Midwest Road Trips

From Cheese to Cherries: Top 25 Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin

Door County Wisconsin
Door County Wisconsin sunset over Lake Michigan credit: Catherine Parker

Located on Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, this area juts into Lake Michigan, marrying maritime adventure with quaint towns. Packed with cheese and cherry goodness, Door County Land packs land and lake activities to keep travelers busy.  However, Door County is rich in agritourism, from cider apples to lavender to local seafood. The weather in Door County is often cooler than the mainland, with many pleasant, sunny days.  In fact, Door County has been a top summer holiday for generations. Here are the top things to do in Door County, Wisconsin.

Top Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin

Visit a State Park
Take a Hike
Ride a Bike 
See a Summer Show 
Kayak on the Lake

Learn about its Wildlife

See a Lighthouse
Take a Trolley
Sample some Cheese Curds
Eat some local White Fish
See the Roof Climbing Goats 
Sag a Piece of Cherry Pie

Why Visit Door County

Door Country is one of my favorite summertime destinations. It offers warm but not hot days and lots of outdoor activity.

The food is top-notch, from the fresh cherries to the Wisconsin-made cheese. The Whitefish is a local specialty and supper clubs are still a thing. I recommend a Brandy Old Fashioned if you drink.

Lake Michigan is clear and a stunning shade of blue. It even boasts white sand beaches. Door Country offers several top state parks.

Eagle Tower
Eagle Tower offers an accessible ramp. credit: Catherine Parker

Peninsula State Park

With over 3,700 acres to explore along the shores of Green Bay, it’s the third-largest state park in Wisconsin. With lots of activities inside the park, it is one of the top things to do in Door County, Wisconsin, with kids.

Peninsula State Park offers top biking trails, including the 9.6-mile Sunset Bike Route, a relatively level, shaded gravel path great for school-age kids. The park also offers 16 miles of off-road bike trails. 

Hiking in Peninsula State Park

Hiking is another popular activity and find 20 miles of hiking trails in the park.

  • White Cedar Nature Trail—A .5-mile easy loop
  • Minnehaha Trail—A .7-mile easy trail
  • Sentinel Trail—A 2.0-mile easy loop
  • Trail Tramper’s Delight Trail—A .5-mile trail
  • Hemlock Trail—A 1.8-mile moderate trail 
  • Lone Pine Trail—A .5-mile moderate trail 
  • Nicolet Bay Trail—A 2.2-mile moderate trail 
  • Skyline Trail—A 3.0-mile loop moderate trail
  • Eagle Trail—A 2.0-mile difficult loop 

The 60-foot-tall Eagle Tower is an accessible tower (850 feet long) with an ADA ramp to an overlook. On a clear day, you can see for miles over Green Bay, and interpretive signs describe the view along with historic shipwrecks. Eagle Tower is 253 feet above the water below, and there’s a staircase to get to the base of the tower.

Nicolette Beach offers a swimming area (no lifeguard on duty) along with kayak rentals. In fact, Peninsula State Park boasts 9 miles of shoreline.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is an 1868 lighthouse that still guides boats through the Strawberry Channel. Tours are available in advance. The White Cedar Nature Center offers seasonal programming for kids. Peninsula State Park offers an 18-hole golf course and a 6-hole learning course. 

Picnic tables are available at Fish Creek, Weborg Point, Nelson Point, Nicolet Beach and Pines Area, and Eagle Terrace. Peninsula State Park offers five campgrounds with 468 campsites. Some campgrounds offer sites with electricity, showers, and flush toilets. 

Located at 9462 Shore Rd. Open daily  from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Daily admission is $13 per out-of-state vehicle. 

Edge of the Park Bike Rentals

Steps from the entrance of the Sunset Bike Route, the Edge of the Park Rentals can set you up for the afternoon. It offers bikes in several sizes, helmet bike trailers and even tandem bikes. 

Located at 4025 Evergreen Rd. in Fish Creek. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the season. Rates start from $11 an hour. E-bikes are available for an additional fee. 

Northern Sky Theater’s Summer Show

See a professionally produced and performed live theater production in the woods of Peninsula State Park from mid-June until the end of August. With a seasonal production, each show focuses on Door County and is suitable for families with catchy songs and bright costuming. Since the shows are family-friendly, it is one of the top things to do in Door County, Wisconsin, with kids.

