Door County Wisconsin, Attractions

Door County Attractions

With more miles of shoreline, more state parks and more lighthouses than any other county in the United States, Door County is naturally one of the Midwest's most popular travel destinations!

In every season, Door County is spectacular. Located on a 75-mile peninsula and surrounded by the waters of Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east, Door County has more than 250 miles of picturesque shoreline, ensuring that you always near a relaxing water view. Ten lighthouses still guard the harbors and the more than 40 islands of the county. In the spring enjoy the Festival of Blossoms with the gorgeous apple and cherry blossoms and a special lighthouse showcase; in the summer, every community comes alive with activities including water sports of every kind, music festivals and concerts, fish boils, renowned painters and potters and performing arts troupes; in the fall enjoy the beautiful crimson and gold colors, fresh-picked apples and homemade cider and fall festivals, including Sister Bay's annual Fall Festival, a tradition since 1945, featuring fireworks and helicopter rides; and in the winter the beauty of white snow in a picturesque setting with holiday festivals and events Door County is a perfect place to enjoy the holidays.

There is always plenty to do in Door County -- water sports of every kind, hiking, biking, and snowmobile trails, icy caves, pails of pick-your-own cherries, challenging golf courses, world-class symphony music, unique craft and antique stores, museums, harbors, nature preserves and wildflowers. Adding to the mystique of Door County, there are great restaurants and fish boils and outstanding lakeshore and bayside accommodations, many fantastic choices for even most discerning traveler!

Throughout the year, from the New Year's Day "Polar Bear Swim" in Jacksonport to Historic Ephraim's "A Village Christmas", Door County's dozen shoreline communities celebrate their character, culture, history and heritage with special events and entertainment. Each community has its own unique blend of natural beauty, activities, and hospitality to share.

Sturgeon Bay
Settled in 1835, Sturgeon Bay's economy originally was based on lumbering. That changed in 1882, when the canal linking Lake Michigan to Green Bay was opened to shipping. Today, Sturgeon Bay has a charming downtown area that is home to unique shops, galleries, fine restaurants and meticulously restored bed and breakfast inns. Sturgeon Bay is home to the Door County Maritime Museum, The Miller Art Center, and Potowatomi State Park. Fishing enthusiasts will enjoy the waters of Sturgeon Bay. Trophy-size catches of walleye, northern pike, lake trout and salmon are the rule, not the exception.

Located just north of Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point County Park, this quiet little community offers visitors old-fashioned hospitality and a relaxing break from the pressures of every day life. Jacksonport annually hosts the county's biggest and most popular festivals, Maifest. Music, ethnic foods, a wide variety of crafters, artisans and entertaining activities make May fun and Jacksonport synonymous for people from all over the United States.

Baileys Harbor
In October 1848, a cargo ship piloted by Capt. Justice Bailey found shelter from a violent storm in a quiet cove on the eastern shore of the Door Peninsula. The village that sprung up there the following year was called Baileys Harbor. Surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness and wetlands, much of it preserved as part of the Bjorklunden, Toft's Point and Mud Lake Wildlife Area, Baileys Harbor also offers birding and hiking at their best at the Ridges Sanctuary, a privately-held wildflower preserve that includes the Baileys Harbor Rangelight and Lighthouse, and a beautiful sand beach that's open to the public. The shore side business district includes many fine shops, galleries and restaurants. Charter fishing boats leave daily carrying anglers in search of a memorable catch on Lake Michigan.

Egg Harbor
Named, some say, for a legendary 1825 egg-throwing battle between two boat crews headed into the harbor, this picturesque village is home to the Birch Creek Music Center, a nationally acclaimed music academy. Evening concerts in the barn at Birch Creek are a tradition for Door county residents and visitors alike. A leisurely stroll through Egg Harbor's downtown district delights the eye with shops, galleries and restaurants housed in lovingly restored historic buildings and newer buildings that capture village's old Wisconsin charm. The village's guest accommodations range from the romantic elegance of French Country Suites to rustic log lodges. In Spring, Egg Harbor glows with the colors of daffodils, tulips and other flowers. In October, businesses and residents deck their properties with Fall decorations for the annual Pumpkin Patch Festival, a favorite weekend with visitors.

