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Door County, Wisconsin

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Did You Know … ?

  • Door County has more miles of shoreline (300) than any other county in the U.S.
  • Door County is named for Death’s Door, the dodgy waterway at the tip of the peninsula where the county is located.
  • A daffodil was christened the Door County USA at Keukenhof garden in the Netherlands (2002).
  • Motorists driving to northern Door County in the 1920s were warned the trip would require at least three spare tires.
  • The Peninsula Players Theater is America’s oldest professional resident summer theater (1935).

The Door to holiday pleasures

Door County is a narrow spit of land largely surrounded by water, with Wisconsin’s Green Bay on the west side and the livelier waters of Lake Michigan on the north and east sides. The county is functionally a peninsula in the state’s northeast, but technically two-thirds of the county is an island because of a manmade 1880s canal, dug to shorten sailing times between Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Real islands — 34 with names — are part of the county, too. The most important for tourists is Washington Island, located off the tip of Door County. A year-round vehicle/passenger ferry connects Washington Island to the mainland, via a passage meaningfully known as Death’s Door.
There are several hundred shipwrecks (none recent) along Door County’s shores, many of them around or in the Death’s Door passage, where the calm waters of Green Bay encounter the clashing currents of Lake Michigan. Visitors may snorkel or scuba dive among the wrecks. Kayakers floating along the shore can see some of them, too.

Further reflecting the 70-mile-long peninsula’s maritime history, the county boasts 11 lighthouses, three of them open for touring. Visitors may want to climb one for the views.

And, further to water-based diversions, additional options include sailing or other kinds of boating, fishing, jet skiing, parasailing and swimming at pristine beaches.

Landside, with more than 23,000 acres of public and preserved land and topography that includes coastal limestone bluffs and rugged rock formations, active visitors can choose camping combined with vigorous biking and hiking. On the gentler side, there are golfing and horseback riding.

Finally, Door County is known for its performing arts, its galleries and shops, its cuisine and even a wine trail. About that cuisine: It includes the Door County fish boil, based on a tradition identified with Scandinavian settlers. Whitefish, onions and potatoes are cooked outdoors over an open fire until the water boils over. The resulting shooting flames are the call to dinner.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Cycle or hike in Peninsula State Park. The park has terrain that can be challenging for both endeavors.
  • Several vendors offer zipline experiences in Door County. Make your choice.
  • Launch a kayak into the waters of either Green Bay or Lake Michigan. Or, scuba dive among 19th century shipwrecks.
  • Register for a one-day workshop or a class of up to a week at the Clearing Folk School north of Ellison Bay. Class options include all of these pursuits: birding, fine woodworking, nature study, metalwork, music, painting, paper arts, philosophy, photography, poetry, quilting, rustic furniture making, stained glass, weaving, wood carving and writing.
  • Go camping in one of the peninsula’s state parks.
  • Compete in a half marathon (springtime in Peninsula State Park), or triathlon (summer in Frank Murphy Park).

Things to do for Centrics

  • Sample a Door County fish boil, an eating experience based on Scandinavian traditions.
  • Plan a driving itinerary around the Door County Wine Trail.
  • Sightsee in the countryside from the seat of a bicycle.
  • Go fishing. Get your license and charter a boat at Baileys Harbor, Ellison Bay, Rowleys Bay or Sturgeon Bay. In winter, try the ice fishing.
  • Combine a visit to view fall colors with one of the county’s autumn festivals, such as the Harvest Festival and Street Auction in Sturgeon Bay (September) or the Pumpkin Patch Festival in Egg Harbor (October). Or, the Autumnfest Classic Auto Show and Fireworks in Baileys Harbor (September).
  • Sign up for a hands-on cooking class at the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Pick a pail of cherries in July or a basket of apples in September.
  • Tour one of the county’s historic lighthouses. Three are open regularly for tours.
  • Go to the beach. The peninsula boasts 6.5 miles of sandy shoreline.
  • Play golf. There are 11 courses in the county.
  • Attend a performance at the Peninsula Players Theater in Fish Creek.
  • Drive the 66-mile Door County Coastal Byway, a Wisconsin scenic byway. The route meanders through fishing and farming communities and gives access to lighthouses, shipwrecks and museums.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Door County Visitor Bureau at www.doorcounty.com