Located at 10169 Shore Dr., Performances are on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Tickets start at $27 a seat and can be reserved online. 

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Whitefish Dunes SP
Whitefish Dunes State Park’s Beach. credit: Catherine Parker

Whitefish Dunes State Park

With 867 acres, Whitefish Dunes State Park is known for its sand dunes and its stretch of white sand beach along Lake Michigan. Most summer visitors come for the soft, white sand, which is reached by a trail with three different stairs down to the beach. It is one of the top things to do in Door County, Wisconsin, with kids.

In addition to the beach, visitors will find over 14 miles of hiking trails. With interpretive signs, hiking at Whitefish Dunes State Park is a great activity for most, as hiking trails are mostly under 2 miles. For ease, most hiking trails are labeled by color, like red, green and yellow. Find a picnic area close to the parking lot with views of Lake Michigan. 

The sand dunes are another feature unique to  Whitefish Dunes State Park and the highest sand dunes in Wisconsin. The largest dune is named Old Baldy and stands 93 feet tall. Take the Red Trail to reach it and see views of Lake Michigan from its observation tower. 

Unlike other dunes along Lake Michigan, the dunes at Whitefish Dunes State Park are off-limits for climbing or sliding. To learn more about the sand dunes, walk through an interpretive area located in the visitor center near the first parking lot. 

Note: There is no lifeguard on duty, and part of the beach is known to have rip currents. There is no boat launch at the park. Dogs are welcome. This is a day-use park, so camping is not allowed.

Located at 3275 Clarks Lake Rd. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Daily admission is $11 per vehicle.

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Newport State Park

Near Europe Lake and Rowley’s Bay in Door County, explore more than 2,300 acres of protected wilderness (Wisconsin’s only protected wilderness park) along the shores of Lake Michigan. Newport State Park features several hiking trails, from one-mile trails to the 7-mile Europe Bay Trail Loop. Newport State Park is a Dark Skies Park, certified by the International Dark Sky Association. 

You can find the picnic area near the parking lots. Newport State Park has 17 hike-in campsites with limited amenities. 

Newport State Park is located at 475 County Rd NP in Ellison Bay. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Daily admission is $11 per vehicle. 

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Potawatoni State Park

Along the lakeshore of Sturgeon Bay on the Green Bay side of Door County, Potawtoni is over 1,200 acres named after the original people who lived there. Visitors can rent kayaks or canoes inside Potawatomi State Park, and a boat launch is available at Sawyer Harbor. Though the park doesn’t offer a sand beach. 

Potawatoni State Park is the home of the eastern trailhead of the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail and find over 2 miles of the trail inside the park. The Ancient Shore Trail is a .5-mile trail with interpretive signs that starts at the nature center and is great for families. 

There are 123 campsites, some with electricity, for those wanting to camp. The campground features a bathhouse and a dump station. 

Located at 3740 Park Dr. in Sturgeon Bay. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Daily admission is $11 per vehicle.

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Cave Point County Park
The inlets and caves at Caves Point County Park credit: Catherine Parker

Cave Point County Park

The lakeshore at Cave Point County Park is the show, with limestone and dolomite rock ledges. The best way to see the ledges, inlets, and caves is on the water. 

Cave Point County Park offers picnic areas, restrooms and a .5-mile hiking trail. It’s located at 5360 Schauer Rd and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Kayaking to Cave Point County Park

I recommend a guided tour, and I paddled a tandem kayak, great for families that can pair an adult with a kid. In two hours, I glided along the rocky shore to Cave Point County Park with Door County Kayak Tours. 

Passing a handful of vacation homes along the way, I saw the rocky inlets and small beaches. The screams of kids jumping into the water will compete with the sound of the waves. The water is clear and crisp with an inviting green hue. 

Door County Kayak Tours is located at 6329 Wisconsin 57 in Jacksonport. It is open daily through the season from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers tours and rental equipment. Tours are $69 per person and include a shuttle ride to and from the park.