Fish Creek
Settled first by Increase Claflin in 1844 and developed as fueling station for Lake Michigan steamers in 1853 by Asa Thorp, Fish Creek continues to serve as one of Door County's most popular spots for setting sail or dropping anchor while sailing up and down the bay side of the peninsula. The beauty that drew Claflin and Thorp claims today's visitors to Fish Creek as well. The entrance to the 3700-acre Peninsula state park is located in the village. Within the park visitors will find the 130 year-old Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and Claflin Point, the site of the settler's cabin, which offers a breathtaking view of the bay. For those who prefer a quiet get-away, a bike ride or walk through the park is just the ticket. The park, with its sand beaches and nature trails, is also popular with campers.

Fish Creek is known throughout the nation for its active artistic life. Here you'll find Peninsula Players, the country's oldest professional summer theater, The Peninsula Music Festival, American Folklore Theatre, Peninsula Art School, Peninsula Arts Theater, and the Door Community Auditorium, which plays host to dozens of well-known artists and productions each year.

Accommodations in Fish Creek range from luxury waterfront apartments and inns to wooded campsites. A variety of shops, galleries and restaurants draw visitors back year after year.

The village of Ephraim is nestled along the shore of Eagle Harbor. Settled in 1853 by Norwegian Moravians who named their community for a biblical term that means fruitful, Ephraim's present day villagers have preserved its rich heritage and much of its history. A carriage ride through the picturesque village passes buildings that reflect the elegantly simple architecture painted white that is the hallmark of the Moravian tradition. Exhibits at the Anderson Barn Museum give visitors a glimpse into a vibrant past. Anderson Dock, where tourists in the 1890's disembarked from Lake Michigan steamers, now is home to the Hardy Gallery. Area artists and special events make the Hardy a must-see on vacation itineraries. Peninsula State Park rests on Ephraim's west shore. In June, Ephraim hosts Fyr Bal, a traditional Scandinavian festival to welcome summer. Bonfires, great food, music and art are all part of the fun. Ephraim's Midsummer's Music concert offers chamber music on water. A windsurfing regatta fills Eagle Harbor with colorful sails in July; and, when ice is at its best, the harbor fills with ice-fishing shanties and tip-up flags. Lodging accommodations in Ephraim range from intimate and exclusive hideaway suites to classic cottages in the heart of the village's historical district.

Sister Bay
Settled by Norwegian immigrants in 1857, present day Sister Bay was formally created out of two communities, Big Sister Bay and Little Sister Bay, in 1912. In the 19th Century, Sister Bay's economy was built on the lumber shipping business. Known for its excellent shopping and fine dining, Sister Bay provides a safe harbor and docking facilities convenient to downtown. Sister Bay's magnificent shoreline features a fine sand beach in the heart of downtown and a wonderfully developed waterfront park system that plays host to weekly outdoor concerts in summer. Sister Bay takes center stage in October when it hosts its acclaimed Fall Festival. Parades, fireworks and a huge arts and crafts fair are but a few of the reasons visitors come to Sister Bay for this annual event.

Ellison Bay, Gills Rock and Rowley's Bay
Even by Door County standards, the communities that make up the Top-o-the-Thumb - Ellison Bay, Gills Rock and Rowley's Bay - remain tranquil, laid-back settlements.

Visitors to Ellison Bay on the western shore of the peninsula will find numerous potters and other artisans as well as The Clearing, a renowned school of the arts, literature and ecology; and Ellison Bluff County Park which offers a breath-taking view of the water from the crest of a 200-foot escarpment.

Gills Rock remains true to its commercial fishing and farming heritage while offering divers the opportunity to explore the many shipwrecks in and around Death's Door. Visitors to the Gills Rock branch of the Door County Maritime Museum are invited to explore artifacts of historic shipwrecks and the area's commercial fishing heritage. Ferries and excursion boats regularly depart from Gills Rock and nearby Northport Pier.

Rowley's Bay, was once a prosperous logging area, with a sawmill, post office and a small hotel on the bay shore. A popular resort restaurant and a campground still host visitors to this area where a French missionary priest first walked ashore in 1686. Newport State Park, a 2400-acre wilderness area that extends north along Lake Michigan from Rowley's Bay to past Europe Lake, is a haven for hikers, bicyclists, skiers, snowshoers and backpack campers.

