing that these people are experts on Lake Michigan, and safety is their number one priority. There is a spectacular Cave Point Kayak tour that gives you a close-up, unique view of the many caves and coves on the coastline of this beautiful park. Which brings me to bucket list item number five…
5. Go Cliff Jumping
Cave Point County Park runs along the coastline of Lake Michigan, located between Sturgeon Bay and Jacksonport. The park features trails that showcase the park’s unique cut-outs and coves. When the waves get going, the sound of the waves pounding the bluffs is quite the experience. If “YOLO” is your life's motto, then you’ll probably want to experience the famous cliff jump in the summertime. As long as you’re confident in your swimming abilities the cliff jump is truly exhilarating. And, don’t sleep on Cave Point in the wintertime. I would actually argue that its true beauty shines most in the winter. The crashing waves make for some really cool ice formations.
6. Sunset Sail
Quiet side or busy side? That is one debate I never want to participate in. But one edge the west side of the Peninsula has over the east that cannot be contested is its stunning sunset views. There’s nothing like watching the sun go down over the water, and what better way to view it than from the water? We love going out on the sunset sails that leave from the Sister Bay harbor. There are a couple of different options to choose from when you sail with Sail Door County. Make sure you choose one that is right for your circumstances, as some are not exactly child-friendly or safe for children.
7. Eat at Al Johnson’s
Even if you haven’t heard of Al Johnson’s, you’ve no doubt heard of the “place with the goats on the roof.” Al Johnson’s is an adorable Swedish restaurant in downtown Sister Bay. The roof is covered with grass and is home to a family of goats in the summer. It is such a cool sight to see and if you have children they will certainly enjoy seeing the goats munching grass on the roof. If you can afford to wait for a table, you should definitely make a point to eat at the restaurant too. Their Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and Swedish meatballs are worth the wait!
8. Drive the Winding Road
One of the most famous stretches of road in WI is on Highway 42, near the northernmost tip of Door County. Take highway 42 past Gills Rock and you will come upon this unnaturally winding road. It’s fun to see, and if you make the trip during the fall the leaf colors make this a stunning drive and cool photo-op.
9. Go Cherry Picking
Door County is famous for its many cherry orchards. If you visit during cherry season, which usually starts in the middle of July and lasts about 2 weeks, you should definitely find a way to procure some fresh cherries. Many of the orchards such as Schartner’s Farm Market and Hyline Orchards allow you to pick your own. Make sure you call ahead to make sure they’re ready for harvesting!
10. Swim at Whitefish Dunes
Since Door County is surrounded by shoreline, there are plenty of picturesque public beaches to choose from. One of our favorites is the beach at Whitefish Dunes. It’s a beautiful stretch of white-sand beach that really makes you feel like you’re on vacation. There is even a dog beach if you’re willing to make a bit of a hike through the woods first!
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of our favorite Door County activities, the ones included in this list are iconic and give you a true sense of Door County flavor. If you check all 10 of these activities off on your next trip to Door County, you will have experienced an amazing, memorable vacation and your bucket will truly be full.