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Baileys-Harbor-Range-Light
Bailey’s Harbor Range Light in The Ridges Sanctuary credit: Catherine Parker

The Ridges Sanctuary 

Protecting over 1,600 acres, The Ridges Sanctuary was Wisconsin’s first land trust and a National Natural Landmark. Within its boundaries, find 30 ridges and swales that show the movement of Lake Michigan over the years. The Ridges Sanctuary is the most ecologically diverse land in Wisconsin and offers a diverse collection of 500 different plants (some rare and endangered) along with being an important bird area. 

Walk through the Cook-Albert Fuller Visitor Center before hiking along the boardwalk. Another must-see at The Ridges Sanctuary is the Bailey’s Harbor Range Lights, which guide boats into Bailey’s Harbor.  

Located at 8166 Wisconsin 57 in Baileys Harbor. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Adults enter for $5 and kids under 18 are free. 

Ellison Bluff State Natural Area 

Door County’s peninsula is part of the Niagara Escarpment, a rock formation that arches from Wisconsin to New York and Canada’s Ontario. At Ellison Bluff State Natural Area, visitors can see the bluffs with sedimentary rock layers. The area is 170 acres in size and is mostly an undeveloped park. 

The Ellison Bluff State Natural Area offers an observation deck and hiking trails. It is reached by Highway 42 off of Ellison Bluff Park Road. No charge to enter, and open from dawn to dusk. 

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Cana Island Lighthouse 

Accessed via a stone causeway, the Cana Island Lighthouse was built in 1869. It is one of the more photographed lighthouses in Door County on an island close to Spike Horn Bay. Visitors can tour the lighthouse by climbing 97 steps. In addition to the Cana Island Lighthouse, the property includes an oil house, a barn a privy, and an Interpretive Center. 

Located at 8800 East Cana Island Rd, it is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 1 until October 31. Adult admission is $15, and kids (5 – 17) admission is $7. 

Old Bailey’s Harbor Lighthouse

Now privately owned, the 1852 lighthouse service from only a few years before the Bailey’s Harbor Range Lights replaced it. Best viewed from the water, the lighthouse features a unique birdcage lantern room. 

Door County Maritime Museum

Learn about Door County’s maritime history, from the ship captains to the craftsmen building and maintaining the Great Lake’s vessels. In addition to the sea-faring characters, the Door County Maritime Museum walks visitors through the Tug John Purves and has a detailed exhibit about the lighthouses on Door Peninsula. 

The Door County Maritime Museum operates the Cana Island Lighthouse and an outpost, Death’s Door Maritime Museum at Gills Rock. 

Located at 120 N. Madison Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April to December (4 p.m. January to March). Adult admission is $15 and $7 for kids 5 to 17, and those 4 and younger are free. 

Door County Trolley 

Departing from Egg Harbor, Door County Trolleys offers sightseeing tours in its vintage-inspired trolleys. With 16 different tours to choose from, you can find family tours, ghost tours, lighthouse tours and more. The family tour is just 30 minutes long, so it is one of the top things to do in Door County, Wisconsin, with kids.

Located at 8030 Wisconsin Highway 42 in Egg Harbor. Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer season, with specialty tours in fall, spring and winter. Tickets start at $12.95  for the family ride. 

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Pick-Your-Own Fruit 

Door County is ideal for growing several crops, like tart cherries and apples. For those who want to pick your own, the Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Wine and Market offers cherry and apple picking. 

After blossom season (usually May), cherries ripen in late July or early August. For as little as $5, grab a mini-bucket and pick tart cherries. Kids won’t want to miss the Cherry Pit Spit to see if they can beat the record. 

Apple picking season is later in the fall, from mid-September until early October. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country grows popular varieties like Honeycrisp, Gala and Macintosh. You can also find a market with your favorite Door County products. 

Located at 9197 State Highway 42 in Fish Creek. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). 

Skyway Drive-In Theater

While visiting Door County, take the family to a throwback to 1950s. The Skyway Drive-In shows double features and includes the original snack bar. 

Located at 3475 State Highway 42 in Fish Creek. Gates open at 7:45 p.m. on show nights. 

Door County Farmers Markets

A farmers market offers lots to see and taste, even for families on a getaway. Door County offers farmers markets several days a week. Running from May until October, find markets across the Door Peninsula.