Washington Island
Washington Island, the largest island in Door County, was first named "Colonel John Miller Island" after the leader of the first group of Europeans to set foot on the island in 1815. Later settlers changed the name to honor George Washington.

Many of those later settlers were from Iceland, and today Washington Island is the oldest Icelandic Community in the United Sates. The island's Icelandic heritage lives on in many ways, including rare registered Icelandic Horses available for trail rides at the Field Wood Farm.

The Island lies northeast of the peninsula just beyond the straits of Death's Door, named "Porte de Morts" by French explorers for the treacherous currents and unpredictable wave action that claimed war canoes and schooners alike. Modern ferries from the mainland, with their views of spectacular bluffs and rocky shores, make the crossing of Death's Door a pleasure for today's passengers.

Once on the Island, many visitors take in its leisurely pace and pastoral beauty while bicycling, others prefer to take their cars, rent mopeds or take a guided tour of the island's attractions, museum, galleries, full-service marinas, shops, lodging and golf courses.

From the Northeast corner of Washington Island, it's just a ten-minute ferry ride to Rock Island State Park, the site of Potawatomi Lighthouse, the oldest in Wisconsin; and Thordarson great hall and boathouse. No vehicles, including bicycles are allowed on the island. However, visitors can hike from Viking Hall, built in the 1920's, to the lighthouse.

Museums and Historical Sites

Bjorklunden Stavkirke
Baileys Harbor
Visit a handcrafted replica of a 15th century Norwegian stavkirke built between 1939 and 1947 on the shore of Lake Michigan. Inside, experience wonderfully ornate carvings and exquisite hand-painted murals. Open mid June - Labor Day, Mon.-Wed. 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Historic Michigan Street Bridge
Sturgeon Bay
The bridge was dedicated July 4, 1930, by the State of Wisconsin as a Veterans Memorial. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique engineering. Walk the historic bridge, read the dedication plaques and get a great view of the harbor.

Gills Rock Maritime Museum
12724 Hwy. 42, Gills Rock
Discover the romance and hazards of commercial fishing and shipwrecks, in this museums exhibits, ship models, marine engines, photos, the 1917 ship Berylune, the 1930 fish tug Hope, and much more at the Door County Maritime Museum's Gills Rick installation. Open Memorial Day - Labor Day, daily 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. In September to mid-October, open daily noon - 4:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Door County Maritime Museum
120 N. Madison Ave., Sturgeon Bay
Pilot the Great Lakes ore carrier Elba from its restored pilothouse, complete with compass, telegraph, map table, and "big wheel". "Steer" the ship through Sturgeon Bay as depicted in a wall mural depicting the bay approaching the open Michigan Street Bridge. Watch skilled craftsmen work at constructing a small wooden boat; explore the engine room, study old outboard motors; visit a replica naval design shop and model ship gallery; see a classic, 26 foot., 200 hp., 1929 Chris Craft; go aboard the Sturgeon Bay, a 114 ft. fishing trawler constructed in 1963, and more. Open Memorial Day - Labor Day 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Labor Day - Memorial Day 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Door County Museum
18 North 4th Ave., Sturgeon Bay
Visit the museum praised as the "Best small museum in the Midwest" by the Chicago Tribune. Exhibits focus on the county's richly varied history, from the landing of the French explorer Jean Nicolet in 1634, through the Icelandic and Belgian settlements in the mid-1800s and the Great Fire of 1871 to the present. Open daily May 1 through October 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ephraim Foundation Museums
Tour the restored 1858 Anderson Store, an old-fashioned general mercantile establishment, a pioneer cabin, an 1869 pioneer schoolhouse with period furnishings and the square-siloed Anderson Barn Museum. The Foundation Museums are open 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Tues-Saturday in summer & Fridays/Saturdays in the Fall. Summer walking tours are conducted Tuesday-Friday in the Summer and Fridays & Saturdays in the Fall. They start at 10:30 am. New in 2010: Weekly Moravian Church/Historic Iverson House tour, every Thursday from 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm. See our website for children's programming. 

