Keith Schroeder writes The Wealthy Accountant blog with 30 years experience in the tax field. He is the tax adviser of Mr. Money Mustache an
Door County, Wisconsin is possibly the best kept travel destination secret in the United States. To find Door County, place your left hand over a map of Wisconsin. Your thumb will cover Door County. Green Bay is the nearest large city outside the southwest corner of the county. The shipyard town of Sturgeon Bay is the largest city in the county with all the flavor and character of a rural community.
Recreation opportunities are boundless and include: biking, hiking, sightseeing, fish boils, kayaking, rafting, enjoying white sand beach, boating, fishing, hunting, camping, family activities, skiing, snowmobiling, and more. Listing all the possible activities to enjoy in Door County, Wisconsin is a task too large for this article.
I will uncover some of the hidden treasures available in Door County. I’ll expose you to a fish boil. If you have never heard of a fish boil you are in for a pleasant surprise. I’ll list the 13 plus islands you can visit off the north tip of the county. Many islands are available by personal passage only; no regular commercial service available. You can camp in true peace and quiet. Camping in Door County you will see the deepest black night skies of your life with all the wonders therein. Imagine countless stars glittering as you drift off to sleep. The sound of crickets and frogs will sing you to sleep.
Door County Lighthouse
Planning Your Vacation
Every season in Door County offers a variety of family events. Rather than list activities by season, I will focus on categories. Many forms of recreation fit all the seasons, like hiking. Some, like snowmobiling, are winter events only.
Be sure to view the videos in this article. They include a wealth of information to help you plan your family vacation in Wisconsin’s peninsula. Additional information on Door County is available from links within the text of this article.
What Kind of Vacation Are You Looking For?
You cannot see everything Door County has to offer in one visit. Focusing your time in a single category is preferable to sampling a little of each opportunity. Even focusing on just the parks will still require which parks you wish to spend most of your time in.
If your vacation includes children, you will be happy to know there are several things geared towards families with children.
If you like shopping, there are outdoor markets and shops catering to antiques, furniture, gifts, clothing, jewelry, food, bookstores, and more.
For the civilized palette, museums, music, visual, and performing arts can highlight each day. Dining in Door County covers everything from casual, to outdoor, to fine dining, and nightlife complete with talent from entertainments capitals around the world. Big name performers frequent DoorCounty and offer an opportunity to see your favorite stars with small crowds. It is common to have a conversation with famous people without crowds pushing in.
The islands, especially Washington Island, are a vacation alone. You can visit Washington Island, enjoying scenery, food, and shopping, but it is best to book a stay and enjoy the people that live there all year round. Rock Island has a campground and plenty of woods to explore. Cars and even bikes are not allowed on Rock Island.
Nature activities offer so many opportunities that only one or two should be considered for any trip less than two weeks. Running and biking can fit into any trip to Door County. Kayaking and other water sports are the vacation. So are winter sports.
You can golf at the world-class Peninsula State Park Golf Course overlooking Green Bay and on Washington Island. Newport State Park has one of the best white sand beaches anywhere. Yes, the best white sand beach you will ever enjoy is in Wisconsin. Hard to believe until you see it.
Outside Massachusetts, Door County, Wisconsin has the most varied lighthouses anywhere. A tour of all the lighthouses in the county will require a trip to several of the islands. You will need an extended vacation to see them all.
Aerial Tour of Door County
Door County has five state parks: Rock Island, Whitefish Dunes, Peninsula, Newport, and Potawatomi. If you like the five state parks in what many call “God’s Country,” then you will love the 19 county parks.
Camping and resort accommodations, including the Landmark Resort, are available in or near each state and county parks. Camping brings you closer to the land. Viewing the night sky around a campfire is the best entertainment the county has to offer. Hotels, motels, and resorts are available in all price ranges. The Landmark Resort is open all year around, offers 5-star service and accommodations, and is centrally located in Egg Harbor. Be sure to check out the antique malls and shops within walking distance. I can personally attest to the high quality BBQ in Egg Harbor.
Peninsula State Park - Door County Wisconsin
The Fish Boil
The fish boil is legend in Door County. The boil takes place outdoor where you can watch the process.
A large kettle is suspended over a fire. Whitefish, red potatoes (are there any other kind?), white onions, and salt are poured into several gallons of water. The water boils over the edge when the ingredients are poured in, sending up the smell of fresh whitefish.
The fish, potatoes, and onions are cooked in short order. Master fishboilers prepare the meal with a practiced hand. The fish is tender, moist, and melts into your mouth. The whitefish flavor permeated the potatoes and onions. This is a good thing.
There are at least 11 restaurants that offer a fish boil. I prefer the White Gull Inn.
Door County Fish Boil
Most people visiting Door County, Wisconsin never check out the islands. That is a mistake.
Washington Island is the largest of at least 14 islands that dot Lake Michigan and Green Bay in the north part of the county. Technically, half the county is island (if you count the canal), as everything from Sturgeon Bay north is island. But Washington Island feels like a real island.
Washington Island is the most visited island and the only island with year-round inhabitants. Daily ferry service to the island is available for a modest cost. You can bring your car or rent a bike when you arrive. Washington Island is small enough to easily bike. I think you enjoy the island better by bike.
In my opinion, Washington Island is an entire vacation, not a day-trip. Stay at one of many bed and breakfasts for a full flavor of the island life and people. Get ready for a slower pace of life that includes a major reduction in stress. For stress related illnesses, see your doctor about a trip to Washington Island.
Rock Island is a state park. The only way to stay overnight is in the Rock Island State Park Campground. Cars and bikes are not allowed on the island. Ferry service is available from Washington Island. Private businesses offer transportation to and from Rock Island.
When visiting Rock Island, bring your hiking shoes. The island is all woods and includes 10 miles of trails. The campground has a nice beach.
To reach other islands in Door County you will need your own boat. Some islands, like Detroit and HatIsland, are privately owned. Chambers Island has its own airport for small private planes and may have a small year around population.
Washington Island, Wisconsin
A discussion about Door County, Wisconsin is not complete unless cherries are mentioned. If you love cherries the way I do in pies, dumpling soup, as juice, and plain old eating cherries, Door County is the place to go. The cherry blossoms are sight in the springtime.
Door County is the perfect place for a relaxing vacation with plenty of pleasant things to do. There is something for every member of the family here. Plan your next vacation in the thumb of Wisconsin. You’ll keep coming back. And we’ll be waiting.