Baileys Harbor at Baileys Harbor Town Hall—Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Egg Harbor at Hatch Distilling Company—Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ephaim–Monday from 3:30 to 6:30  p.m.

Fish Creek at the Settlement Shops—Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

Jacksonport in Lakeside Park—Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sister Bay at Corner of the Past Museum—Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Sturgeon Bay at Market Square—Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon

Scenic Cruises

The best way to see Door County’s beautiful lakeshore is from the water. As a bonus, cruisers will see the lighthouses. Take a scenic cruise of Green Bay or Lake Michigan, especially in the evening for sunset. 

Bailey’s Harbor and Sister Bay both offer commercial scenic cruises from its harbor. 

Cheese Curds at Mezzanine in Door County
Cheese Curds at Mezzanine credit: Catherine Parker

Best Places to Eat in Door County with Kids 

Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor 

Enjoy an ice cream treat made the old-fashioned way at a soda fountain built in 1906. With a menu with malts, shakes, sundaes and even phosphates ( a throw-back drink similar to an Italian soda), it’s a family tradition for some. Its menu includes burgers, sandwiches, dogs and more—most served in red baskets. 

Located at 9990 Water St. South in Ephraim. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from mid-May to mid-October. 

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant

On any first-time trip to Door County, you’ll want to see the goats of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. That’s right, on the sod grass roof of its traditional Swedish log cabin building, goats gaze happily for the majority of the day. If anyone knows goats, they love to climb and munch, so they are living their best lives in Door County. This is one of the top things to do in Door County, Wisconsin, with kids.

After taking in the goats, head inside for one of the must-eats of Door County. Celebrate the best meal of the day by ordering the house speciality, the Swedish pancakes. They are the go-to items on the menu. Paired with whip cream and Door County cherries, they’re big enough to share with a pair of little kids (or a Mom and a kiddo). The Swedish meatballs are another must, served with lingonberries. 

Located at 10698 N Bay Shore Dr. in Sister Bay. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Scaturo’s Baking Company and Café

If your group needs brunch or some yummy baked goods, head to Scaturo’s. As a family-owned bakery and restaurant, it’s a local favorite.

Grab a table for traditional breakfast items, like omelettes featuring Wisconsin-made cheese. For afternoon snacking, peruse the bakery case. Find amazing cookies, like the Nutella Stuffed Cookie sprinkled with salt. Scaturo’s sells fresh bread, which is great for picnics.

Scaturo’s Baking Company and Café is located at 19 Green Bay Rd. in Sturgeon Bay. It is open daily at 5 a.m. and through lunch.

Mezzanine Door County

The Mezzanine offers a rooftop patio that is perfect for dinner and a view. Start dinner with signature cocktails like Door County Cherry Mule or the Spanish Gin and Tonic.

Then relax and graze off a charcuterie board featuring Wisconsin cheese and sausage or the house breaded cheese curds. It’s a getaway on the water, so the pan-fried whitefish with zesty slaw seems fitting for Door County.

Don’t let cherry pie pass you by. It’s a not-to-be-missed indulgence with tender pastry and tart cherries served with fresh whip cream.  

Mezzanine is located at 7821 Horseshoe Bay Rd. During the summer season, it is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it serves separate breakfast and lunch menus. 

Renard’s Artisan Cheese

Cheese will make any trip to Door County better. Renard’s Artisan Cheese is the oldest cheese shop in Door County, with three generations of cheese makers. The go-to item is the Cherry Cheddar cheese, though you can find lots of flavors and ages of cheese in its shop. I brought my cheese back in my checked luggage with no issues.

For lunch, head to its deli, Melt Bistro, for salads, sandwiches and pizza.  

Located at 2189 County Rd. in Sturgeon Bay. Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

Disclosure

This article was created after a hosted trip to Door County, Wisconsin.

Where to Stay

Head to Door County Wisconsin for a summer getaway perfect for families. FInd lots of parks with lots of activities like swimming, hiking, camping and kayaking and more. In addition to parks, find outdoor theaters, pick-your-own-fruit, scenic cruises and more. Top Things to Door County with Kids | Best Parks in Door County Wisconsin | Best Places to visit in Door County with Kids #Wisconsin #DoorCounty

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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