Miller Museum of Art
107 South 4th Ave., Sturgeon Bay
Feast your eyes on the Miller Museum's extensive permanent collection of 20th century Wisconsin artists and seven changing exhibits. Open Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Washington Island Farm Museum
Jackson Harbor Rd., Washington Island
From horse-drawn wagon rides and special children's activities during family fun days to exhibits of field machinery hand tools and home-making artifacts, the Washington Island Farm Museum offers real, hands-on experiences of early island farm life. Strolling about the museum's 3-acre facility, visitors will find picnic grounds and five original island buildings including a log cabin, barn, forge and sawmill.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
Peninsula State Park
Built in 1868, this restored lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the Door County Historical Society.

Thomas Goodletson House
Visitors will be charmed by this authentically restored and furnished 1857 home; one of the first houses built on the peninsula. Open late June for the season.

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Door County, Wisconsin, attractions, things to do

Special Things To Do

Birch Creek Music Performance Center
3821 Cty. Hwy. E, Egg Harbor
A music academy by day, Birch Creek presents over 30 summer concerts annually. Concerts at this renovated farmstead feature professional symphonic, jazz and big band ensembles.

Double K-W Ostrich Farm
West Harbor Rd., Washington Island
Families touring the Ostrich Farm enjoy watching, feeding and petting the ostriches. Children particularly enjoy playing with the sheep, potbellied pigs, pygmy goats and mini-donkey in the farm's petting zoo area. Every year, the farm adds a new exotic animal surprise to its collection. Open daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Fall Colors
Door County
(920) 743-4456, ext. 3
The beauty of Door County is richly displayed when the fall foliage turns the colors of crimson, orange and gold! Call ahead for in-season updates on fall color.

The Farm
Hwy. 57, Sturgeon Bay
Become a part of rural America at The Farm. Visit farm animals and fowl in natural surroundings. Bottle feed goat kids and lambs; pick up a piglet; cuddle a kitten, milk a goat; watch chicks hatch; talk to a turkey. See log buildings, farm tools and implements and wander the woods on The Farm's nature trails. Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Field Wood Farm
West Harbor Rd., Washington Island
See and ride living history. Take a scenic trail ride astride one of the rare registered Icelandic horses raised at Field Wood Farm. These small, sturdy, and gentle animals are living testaments of Washington Island's Icelandic heritage. The wooded trails are easy riding. Pony rides and riding lessons are also available. Open mid-May through mid-October.

Peninsula Players
W4351 Peninsula Players Rd., Fish Creek
The Peninsula Players is America's oldest professional resident theater. It's beautiful gardens and breathtaking view of Green Bay put mother nature at center stage for an unforgettable theater experience. Open late June through mid-October.

Washington Island Ferry
Hwy. 42, Northport (Vehicles)
Hwy. 42 Gills Rock (Passengers Only)
For unexcelled views of spectacular bluffs and rocky shores, cross Death's Door from the Northport Pier on the Washington Island Ferry, year around; or take a narrated summer crossing from Gills Rock on the C.J. Richter (mid-June through mid-August) or the IslandClipper (mid-May through mid-October).

Points of Interest

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek
Visit the lighthouse keepers' quarters and climb to the top of this 130 year-old lighthouse to view the machinery, lamp and rotating magnifying lens that once threw life-saving light far into the night to guide ships away from the rocky shore. This facility has been carefully restored and furnished as it was when lighthouse keepers and their families lived there.

Cana Island Lighthouse
Baileys Harbor
Stroll over a causeway and through the island 
woods to this 1869 working lighthouse that still signals ships to warn them of the reef. Public facilities and limited parking are available. Open daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 


Annual Polar Bear Swim
Lakeside Park Beach, Jacksonport
(920) 823-2288
Each New Year's Day, the hearty brave the elements and take a dip in Lake Michigan. Food and fun for everyone!

Annual Door County Lighthouse Walk
Door County
(920) 743-5958
A county-wide self-guided tour with several mainland lighthouses to walk around and a few to walk in. Boat tours to and past island lighthouses. Held annually in May; call for schedule. Tickets.

Door County Festival of Blossoms
Baileys Harbor
(920) 839-2366
In addition to the beautiful apple and cherry blossoms, festivities feature the best of restaurant fare, lighthouse sightseeing tours by water, horse-drawn wagon rides and arts and crafts and more. Held annually in May; call for schedule.

Door County Festival of Blossoms
Sister Bay
(920) 654-2812
Enjoy beautiful apple and cherry blossoms and the Taste of Scandinavia Festival, maypole raising, ethnic dancers, entertainment, bonfires at dusk. Lots of great food. Held in May; call for schedule.

Fry Bal Festival
(920) 854-4989
Visitors and residents all enjoy this Scandinavian festival celebrating the beginning of summer, held annually in mid-June. Music, dance, crafts, food, annual fish boil, sailing regatta, and bon fires along the beaches of Eagle Harbor following the chieftain ceremony. Fireworks at dusk. Call for dates and schedule.

Pumpkin Patch Festival
Egg Harbor
Inspired decorations have made Egg Harbor's Pumpkin Patch Festival a fall classic. Held Columbus Day weekend during the peaking of the fall colors, the festival is perfect family fun with contest, children's entertainers and scarecrow displays. 

Annual Sister Bay Fall Festival
Sister Bay
(920) 854-2812
A tradition since 1945, this festival features fireworks and helicopter rides and lots of scrumptious food and entertainment. Parade and ping pong ball drop with great prizes. Call for date and schedule of events.

Historic Ephraim, A Village Christmas
(920) 854-4989
Celebrate the holidays in a picturesque historic setting! Shops, galleries and country inns are festively aglow for the holidays and special activities are planned throughout 
Ephraim. Thanksgiving weekend and 1st weekend in December. Call ahead for schedule.

Nature Centers and Parks

Whitefish Dunes State Park
Cty. Hwy. A, Jacksonport
Located just south of Jacksonport, on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan, Whitefish Dunes is one of the jewels of Wisconsin's state parks system. The park's 863 acres of forests and dunes along the rugged coast of Lake Michigan include a large expanse of sandy beach and the highest dunes in the state. Its unique shoreline landscape lures visitors to the park. Once there, hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails create serene memories that keep vacationers coming back for more.

Cave Point County Park
Cty. Hwy. A, Jacksonport
Adjacent to the Whitefish Dunes, Cave Point County park resounds to the din of waves crashing against rock and moving through the parks sandstone caves. Bring your camera and imagination o capture its wild beauty.

Ridges Sanctuary
Baileys Harbor
Hiking and birding are at their best at the Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor. This privately-held wildflower preserve includes the Baileys Harbor Rangelight and Lighthouse, and a beautiful sandy beach open to the public.

Peninsula State Park
Fish Creek
Located on a 3776-acre peninsula jutting into Green Bay between Fish Creek and Ephraim, this park offers spectacular forests, sandy beaches, and a great variety of outdoor activities year around, including: an 18 hole championship golf course, hiking and bicycle trails, VITA course, camping, groomed ski trails, snowmobiling, sledding, swimming, boat/bike rentals, boat ramp, observation tower, summer theater, fishing, nature programs, the 130 year-old Bluff Lighthouse, safe harbor and over six miles of Green Bay shoreline.

Ellison Bluff County Park
Ellison Bay
Take in the breathtaking view of the Bay from the crest of Ellison Bluff, a 200-ft. escarpment at water's edge.

Newport State Park
475 Cty. Hwy. NP, Ellison Bay
Newport State Park, a 2400-acre wilderness area that extends from Rowley's Bay beyond Europe Lake, offers eleven miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, 30 miles of hiking trails for year-round activities, including swimming, backpack camping, ski touring, snowshoeing and fishing.

Potowatomi State Park
3740 Park Drive, Sturgeon Bay
On the waters of Sturgeon Bay, this 1178-acre state park with over two miles on Green Bay shoreline offers year-round outdoor activities and amenities including: hiking and bicycle trails, camping, groomed ski touring, snowmobiling, adjacent downhill skiing, six miles of hiking trails, thirteen miles of ski trails, an observation tower with a breath-taking view of Sawyer Harbor, a boat ramp and fishing in season.

Rock Island State Park
Rock Island
Centuries away, but only a ten minute passenger ferry ride from the Northeast corner of Washington Island lies 900-acre Rock Island, the site of Potowatomi Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on Lake Michigan, and Thordarson Hall a fantastic get-away mansion constructed with boathouse in the 1920's. Visitors are awed by the rugged natural beauty of the island's craggy shoreline and rock-strewn beaches. This park offers camping facilities and ten miles of hiking and ski trails. Though vehicles, including bicycles are not allowed,
 the island's features are all connected by hiking trails.
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